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Penguins Report: 2011 NHL Draft (Day 1)

by Sam Kasan / Pittsburgh Penguins


That'll do it for Round 1 of the Pens Report. Tune in tomorrow for more action. Same bat time, same bat channel. Actually a different time (11 a.m. Eastern time) and different channel (NHL Network). But who really does their fact checking anyway?

Some final behind-the-scenes pics of Morrow below. Goodnight from St. Paul, MN.

Morrow signs draft cards (left) and autographs for fans (right)

PensTV's Steve "Jason Biggs" Mears gets an exclusive interview with Joseph Morrow.

Joseph Morrow chats with the media after being the Penguins' 2011 first-round pick...

On what the wait was like:
Excruciating. It was pretty bad, but the feeling afterward kind of cancelled it out.

On if he knew if Pittsburgh would be particularly interested:
I had a small idea towards the draft, but nothing too evident that they’d actually pick me 23rd. But it’s a phenomenal honor to be picked by the Penguins, and I’m going to do everything I can for this organization.

On if he is familiar with the organization:
Yeah, actually, my little cousin, it’s his favorite team. I watch the Penguins quite a bit. I may not have studied them as much as I could have, but I know quite a few things about the organization.

On what kind of player he sees himself as:
I’m a good skater. I like to move the puck. Pittsburgh’s got phenomenal forwards, so I’m going to do my best to get the puck in their hands whenever I can get a chance to crack that lineup. I like to skate the puck, I like to have an offensive upside to my game, so hopefully I become a more well-rounded defenseman altogether and be really consistent throughout everything.

On what he would like to upgrade in his game:
I would just like to be more sound defensively, just to be a little more aggressive in my own end. I’d like to have more authority to do things a little quicker with a little more pressure. Not necessarily physical play, but just kind of the intensity aspect of things.

On if there is anybody he has patterned his game after that he particularly admires:
I’ve always admired the way Brent Seabrook has played. He’s a hard-nosed type of guy in the defensive end and he’s got a lot of offense to his game, too. He shoots the puck hard, he’s a really smart hockey player and I really look up to guys who can think the game like that. He’s always consistent. He’s a tough guy too, I like that.

On how playing in the Western Hockey League demands toughness and how much that is evident in his game:
Definitely the Western Hockey League is one of the tougher leagues, but I try and do everything to contribute physically. If that means fighting, it’s fighting. It’s not a big deal. But just playing a hard game, it’s a lot different in the Western Hockey League. I would have liked to make it to the Memorial Cup so I could have played against the Ontario Hockey League and the Q and everything, but things happen. I still think the Western Hockey League is one of the hardest to play in, for sure.

On what advice his dad Dave gave him, who was drafted by Vancouver in the 1977 amateur draft:
They just said to kind of keep a calm head about things, it gets pretty intense after this. They basically told me that your work starts now. If you think you worked hard up until this point, you’re in for a surprise. But I’ve got that enough that I’ll understand that this is just a foot in the door and it just starts now.

On his dad’s influence:
He’s been by my side my whole life.

On some of his Portland teammates like Sven Bartschi and Tyler Rattie:
I’d give them credit for me being drafted this high. Giving the puck to Bartschi or giving the puck to Rattie, they can score goals. They’ve got a lot of offensive skill to them, and they may not be the biggest players but they have a lot of heart. They battle through everything and they’re always there for you, and I really respect both those guys. They’re both really good friends of mine.

On if he has offensive bend to his game at all:
Yeah, absolutely. I like to play the game in the opposing end. It’s a little rougher in the defensive end. But once you get into their end, I may shine a little more than other people. So I just kind of have a mindset for offense and I can shoot the puck pretty hard, so everything comes together in the offensive end.

On the part of his game that took the biggest step forward this last season:
Mainly my confidence throughout the season. The coaches gave me a lot of opportunities after our captain got hurt, actually. I kind of had to step into the role, and they gave me the opportunity to kind of fill the shoes of the captain position and I didn't want to let them down at all. So I had to gain the confidence and the emotion to play harder and play more consistent throughout the season.

On if being in a hockey family applies more pressure to him:
I didn't think it did. I think it’s more of a positive than anything, coming from a hockey family. You’ve got pretty good genetics behind you and you’re always around hockey, so it’s like family comes first, hockey comes second. I think it’s a positive more than anything else.

On if he had a rink in the backyard:
Yep, I’ve got a little lake behind my house. It helped. It helped a lot.

On what playing in the WHL meant for his development:
The Western Hockey League, playing in Portland – the first year I got there may not have been the best year, but when the ownership changed and everything throughout, from the coaches right down to the staff in the offices, I wouldn't have chose any other route. I’m really happy with the route I went on, and the Western League pushed me to be a tougher kid, be a little faster, a little stronger. So everything in the Western League really helped my development to see where I am now.

On if it’s good to see three local kids from Edmonton go in the first round:
Yeah, definitely. I’m pretty close to everyone. You’ve got some buddies to be there with you, definitely. So it’s a positive.

On if he’s ever been to Pittsburgh:
No, I’ve never been to Pittsburgh. I don't know what the city’s like at all. Maybe I’ve seen it in a movie once or twice, but that’s about it.

On if he expects to come to prospect camp:
Yeah, absolutely. I’ll be there for sure.

On if he’s going back to Portland next season or if that’s up in the air:
Right now, it’s up in the air. I don’t really worry about the future right now, I’m kind of set in the present. So I’m going to do everything I can – I’m going to train as hard as I can this season and hopefully Pittsburgh gives me an opportunity. You never know what’s going to happen there. We’ll see what their coaching staff and general management has to say about everything. I’m going to do my best to stick there, but if not I’m headed back to Portland and contribute as much as I can to that organization too.

Wrong way on a one-way track: Michelle Crechiolo

First round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft is in the books. Tune back in tomorrow for Rounds 2-7 on NHL Network at 11 a.m. Eastern time.

Here are some more details on Morrow.

Meet the newest Pittsburgh Penguin. Edmonton native Joe Morrow.

The Pens take Joe Morrow from Portland of the Western Hockey League!!!!

Click here for Morrow's profile.

THE PENGUINS ARE ON THE CLOCK!!! Here we go. Let's see who Shero and company take as the next future star in Pittsburgh.

(For the record, I've never heard the song they had for the Pens. It sounded something like Disturbed, but I'm clueless. Fail.)

Chuck Fletcher and Mike Yeo are entering this draft with guns a blazin'. They pulled a big-time trade with San Jose. The Wild acquired Devin Setoguchi, who signed a three-year contract yesterday with the Sharks, 2010 first-round pick Charlie Coyle and 2011 first-round pick (28th overall) in exchange for Minnesota defenseman Brent Burns and 2012 second-round pick.

Go big or go home. The Wild are swinging for the fences.  

Here are some pics of Miller getting drafted by the Rangers. Credit to Getty Images.

The Pens are four picks away. I can't wait to hear what they'll have for their music intro (and see who they draft). So far we've heard some good tunes. I'm praying Pittsburgh's isn't cheesy. And yes, these are the things that concern me.

The newest New York Ranger and highest-ever drafted Pittsburgh native, JT Miller, answers questions from the media in "the pit."

Miller was a member of the Pittsburgh Hornets. They'll have to add him to their wall of fame at the RMU Island Sports Center.

It's definitely not me! But it is JT Miller

Watch a grown up JT Miller answers questions with our own Michelle Crechiolo. "He's all growns up."

In honor of JT Miller becoming the highest drafted Pittsburgh native in NHL history, here are some pics from when he was a wee little guy.

JT and his brother Matt

The New York Rangers take Pittsburgh native JT Miller with the 15th pick. Miller is now the highest-ever drafted Pittsburgh product in the NHL.

Aaron Boogaard, brother of the recently passed Derek Boogaard, announced the selection after a warm ovation from the crowd.

Lovin' the music they're playing here at Xcel Energy Center. So far I've heard Rage Against the Machine, Green Day, Johnny Cash and Smashing Pumpkins. Love it.

Before the draft, there were highlights running on the big screen of past drafts. Of course, they had to show the Pens' big guns Crosby and Malkin:

As I just mentioned, Fletcher and Yeo helped the Pens win the Cup in '09. Here are two other guys you might remember from that season that also were critical to winning the title.

Asst to the GM Tom Fitzgerald and head coach Dan Bylsma.

HUGE ovation from the Minnesota faithful when Bettman announced the Wild are on the clock. GM Chuck Fletcher and head coach Mike Yeo are about to add a superb talent to the roster.

Of course both men were crucial to the Penguins' 2009 Stanley Cup championship season. Gotta love those Pens' connections. Two great guys. Wish them the best.

The Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins just picked Doug Hamilton with the ninth pick in the draft. Speaking of Boston, the Red Sox are in Pittsburgh playing the Pirates. My colleague Jason Seidling wanted me to inform everyone that the Buccos are leading 2-1 in the bottom of the 4th. He's hoping they raise the Jolly Roger tonight. (I hope our former intern, Tony Jovenitti, is enjoying the game. He is in attendance at PNC Park).

New Pens employee Bill Guerin and his recently retired buddy Doug Weight chat with Scott Lachance.

(Getty Images)

The Winnipeg Jets made their first NHL draft pick since 1995. In that draft they had the 7th overall pick and took Shane Doan. That worked out pretty well for Phoenix.

This time they took Mark Scheifele. Will history repeat?

PensTV brought the illustrious Steve Mears to St. Paul. Watch Mearsy stand in front of the camera and say some words into the microphone.

Florida drafted Saint John's center Jonathan Huberdeau with the third pick in the draft. He is Sea Dogs teammate of Pittsburgh defensive prospect Simon Despres. AND in his official bio, he lists his favorite NHL player as Jordan Staal.

Here are Dan Bylsma's comments from before the draft began...

On Ruslan Fedotenko being the perfect example of a European fitting the system:
There’s lots of players. I just think the position of where we’ve drafted has really put us in a situation where (our pick) is not a tap-in, it’s not easy. So we haven’t been a team who’s taken a flyer on a hunch in the fifth round to go with a European. There’s nothing specific.

On how European players fit into his system:
We have clear criteria of what we’re looking for in a Pittsburgh Penguin and what that is. That’s stemming from how we want to play, and then that translates into what kind of players we’re looking for and what kind of people we’re looking for. That has really no bearing at all (on their nationality). Their skating ability is a huge aspect of what we’re looking at, as is the speed aspect of their game. That can be skating, but it also can be the pace at which they play. There are some skill players that play at a slower pace that are good players, but don’t meet that criteria of being fast. There’s a skill component that is a part of that as well. We call it puck sense. Some people call that hockey sense, but some guys can stickhandle real smooth and some guys can’t, but with some guys, the puck still seems to follow them around. They seem to find themselves in those areas and win puck battles, like Dustin Penner. The puck follows him to the net. He’s got that puck sense. It goes beyond just identifying skill. So that’s something we’ve identified. Then you can go into some other aspects like compete level. Compete level is something we talk about a lot. We’ve identified with what that means, and that compete level is important when we talk about our picks – whether it’s a guy we rate in the top 10 or a guy we rate in the 100-150 range. There’s still a compete level to the game that we are looking for. Some of that comes from watching who they play, when they play, when they score, home and road, tournaments versus regular season – all those things are weighed into some of the compete things we talk about. So those are big factors. It all kind of goes into the format that we think quantifies a Pittsburgh Penguin. Really, there’s no border issues with that at all. None at all.

On if he is involved in the Jaromir Jagr situation at all:
I’m involved with Ray (Shero) in that and we talk about it amongst the organization in terms of where he would fit. We have our lists and replacement lists. A month ago, Jaromir Jagr wasn't really – there was some quotes in the Russian papers, I guess. But there wasn’t really much that was happening until recently. It seems to be on the front burner now with July 1st coming. Detroit’s been mentioned and Mike Babcock’s talked to him. It probably seems like something is going to happen. So yes, we have talked about him. We’ve rated our organizational lists and replacement lists for players. Just to think about the pure aspect of adding a guy who had 75 points in his last year in the National Hockey League and a guy who could really be a big part of some offense down low – he showed that at the World Championships – (is interesting). And the intriguing part of the power play aspect of it is something you have to think about and have to consider, like could this guy fit in and be an addition to the good players we already have.

On if Jagr’s history of being difficult with coaches is a concern for him:
If I had done homework, that’s not what I hear from teammates. It’s not what I hear from people who may or may not have played with him at the World Championships.

On if Jagr would be willing to go to a umbrella-type power play if he had the personnel for it:
There are a lot of teams that do that, and we have done that. We’ve done it a handful of times over the past two years. We did it with (Evgeni Malkin) on one side of (Sergei) Gonchar and (Sidney Crosby) on the other. So we have used it, and I think looking into next year we need to have different sets and different looks. We aren’t good when we become stationary and predictable. That’s always been something we don’t want to do and is a fault of ours. So we’re going to have different looks and we are going to have four forwards out there at times. We are going to have a setup on the different side of the ice, and we will look like we’re using a point guy in the middle at times. We’re going to be able to have a couple of different sets that we interchange to give us different looks and different things for other teams to worry about, having players in different spots. You’ll see a center point.

All. Over. It: Michelle Crechiolo

The Oilers take Red Deer's Ryan Nugent-Bernard-Hopkins with the No. 1-overall pick. No shock there.

All the teams at the draft are wearing special pins in honor of E.J. McGuire. E.J. was a longtime coach and scout in the league. He passed away in April.

The NHL had a nice tribute video to E.J. before the start of the draft. Got a well deserve ovation. McGuire's wife and two daughters put Edmonton on the clock with the top pick.

Some pics for your viewing pleasure.

On the bus ride to Xcel Energy Center we passed the Metrodome.

The House that Mewelde Moore built

Minny traffic (left)

We made it to the arena....boom

From our perch in the media risers

Draft board. Pens at 23.

The interview area deep in the heart of Xcel. Or as we call it, "the pit."

The NHL is starting the roll call, asking the clubs to announce who will be making the official selection to the league. When Winnipeg was announced the crowd roared here. I guess Manitoba is well represented.

The best coach in the NHL just spoke to the media. We'll get you his comments shortly.

We've made it to the arena. It was a long, long bus ride to the rink. Topics of conversation included: above ground swimming pools, DJ Pauly D, wearing white socks with a suit and the green van on the highway with a huge dent in the side. As you can tell, we were quite bored.

The Pens scouts and staff are on the bus to the Xcel Energy Center. We are sharing the bus with the Carolina Hurricanes. Ron Francis is sitting shotgun.

For a scouting report and look at all the 2011 draft prospects click here.

PensTV talked to John Gibson at Thursday's media availability. Here's what the top-ranked North American goalie had to say.

Last year the Pens took Beau Bennett with the 20th-overall pick. Michelle Crechiolo talked to Beau recently about his progress over the last year at the University of Denver. Watch the Pens pick Bennett at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in LA (courtesy of TSN).

Welcome to St. Paul, MN, host city of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft (click here for Penguins' Draft Central). The first round will be held tonight, starting at 7 p.m. EST (6 p.m. Central) on Versus Network from Xcel Energy Center (home of the Minnesota Wild).

The Penguins have the 23rd-overall pick in the first round. Pittsburgh currently has five picks in this draft, having previously traded its 3rd- and 4th-round picks. The Penguins traded their 7th-round pick to Ottawa, but acquired San Jose's 7th last season. That wash gives Pittsburgh picks in the 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th and 7th rounds. (click here for the full details on how the Pens assembled this year's picks).

Today could also be an EPIC day for Pittsburgh amateur hockey as four players from the region are slated to be top picks in the draft - three could possibly go in the first round. Five players overall from the Western PA could end up drafted.

Several draft publications have goaltender John Gibson and forwards J.T. Miller and Brandon Saad as possible first-round selections, while forward Vince Trocheck could be drafted in the first couple of rounds. Defenseman Barrett Kaib could be a late-round selection. (click here for Red Line Report's scouting of the Pittsburgh kids). 

On a side note, last night we stopped by a pub in Minny. There was a two-piece acoustic band playing, and rumor has it one of the guys was a former member of the Minnesota band Soul Asylum. I couldn't figure out if this was true or not. Regardless, it's not a bad way to start the day.

So here's a classic 90s hit to start the blog, a live version of Soul Asylum's "Runaway Train." Enjoy.

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