Eight days from now all eyes of the National Hockey League will once again be focused on Pittsburgh and the Consol Energy Center. Though this time it will be for the 2012 NHL Draft. The talent that will be coming to the Steel City is mirrors the last time the NHL brought the Draft to Pittsburgh.
In 1997 Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau taken with the first two picks, and this year we should see talent such as Nial Yakupov, and Mikhail Grigorenko called upon within [at least] the first three picks. 1997 brought the likes of Eric Brewer to the New York Islanders as the first Defenseman in the draft at 5th overall. Whereas this year we should see Ryan Murray become the first defensemen taken, and as early as 1st to Edmonton or 2nd to Columbus as both need some help on the defensive side of the puck.
In the aforementioned year the Pittsburgh Penguins selected the likes of RW Robert Dome with the 17th Overall selection in the draft. If you are curious to who Robert Dome is, you're not alone. He ended up playing in Europe since 2003 and appeared in only 53 NHL games from 1997-2003.
For this years version of the draft I would expect a player who sticks around much better Dome did. The latest NHL.com mock draft’s has the Penguins selecting three different players: Center Tanner Pearson from the OHL Barrie Colts; a Center from Prince Albert in Mike Winther; and an American High School product in Center Christoval Nieves.
All three of the NHL.com writers have these players in their first rounds mocks, but they also have Pittsburgh selecting 21st as they have not came out with an updated mock since the beginning of the playoffs; they will now select 22nd. Personally I think the Penguins focus should be first on defense, looking for a player like Matthew Finn from Peterborough who will likely need a big drop to get to 22 as he has been projected to be in the lower portion of the top 20. Dalton Thrower of Saskatoon is another worthy player who is projected near that spot. Or maybe even Finn’s Peterborough teammate Slater Koekkoek who is at the 29th position overall on Adam Kimmelman’s mock.
After seeing Peterborough play in the OHL this season against Niagara and Erie, I came away impressed with both Finn and Koekkoek and find them either to be a solid addition to the Pittsburgh Penguins organization. Other players that the Pittsburgh Penguins selected in 1997 included: Brian Gaffaney in round 2, Josef Melichar in round 3, Alexander Mathieu in round 4, Luc Vaillancourt in round 5, Petr Havelka in round 6, Mark Moore in round 7, Andrew Ference in round 8, and Eric Lind in Round 9.
To me only two players jump out from this list in 3rd round selection Josef Melichar, and 8th round pick Andrew Ference. Both defensemen appeared in Pittsburgh, and Ference even has a Stanley Cup ring as he won last year with Boston.
In the first round, the Pens passed on talent Scott Hannan who has been a serviceable 3rd to 4th line winger for a while now. He was picked up 5 picks later by San Jose. Incidentally Brendan Morrow was selected two picks after Hannan by Dallas. Current Pens forward Matt Cooke was selected in the 6th round by Vancouver.
For 1997 draft info: Hockeydb.com
For 2012 mock draft: NHL.com