NHL Draft Night Recap


The first round of the NHL draft took place last night, and with the rest of the draft wrapping up today I figured now would be a good time to recap Friday night’s events.

The Flyers got the trading started early yesterday when they sent backup goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets for 3 draft picks. The Flyers recieved the 45th and 117th selections in this year’s draft, along with a 4th round pick in the 2013 draft. The trade made sense for both teams: Bobrovsky’s growth was stunted in Philadelphia behind $51M man Ilya Bryzgalov and he was making $1.75M, which made him one of the highest-paid backup goalies in the league. For Columbus, they hope Bob will improve what was by far the worst goaltending corps in the NHL last season, and he’ll get a chance to play there with little pressure on him next season. They had an extra 2nd-round selection, so they were dealing from a position of strength.

The night was surprisingly quiet for the Flyers. They didn’t make any trades, which wasn’t all that surprising in and of itself, but they stayed at the 20th slot in the draft, which was shocking because a prospect they really liked, Finnish center Teuvo Teravainen, slipped all the way to the 18th pick, where he was snapped up by the Chicago Blackhawks. Rumors before the draft said that the Flyers really liked Teravainen, who they saw as similar to Claude Giroux, and were trying to trade into the top 10 to draft him. Evidently, they found an issue with him and decided not to move up and get him. When pick 20 rolled around, the general consensus was that the Flyers would draft Finnish defenseman Olli Maatta. He is a big defenseman with offensive upside, something that would seem to appeal to the defense-depleted Flyers, but they decided to go in another direction, surprising many by taking Canadian center Scott Laughton. Laughton was seen as a reach by many draft experts, who had him rated as a early-to-mid 2nd round pick. In fact, some said he probably would have been there at pick 45 in the 2nd round when the Flyers picked again. Laughton turned 18 last month, and the 6’0, 180 lb. center is defense-oriented. He did tally 21 goals and 53 points with his OHL club last season, but he’s projected to be more of a defensive specialist in the NHL. He said two of his role models in the NHL are Mike Richards and Phoenix’s Shane Doan, and he tries to pattern his playing style after them. Laughton’s upside is Richards: a defensive center who kills penalties, but also has enough offensive game to score goals and put up points. His downside is probably what Sean Couturier was this year: a defensive stalwart who isn’t that good on the offensive end (although everyone projects Couturier to develop that offensive game as his career goes on). Laughton is a very safe pick, as he will almost assuredly be an NHL player on the 4th or 3rd line at least, with 2nd or top line upside.

The headline moves last night were made by the Flyers’ cross-state rivals, however. The draft’s hosts, the Pittsburgh Penguins, made two important moves last night. The first deal was a blockbuster trade, sending center Jordan Staal, who had recently turned down a contract extension from the Penguins and will hit unrestricted free agency in 2013, to the Carolina Hurricanes, where he will team up with his brother Eric. In exchange, the Penguins recieved C Brandon Sutter, a proven two-way center who is still young and with upside who will replace Staal on Pittsburgh’s 3rd line, D Brian Dumoulin, another prospect, and the 8th overall pick in the draft, which they used to select offensively-minded defenseman Derrick Pouliot. The Penguins later nabbed defensively-minded defensman Olli Maatta at their 22nd overall selection, whom I discussed earlier. As the first round of the draft wound down, the Penguins traded defenseman Zbynek Michalek to the Phoenix Coyotes for prospects Harrison Ruopp (a defenseman) and Marc Cheverie (a goalie), as well as a 3rd round pick in this year’s draft. This move was a pure salary dump: Michalek makes $4M this season, which is now off the Penguins’ books, and with the $2M or so the Pens saved in the Staal trade (Staal makes $4M as well, Sutter only makes $2M), the Penguins now have approximately $8M in cap space going into free agency this year. Some say that it will be used for contract extensions for Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but there are rumors flying about that the Penguins will be major players for defenseman Ryan Suter or forward Zach Parise (both of whom I wrote about earlier) in free agency come July 1st. Parise has reportedly expressed a desire to play alongside Sidney Crosby, and him signing there would give the Penguins a formidable top-6, with James Neal, Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Chris Kunitz, and Parise all on board. However, Suter would fill the more pressing need for the Penguins at defense (we all saw how bad it was in the first round against the Flyers this postseason), and GM Ray Shero reportedly has ties with Suter that he hopes could convince him to sign in Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, the rumors surrounding a trade of Rick Nash, Bobby Ryan, or Shea Weber to the Flyers have mostly cooled. However, reporter Randy Miller got Bobby Ryan on record in a story as saying that (link here: http://www.courierpostonline.com/article/20120622/SPORTS04/120622008/Ryan-hopes-traded-Flyers?odyssey=nav%7Chead) he wanted a trade out of Anaheim and the Flyers were his first choice.

Despite the rumors leading into the draft that said the Flyers would be active and the Penguins would be quiet, the roles were reversed Friday night. The Penguins were the ones making the headline moves and creating opportunities for themselves in free agency, while the Flyers sat idly by, appearing to be content to keep the status quo on a team that wasn’t good enough to get the job done last year. Holmgren said to the assembled writers that “he had something cooking”, but nothing came out of it. With the Penguins linked to Phoenix defenseman Keith Yandle via trade as well, the Flyers need to make some moves. As beat writer Dave Isaac put it best in a tweet last night: “If the Penguins acquire Yandle”, (and in my opinion, Suter or Parise), “whatever Homer has cooking better start with a ‘W’ and end with an ‘eber'”, in reference to Nashville defenseman Shea Weber. With the draft wrapping up, trade winds will probably quiet down until after free agency begins. The teams that miss out on Parise and Suter will increase their offers for Ryan, Nash, Yandle, and others, and that is when, hopefully, we will see the Flyers make their move.