Gameday: NHL Draft, Round 1

Home game.

Today does start the NHL Draft. And, oh yes, it’s being held in Pittsburgh. I’m glad it’s being held here and I’m glad that a lot of people are really interested in it, but I can also say that I don’t think you could pay me to sit there and clap nicely while names that I’m completely oblivious to are called, but that’s just me.

To get you ready, here are some links to some places who know a lot more about the top rated picks than me:

NHL.com’s official draft page.

ThePensblog’s annual draft preview compliments of Face-off Factor.

Faceoff Factor’s website, man do they know a lot about the draft.

TSN’s DraftCentre, this is also where you can get all of Bob McKenzie’s wisdom.

Okay, that’s probably enough, if you need more, just search “NHL draft 2012” on Google, you’ll get 92 million results. From what I’ve read, I’m confident that the Penguins will be drafting a forward, who that will be though, is anyone’s guess. If you read the Faceoff Factor article you will see that there has been a great deal of inconsistency with the rankings so only time will tell what will actually happen.

There are plenty of good headlines surrounding this draft: will the Oilers trade the number one overall pick? Will the Pens trade any of their defensemen, and will they be NHL players or prospects?

If I were the Oilers there is nothing I would want to do more than trade the first overall pick. I believe that Nail Yakupov will be an absolute stud (he might be better, especially right out of the gate, than either Taylor Hall or RNH), but again, how many teams really need a scoring forward three years in a row? Well maybe I could think of a couple of teams, Nashville, Phoenix, Winnipeg, Islanders, maybe even Detroit, but definitely not the Oilers who already have more top 6 forwards than they know what to do with. I don’t know that a deal will happen for the Oilers but they need to be trying, any of those teams could step up with a big time NHL defender and the Oilers would be wise to take it.

I think the Penguins will move at least two defenders between now and early July, who they will be is highly subjective. Assuming the Pens simply will not entertain offers on Kris Letang, which they aren’t and won’t, the most movable players will be Matt Niskanen and Simon Despres. As I’ve been saying since March, Niskanen is coming off essentially a break-out season, and there’s no doubt that Despres will be a regular starter in the NHL by the end of next season no matter where he is (be it in Pittsburgh or elsewhere). If the Penguins really believed they could move up 5-10 spots in the draft to secure a scoring winger who will be ready for the NHL by the 2013 season, don’t be shocked to see a move like this. If they don’t, it’s a total crap shoot. The other prospects might be harder to move and I don’t know if the return on investment would be worth it to the Penguins. As I’ve said, the issue with Strait, Sneep, Bortuzzo, and the like is that they’re all Restricted Free Agents, (and yes I know, Niskanen is too). Although the Penguins have either already made offers or will make offers to them and all could likely be signed for cheap and be ready to compete for an NHL job, they still won’t likely garner anything better than a 4th round pick. Maybe Strait could get a third because he does have a slightly longer NHL career, but that’s about it.

It is entirely possible that the Penguins could move either Michalek and or Martin at the draft but that will just get more complex. You would likely have to move a number of NHL pieces as well. A proposed trade that I’ve seen a lot of recently has Paul Martin going to Tampa Bay in exchange for Ryan Malone, I think that if both teams were willing to swap their first round picks as well this could happen. It is a move that makes sense, the Penguins get a big, physical, goal scoring winger and the Lightning get a good NHL defenseman who was truly a stud playing in the defense first system of New Jersey for so many years. Don’t believe me? Navigate around on this page for a while. He leads all active American-born defensemen by 18 points in plus/minus (2nd overall behind Mike Knuble in all active American players), he’s among the top ten of all defensemen in the league today in plus/minus, he was on the 2006 US Olympic team and was one of the first defensemen chosen for 2010 but he couldn’t play because he was injured. I don’t mean to turn this into a pro-Paul Martin argument, but I do guarantee you that no matter how you figure, he is a much better player than he’s looked to be in Pittsburgh. That’s why I think the two teams would need to swap first round picks. Yes both Martin and Malone have struggled in the cities that they play in now, but it is almost assumed that Martin could be amazing in the 1-3-1 that Tampa plays, Malone’s fall from grace is somewhat more inexplicable though and the Penguins need to protect themselves. Swapping draft picks means that the Penguins would have a top ten pick with which to take a top ten forward, the Lightning wouldn’t be hurt too bad because if there’s one thing that the Penguins have proven, its that you can find good defensemen late in the first round. Too bad it probably won’t happen.

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