It likely will be months — if not years — before we know who won in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft which began on Friday night in Pittsburgh. But for now, at least, we know who was catchable among the Locals.
Picking in fourth place — first among the three Met Area teams — Islanders general manager Garth Snow plucked defenseman Griffin Reinhart, son of former NHL backline ace Paul Reinhart. Standing 6-foot-4, 207 pounds, Griffin is feared for his tremendous shot, which would look good on the Nassau power play. Griffin is considered ready to leap right on to Jack Capuano’s starting four.
As adroit on the attack as well as defense for the Edmonton Oil Kings, Reinhart made enormous strides during the 2011-2012 season, pacing the Oil Kings to the Memorial Cup round. Scouts caution that Griffin could use a bit of a nastier streak.
Snow is hopeful that Griffin follows in his father’s skate steps. Paul Reinhart played more than 600 NHL games. His son is considered steady with the puck and has been labelled a potential Shea Weber. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Fortifying his blue line even more, Snow obtained veteran Lubomir Visnovsky, 35, from the Anaheim Ducks for a 2013 second-round pick.
Assuming that Reinhart can make the Isles’ varsity, Snow now has a potentially commendable defense led by captain Mark Streit, Travis Hamonic, Andy MacDonald and now Visnovsky.
Defensemen were in high demand. Seven out of the first 10 picks were D-Men, a record for the Entry Draft.
Of the locals, Glen Sather — after failing to nab Pittsburgh’s Jordan Staal — had to wait until the 28th call from Commissioner Gary Bettman before making his move. Thus, the Blueshirts decided on defenseman Brady (Pronounced Shay) Skjei out of Lakeville, Minnesota. He’s 6-3, 203 pounds. The Hockey News rates Skjei the best skater of all available defensemen.
“It looks like poetry watching Brady skate,” offered one scout. “He’s effortless and massive.”
Up next was Lou Lamoriello with his Devils entourage. Eighteen years after Stephane Matteau beat the Devils in the 1994 playoff classic, New Jersey selected the son of Stephane. The young Matteau, Stefan, is a 6-1, 210 pound left wing, who proved that the Draft is filled with irony. Who would ever have figured that Devils-killer, Stephane Matteau’s kid would win up as the Devs’ top pick? Un-real!
One birddog put it this way about young Matteau. “He has all the tools to be a power forward. He has enough tools to be very, very effective.”
Most of Friday night was spent waiting for a possible deal for Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan who has told the Ducks in plain English, “Move me!” Don’t be surprised if the Blueshirts help the Cherry Hill, New Jersey native head East from California.
The blockbuster deal that was completed had J-Staal going from Pittsburgh to Carolina for a first-round (eighth overall) pick this year — Portland Winterhawks defenseman Derrick Pouliot — Brandon Sutter and Boston College’s Brian Dumoulin. This is a terrific move for both clubs. Portland Winterhawks assistant coach and asst. GM Travis Green told me that Pouliot would go higher than the 13th slot listed by The Hockey News.
Likewise, Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford gets big Staal, a player who’ll have an expanded role in Carolina playing alongside his brother Eric. Chances are they will play on separate lines. As for Sutter, a skinny kid with excellent blood lines, his defensive work so far has outweighed his offense. It had been reported that the Rangers were interested in obtaining Jordan Staal, but no deal was concluded. When the ‘Canes added Sutter to the pot, Pittsburgh’s Ray Shero okayed the trade with Carolina.
“We didn’t want to give up Brandon,” said Rutherford. “But to get an elite player like Jordan Staal, we had give them Sutter.”
In another significant exchange, Dallas unloaded productive and creative center Mike Ribeiro to Washington for promising young pivot Cody Eakin and a second-round pick.
As for the Rick Nash Derby, the Blue Jackets’ GM, Scott Howson revealed that he still had not received a player package that made a deal worthwhile for him. He’s still waiting. You have to figure that so is Sather.
Evaluating the Top Five picks, we find some interesting selections including one obvious lead-off move.
Picking first, the perennial non-playoff Edmonton Oilers opted for the acclaimed favored right wing Nail Yakupov, who had starred for the Sarnia Sting. The Russian native is a battler who’s considered a difference-maker and is expected to make the big club next Fall. At 5-11, 190 pounds, Yakupov fulfilled his wish to go number one. “It’s unbelievable,” Yakupov said, hitting the Nail on the head.
Columbus followed in second place with a pick that many scouts thought would go as low as fourth place when Howson went for Ryan Murray. The physically strong defenseman makes the game look easy and already has been compared to Hall of Famer Mark Howe in style and temperament. This could save Howson his job. “We love Murray’s pedigree,” said Howson who figures Murray will play alongside his foundation defender, Jack Johnson.
Marc Bergevin, the rookie Montreal boss, followed third and fooled many with a forward who birddogs figured wouldn’t be picked until seventh. The scorer, Alex Galchenyuk, lacks a marquee resume and could turn into a faulty pick for Bergevin with so high a choice. Nevertheless, Galchenyuk’s supporters insist that the kid is revered for his work ethic and making his linemates better.
“We wanted a big center,” explained Bergevin, “and they’re hard to get. We did our due diligence; there’s no question, he’s the guy we wanted.”
The playoff-deprived Maple Leafs followed the Isles in fifth place and went for an offensive defenseman, Morgan Rielly who has been criticized as a one-dimensional skater whose prime asset is his passing ability. Still, Toronto hockey czar Brian Burke seemed unfazed by the critics. Like Griffin Reinhart, Rielly is a West Vancouver, British Columbia native. The pair grew up together and remain close pals.
Finally, Vancouver, which has yet to win a Stanley Cup, may yet trade veteran-disappointing goalie Roberto Luongo. But Canucks GM Mike Gillis is playing a watchful, waiting game.
“We’re listening,” Gillis concluded, “but right now I’m not sure we’ll be doing anything with Roberto.” Which leaves the disappointing Vancouver fans caught in the Draft.
If Luongo isn’t dealt, The Maven believes that it could mean that the Canucks will never win The Cup!