VANCOUVER, British Columbia - The Pens had a first-round pick in the annual NHL Draft for just the second time in the past seven years. And they used it to add some power and character to their prospect system.
The Pens selected winger Samuel Poulin of Sherbrooke in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with the 21st-overall pick at Rogers Place in Vancouver, Canada. The 6-foot-1, 212-pound power forward plays a physical and dominating game.
"We're happy to get (him)," general manager Jim Rutherford said. "He's a power forward, great character. He's a team captain at a young age. He can play center and left wing. So, we're really happy with him."
"It's an honor. (Pittsburgh) is such a great organization with a lot of history," said Poulin, whose father, Patrick, played 634 career NHL games in Hartford, Chicago, Tampa Bay and Montreal. "It's a pleasure to wear this jersey right now.
"To get drafted is a dream come true. Since I was a little kid I wanted to play in the NHL and get drafted. It's really an honor."
Poulin led the Phoenix in scoring with 76 points (29G-47A) in 67 games while serving as the club's captain at just 17 years old.
"It meant a lot, especially at 17," Poulin said. "I embraced it as much as possible. I already had my teammates respect. I stayed the same person and player on the ice. I didn't change the way I was."
Poulin is two-three years away from making the jump to the National Hockey League. But there is a lot of promise. The Red Line Report, a yearly scouting service utilized by NHL teams as well as media outlets and fans, had the following summary of Poulin:
"Big, physical brute dominates along the walls and down below the circles in the offensive zone. Pro style winger plays a north-south game. Wins corner battles and then regularly makes power moves straight into the slot, shrugging off checks. Walks pucks off the goal line into the crease. Has a heavy shot and good scoring touch around the net, but also is very underrated as a playmaker. Dangerous coming off the cycle, and late in the year showed some east-west wiggle and hands to dangle through traffic.
"Plays a forceful, rugged game in contested areas, relishing the chance to get his hands dirty. Utilizes wide frame protecting the puck to get shots off under duress. Strong on his stick and great at fighting pucks out of scrums into space. Has continued to take consistent steps in his development and works hard away from puck. Still needs to improve his first step and overall stride."
The Red Line Report projected him as a second-line scoring winger and compared his style to Nino Niederreiter with this one-line summary: "Powerful, dominant force down low doesn't get his due."
State of Team
Rutherford addressed a few issues surrounding the team following Day 1 of the NHL Draft with the media. He said the team didn't come close to making any trades.
"Still got a ways to go, but the draft was so strong (that) nobody wanted to move their picks," he said.
Despite the recent chatter about the Pens willingness to trade stars Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang, Rutherford called such a scenario "highly unlikely."
He further explained, "My point was I'm open to accepting calls and having conversations about our players. I wasn't aggressively active on trying to move those top guys."
Rutherford also clarified that he never intended on blowing up the team via trades.
"I don't think there was ever that intention," Rutherford said. "We wanted to make some changes. Changed the culture a little bit in the room. We started to do that. We'll probably do it prior to training camp.
"We need to freshen things up a little bit. Get a few new faces in there, and then go about our business a little bit differently from the coaches' point of view, from my point of view, from the leaders of the team. Try to bring it together earlier in the year, because we didn't do that last year."