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Penguins In Good Hands With Shero At The NHL Draft Table

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins
General manager Ray Shero has proven himself to be the perfect fit to run the Penguins since being hired on May 25, 2006. On that day, Shero took over a franchise which finished the 2005-06 season ranked 29th out of 30 National Hockey League teams. Four years, two Cup Final appearances and one Stanley Cup championship later, Shero has the Penguins firmly perched near the top of the league.

  • D Chris Phillips - Ott - 1st overall - 1996
  • F Marian Hossa - Ott - 12th overall - 1997
  • F Scott Hartnell - Nsh - 6th overall - 2000
  • D Dan Hamhuis - Nsh - 12th overall - 2001
  • D Ryan Suter - Nsh - 7th overall - 2003
  • F Jordan Staal - Pgh - 2nd overall - 2006
As the 47-year-old architect has transformed the fortunes of the franchise, he has proven himself to be a wizard both at the trading deadline and during the annual free agent frenzy on July 1. Names such as Bill Guerin, Gary Roberts and Marian Hossa are among his midseason acquisitions, while deft free agent signings include Mark Eaton, Matt Cooke and Jarkko Ruutu.

Where Shero hasn’t yet received his due credit as a builder is his work at the annual entry draft, although that is about to change as many of the picks from his early years at the helm have begun to trickle into the professional ranks over the past two seasons.

As top Shero prospects such as Robert Bortuzzo, Brian Strait and Carl Sneep, among others, develop with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League and continue to knock on the door in Pittsburgh, Penguins fans can be hopeful that Shero will continue to keep the farm system restocked based upon the successful resume he built in 14 years as an assistant GM with the Ottawa Senators and Nashville Predators between 1993-2006.

During that period, Shero helped oversee drafts which produced big-time NHL talent in both the early and late rounds on a consistent basis.

Between his first entry draft with the Senators in 1993 and his final one with Nashville in 2005, Shero had a helping hand in selecting 13 first-round choices. Most of those 13 names won’t require an in-depth Google search for even the most casual hockey fan.

In six drafts with the Senators Shero’s list of first-rounders included: Alexandre Daigle (’93), Radek Bonk (’94), Bryan Berard (’95), Chris Phillips (’96), Marian Hossa (’97) and Mathieu Chouinard (’98).

Overall, that’s a pretty solid collection of talent accumulated, but his work in Nashville was possibly even more impressive thanks to the following picks: Brian Finley (’99), Scott Hartnell (’00), Dan Hamhuis (’01), Scottie Upshall (’02), Ryan Suter (’03), Alexander Radulov (’04) and Ryan Parent (’05).

Further breaking down those two lists you find a 2010 Stanley Cup champion with seven 30-goal campaigns in Hossa, two keys members of the runners-up Flyers squad in Hartnell and Parent and a trio of blueliners who rate as elite two-way defenders in Phillips, Hamhuis and Suter. Additionally, Radulov has to be considered among the top-25 offensive talents in the world even if he has spent the past two seasons in his native Russia.

  • F Pavol Demitra - Round 9 - 227th overall - 1993
  • F Daniel Alfredsson - Round 6 - 133rd overall - 1994
  • F Mike Fisher - Round 2 - 44th overall - 1998
  • F Martin Erat - Round 7 - 191st overall - 1999
  • F Jordin Tootoo - Round 4 - 98th overall - 2001
  • D Shea Weber - Round 2 - 49th overall - 2003
  • F Patrice Hornqvist - Round 7 - 230th overall - 2005
The best of talent evaluators are going to have their fair share of misses, even at the top, but of those 13 names, only Chouinard and Finley, ironically both netminders, can be considered misses. Sure, Daigle, Bonk and even Upshall – until his success with Phoenix this past season – never developed into the elite point producers they were expected to be, but all three forged out lengthy NHL careers.

Shero has certainly brought his magical touch to Pittsburgh, where his first draft pick, Jordan Staal, is already considered by many to be the top shutdown center in the league at age 21. He also appears to have unearthed a gem in Simon Despres, a promising two-way blueliner selected 30th overall in 2009.

While Shero has a near-perfect track record selecting at the top of the draft, what separates him from his peers is the work he does late in the selection process.

Some of the names Shero has plucked in Round 4 or later are just as impressive, if not more so, than his early work. I’m sure you have heard of many of the following: Daniel Alfredsson (6th round, ’94), Pavol Demitra (9th round, ’93), Martin Erat (7th round, ’99), Chris Neil (6th round, ’98) and Pekka Rinne (8th round, ’04).

Alfredsson has put together a Hall of Fame-worthy career as the Senators long-time captain; Demitra is a 10-time 50-point scorer with 768 career points; Erat has produced 49 or more points in six of his seven full seasons; Neil is one of the best agitators in the game; and Rinne is currently the Predators No. 1 goaltender with 61 victories the past two years.

Shero’s late-round success has also followed him to Pittsburgh as forwards Luca Caputi (4th round, ‘07) and Dustin Jeffrey (6th round, ‘07) and goaltenders Chad Johnson (5th round, ‘06) and Alexander Pechurski (5th round, ‘08) have already hit the NHL.

Several others, including forward Nick Petersen (4th round, ‘09), defensemen Nicholas D’Agostino (7th round, ‘08) and Alex Velischek (5th round, ’09) and goaltender Patrick Killeen (6th round, ’08) are held in high regard by the organization.

As you can see, the Penguins continue to be in good hands moving forward behind the deft drafting prowess of Ray Shero. Based upon his track record, we can reasonably believe that he will once again do his part to continue infusing talent into Pittsburgh’s system when he and the team’s scouting department step to the podium to make the Penguins’ draft picks at the June 25-26 entry draft.

Quietly, it seems to be what Shero does at this time of year.

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