Staal Tactics: Penguins, Hurricanes Among 2012 NHL Draft Winners

Written by Mike Salerno on .

The NHL Draft has come and gone, and like usual there are some teams that are far better off than they were this time yesterday. While the prevailing opinion with most drafts is that you can't truly grade a team's performance, which is certainly true to an extent, some general managers were decidedly more aggressive on the CONSOL Energy Center floor.

Here are some of the teams that benefitted the most from the 2012 NHL Draft:

1) Pittsburgh Penguins

Surprisingly, the Penguins made the biggest splash of the first round, sending Jordan Staal to Carolina in exchange for Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin and the eighth-overall pick. Staal reportedly refused to sign a 10-year extension with Pittsburgh earlier in the week. General manager Ray Shero got a great return for a player who was a key component of a Stanley Cup-winning team, but was ultimately stuck behind Malkin and Crosby.

The Penguins then drafted a pair of high-end defensemen in Derrick Pouliot of the WHL's Portland Winterhawks with the eighth overall selection, and Olli Maata of the OHL's London Knights 22nd overall. The acquisition of Dumoulin as well allowed Shero to turn a position of weakness into one of strength.

Pittsburgh also traded Zybnek Michalek on Day 2 of the draft, a move that was widely regarded as a salary dump. Shero will now turn his attention to the free agent market, where he will try to attract either Zach Parise or Ryan Suter to the Steel City.

2) Buffalo Sabres
The Sabres happily watched as eight of the first 10 players drafted were defensemen. As the draft unfolded, Russian center Mikhail Grigorenko, the fifth-highest ranked player heading into the draft, had not yet found a home. Darcy Regier & co. happily scooped him up with the 12th pick.

Regier, though, was far from done for the evening. Just a few minutes later, he moved the pick he acquired from the Nashville Predators in exchange for Paul Gaustad at the trade deadline (21st overall) as well as the Sabres' second-round selection to Calgary for the 14th overall pick. Buffalo then selected Zemgus Girgensons, a heavy-hitting center from Latvia.

Buffalo's depth down the middle got a significant shot in the arm with a pair of impressive prosepects. Don't be surprised to see Grigorenko crack the NHL roster this fall.

3) Carolina Hurricanes
The Hurricanes, who obviously made a big splash by acquiring Staal from the Penguins, had themselves a fine draft as well. Getting Staal out of the shadow of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and into a more offensive role will pay dividends for the Canes for years, assuming he signs an extension to stay after next season. He is already projected to be flanked by older brother and team captain, Eric Staal, and 2011 Calder Trophy winner Jeff Skinner.

Despite trading the eighth-overall pick in exchange for Staal, Carolina still made three of the first 69 picks. They used their first selection, in the second round, on forward Phillip Di Giuseppe. The speedy winger finished sixth on the team in scoring in his freshman season at the University of Michigan.

With their second pick, the Hurricanes went off the board a bit and took gritty winger Brock Mcginn. While he may not be a prolific scorer, Mcginn certainly projects to replace some of the void left by Brandon Sutter in time.

Honorable Mentions

The Washington Capitals and Chicago Blackhawks also benefited from an early run on defensemen. Washington, who acquired Colorado's first round pick last summer in a deal for Semyon Varlamov, selected Swedish center Filip Forsberg 11th overall. Forsberg was ranked third. They also selected Tom Wilson of the OHL's Plymouth Whalers with the 16th pick. Acquiring the big pair of forwards softens the blow of having Evgeni Kuznetsov stay in Russia.

The Blackhawks selected Finnish forward Teuvo Teravainen with the 18th overall pick. Teravainen was expected to be taken in the top 10 and possibly in the top five. Chicago got incredible value at 18, adding Teravainen to an already robust group of young forward prospects including Mark McNeill, Brandon Saad and Brandon Pirri.


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