Draft winners and losers? Here are my picks ... and the reasons why
Pittsburgh had a good draft, but the big deal was moving Jordan Staal
Montreal may have had the top draft, including Alex Galchenyuk at No. 3
Detroit has done well in lower rounds, but this looks like a shaky draft
As one colleague is fond of saying, picking winners and losers the day after the draft is a fool's errand.
No wonder they keep asking me to do it.
It's no easy task, but it's all in fun, right? Most of us understand that it will take years to truly appreciate what happened this weekend in Pittsburgh ... but that hardly does the trick for the instant gratification types out there. The key is to look beyond what makes sense on the surface ("I've heard of this guy, so he must be better than this guy I've never heard of!") and get a feel for the overall value of the haul that each team brought home. After seeking professional help (yep, I rang up a couple of old scouting buddies), I'm ready to take a stab at it. Feel free to print out a copy to attach to your "I told you so" e-mails that you'll send me five years from now.
GALLERY: Notable late-round gems since 1992
Here, then, are seven teams I thought improved their long or short-term fortunes, and three that didn't do themselves any favors.
Faced with the likelihood of a season that could end with Jordan Staal walking away for nothing as a free agent, Pittsburgh GM acted promptly to address the situation before it became a distraction (are you listening, Scott Howson?), consummating a deal in less than three hours that send Staal to the Hurricanes.
In return, the Pens received Brandon Sutter, a diligent checking center with some offensive upside who is a more natural fit on the third line and allows the team to maintain its strength down the middle, Brian Dumoulin, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound defender highly regarded for his mobility and playmaking, and the eighth overall pick, which the team used to select Derrick Pouliot, a slick, offensive-minded defender who appears to be a Kris Letang starter kit.
Shero also added about $2 million in cap space, putting him in a position to make some noise on July 1. If he can land Ryan Suter or Zach Parise, that's the part of the deal Pens fans will truly love.
When talking trade, it's always best to deal from a position of strength, and that's exactly what Shero did, both in terms of the team's wealth of riches down the middle, and the timing of the deal. He came away with a return that didn't feel like two dimes and a nickel for a quarter. And it didn't hurt that he was able to make a splash for the home fans at Consol Energy Center.
With their own first, the Pens tabbed Olli Maatta at 22. I don't believe he has the offensive game that some touted heading into the draft, but he has great size (6-2, 200) and is rock steady in his own zone. It's easy to imagine him and Dumoulin teaming up to form an effective second pair before long.
Shero also made a couple of interesting picks in Matt Murray (83rd), a lanky goaltender who'll step into a starting job next season at Sault Ste. Marie (OHL) and Matia Marcantuoni (86th), a speedy center who entered the season as a potential first rounder, but lost ground due to injuries and a downgrading of his offensive potential.
I like the upside of smallish wingers Phil Di Giuseppe (38th) and Brock McGinn (47th), but that's hardly the main story in Raleigh, is it? Jim Rutherford brought home a new No. 1 center in Jordan Staal. 'Nuff said.
It's the chug-a-beer quote that fuels raucous draft parties across the land: "We couldn't believe he was still there."
It's was teams always say ... but in the case of the Caps' GM George McPhee and prospect Filip Forsberg, this wasn't just another cliché. Everybody was shocked that the Swedish forward fell into Washington's lap at 11.
Expected by many observers to be off the board by the sixth pick, Forsberg's extended slide was no knock on him. It was just a case of the preceding teams just liking a particular defenseman a little bit more.
That played out perfectly for Washington. "Best value pick in the first round," a Western Conference scout said afterward of the aggressive winger, who could slide into a top-six role on the Caps as soon as 2013-14.
That pick was acquired from Colorado last summer in the Semyon Varlamov deal. The Caps used their own first (16th) to take Tom Wilson. The 6-3, 205 winger is a project who will require some patience, but if he makes it, he brings the sort of barely controlled aggression that will make Washington a much tougher team to play against, especially in the postseason.
With their long-term issues addressed, McPhee took care of a pressing concern -- the glaring need for a second-line center -- by trading for Mike Ribeiro. One of the game's most gifted playmakers, and a dangerous option in the shootout, Ribeiro is an interesting choice for the role. He has a bit of grit for an undersized player and can go on scoring binges that carry a team for weeks on end, but there are times when it seems like he's playing in a different game and you wonder about his focus and decision-making. Still, for the price -- Cody Eakin and a second rounder -- it was a quality patch job by McPhee.
Habs fans were less than enthralled with new GM Marc Bergevin's choice of Michel Therrien as the team's coach, but they won't complain about his first go-round at restocking the prospect cupboard. If this assessment didn't consider trades and was based strictly on the names up on the big board, the Habs would have come out on top.
After making the obvious choice at No. 3 -- American center Alex Galchenyuk -- the Habs took a pair of players in the second that were ranked by some observers (yours truly included) as likely first-rounders. Sebastian Collberg is undersized (5-11, 165), but blessed with the sort of dazzling offensive potential that earned him comparisons to Jeff Skinner. He slipped to the second due to concerns about his strength and his ability/willingness to play a more physical game (never a problem for Skinner), but he could be a home-run pick at 33. Dalton Thrower (51st) is a hard-nosed defender who plays much bigger than his size (5-11, 200) suggests. With an upside that hints at Kevin Bieksa with a bit more offensive touch, he looks like a future No. 4 defender.
I also like Tim Bozon, Montreal's third rounder and the son of former French Olympian Philippe Bozon, and Brady Vail, ranked 38th by Central Scouting but taken by the Habs at 91. Concerns over his offensive upside pushed him down, but I think those are overblown. He plays a smart, aggressive defensive game similar to New Jersey's Adam Henrique that will make him a strong third liner. If the offense follows, which I think it will, he could move into a top-six role.
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