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Penguins Report: Player Fantasy Draft

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

  • Neal and Letang give their thoughts on the draft (10:52 PM).
  • Alternate captains talk strategy (11:00 PM).
  • Fantasy draft blogging (8:02 PM - 9:22 PM).
  • Pre-fantasy draft pics...there's a lot (7:17 PM).
  • The Penguins vehicle we drove to Ottawa has been named (12:07 PM).
  • Border crossing adventures (3:20 PM).
  • "Hey now, you're an All-Star..." (11:30 AM).

11:00 PM:
In the craziness that was the player media availability, we were able to ask alternate captains Henrik Lundqvist (Team Alfredsson) and Joffrey Lupul (Team Chara) about their strategy behind drafting two Pens in the top 10...



10:52 PM:
We were able to catch up with Team Alfredsson teammates Neal and Letang. We will be speaking to Team Chara's Malkin on Friday afternoon.

James Neal

On what being an All-Star means to him:
To be a part of this weekend is very special. To be alongside all the great players is something I’ll never forget. It’s my first one.

On what was going through his mind during the draft:
I was a little nervous, I guess, back there (smiles). You never know who’s going to go next. It’s just a cool thing to be a part of. All the guys were joking around back there. It’s just nice to be a part of this and to be alongside all the players in the league.

On what he thinks of his team:
It looks good, I think, yeah? A couple good goal scorers in (Claude) Giroux and (Steven) Stamkos.

On Malkin chirping him:
He was looking over to me acting like he was driving a car. I think he wanted me to go last. But we get to play against each other. I think he likes it like that.

On his previous plans:
I was going to go on vacation. I was going to go to Florida. But when you get a chance to be a part of this, you don’t want to pass it up. Especially when it’s my first one.

Kris Letang

On being chosen in the top 10 with Malkin:
I wasn’t thinking that much. I was just trying to enjoy the night. I was kind of surprised to go that early.

On being invited to the All-Star Game after a long recovery:
I was not expecting anything. I did not know how long it would have been. But I kept working and ended up coming back on the 19th and have been playing since. They decided to bring me here and it’s an honor. I hope I’m going to represent my team the best I can.

On how to defend Malkin:
I don’t know how to do that because it never happened against me. But I will do my best.

On going through this the second time:
I always say the whole weekend is great. Tonight is a good night. Everybody’s laughing, having fun. The skills is always fun to see what guys can pull off on the ice. The game is always the big thing and the big party.

On this being Neal’s first All-Star Game:
It’s the first time for Nealer and it’s well-deserved for him. I knew he was not going to get picked last like he was saying in the car. He’s been playing well for us and it’s well-deserved.

On Neal thinking he’d get picked last:
Yeah, he thought he could be one of the last guys picked. But there was no way. He’s such a big asset in those types of games. He got picked pretty early too. It was fun to see that.

9:22 PM:
And that'll do it for the 2012 Player Fantasy Draft! has the full list of picks right here.

Here's Sam's overall take:

"I'm worried about the makeup of Team Alfredsson. They've got 4 Senators and a lot of Swedes. I think they'll have a divided locker room and it will work against them. Team Chara has a few Bruins on the team, but Chara is a natural leader and will bring his team together.

"It will be fun watching Kris Letang go head-to-head with Malkin though. I'm expecting a lot of chirping on Twitter between Malkin and Neal. Let the fun begin."

Now we must go talk to our Pens players. Stay tuned.

9:20 PM:
Chara takes Dallas' Jamie Benn second-to-last, praising his attendance at the game despite recently getting his appendix out. That means San Jose's Logan Couture is the last man standing.

9:18 PM:
We're down to the final four. And after making his teammate sweat for most of the night, Chara finally takes Tyler Seguin. The two "hug it out" after the selection.

8:58 PM:
First-time All-Star James Neal joins Letang on Team Alfredsson with the 28th overall pick of the draft!

Malkin did tweet yesterday that he hoped linemate Neal would be on another team...

     "@jneal_18 I hope you'll play in another team because our team won))))"

So who are you going to cheer for, Pens fans?!

Sam's take...

"Neal was the last player added to the All-Star roster, but not the last taken. Team Alfie now has some lethal snipers with Neal, Giroux, Michalek and Sedin."

8:50 PM:
And now all of the Senators are on their captain's team as Alfredsson takes Milan Michalek (brother of Pens defenseman Zbynek) with the 24th overall pick.

Sam's take:
"Alfredsson takes Michalek and now has all the Senators on his team. That will be a huge advantage since they all know each other's tendencies. Although the Sens might be a clique and cause a divided locker room."

8:44 PM:
Apparently Ottawans (not sure if that's the right term or definitely doesn't seem right) aren't big fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Lupul is getting booed by the crowd every time he announces a pick, and he's been doing most of them. He joked that Chara just likes to see him feel the heat.

Here are the next 10 picks after Letang...

11. Chara - Perry
12. Alfredsson - Stamkos
13. Chara - Price
14. Alfredsson - Elliott
15. Chara - Kessel
16. Alfredsson - Weber
17. Chara - Suter
18. Alfredsson - D. Sedin
19. Chara - Howard
20. Alfredsson - Girardi

Sam's take:
"A little surprising as a Leaf (Lupul) picked a Canadien (Price). Then Lupul gets his buddy Kessel as the boos rain down. A friendly 'Leafs Suck' chant gets going."

"Karlsson, Letang and Weber all on Team Alfie. That's a talented and powerful D group so far."

8:33 PM:
Team Alfredsson takes Kris Letang with the 10th overall pick of the draft!!! We've already got two Pens on separate teams now. Cue the chirping now.

Sam's take:
"Letang goes in the fifth round to Team Alf. Solid silk shirt on Tanger."

8:28 PM:
And Evgeni Malkin is the fifth overall pick of the draft, taken with Team Chara's third choice of the night!!!

Sam's take:
"Chara with a steal by getting Malkin fifth overall. Best player in the NHL right now."

8:24 PM:
After Chara selected Detroit's Pavel Datsyuk first overall, Alfredsson chose fellow Senator Erik Karlsson next. Apparently Karlsson had lobbied Alfredsson's children hard to get their dad to pick him with his first choice.

While TSN's James Duthie was interviewing Karlsson, the camera kept cutting to their teammate Jason Spezza in the green room, leading the young defenseman to say how…er…"mad" he thought Spezza was, joking his black eye got even blacker with jealousy.

Spezza then sat at the camera shaking his head seriously…then couldn't take it anymore and burst into laughter. Teammate love.

Sam has the commentary...

Sam's take:
"Chara starts off the draft by taking Datsyuk, obviously knowing that it takes 2-way hockey to win an All-Star Game. Chara goes Thomas with his next pick. What would happen if President Obama drafted Thomas? Team Alf takes teammate Karlsson and Spezza with his first two picks. Homer."

8:02 PM:
The festivities are under way!!!

Another little change for this year. The guys aren't sitting in the audience waiting to be chosen. They're all going to watch and wait backstage and be brought out when their name is called.

And one more new wrinkle: there is one trade allowed. This should be special. Lol.

My boss Sam Kasan will be providing commentary throughout the night. That should be special as well.

7:46 PM:
The second-annual Player Fantasy Draft starts in approximately 15 minutes. Here's how it's going to go down...

Ottawa's Daniel Alfredsson is the captain of one team with NY Rangers' Henrik Lundqvist as his alternate. Boston's Zdeno Chara is the other captain with Toronto's Joffrey Lupul as his alternate.

They'll go back and forth with their choices until all the guys are taken. So the question is...where do you think the Penguins' reps (Malkin, Neal and Letang) will go? Team Edward or Team Jacob?

NOTE: There was no red carpet for the guys this year. Aside from select media availability beforehand from the captains, alternates and Senators reps, the rest of the players will be available after the draft is over.

7:17 PM:
I made a rookie mistake by not getting to the media workroom (aka the War Room) early enough to stake out a seat for myself. But luckily, someone from the NHL did me a solid and found me a prime seat in the second row!!! So clutch. I'll be keeping you posted on where our guys go and on any of the funny incidents that occur tonight. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, I've got more pics...

Lots of traffic getting into Ottawa (left); Driving On Road... ... ....doesn't sound promising

Media workroom is packed to the brim...

Alternate captain for Team Alfredsson Henrik Lundqvist and his NYR teammate Dan Girardi (left)...where the players gathered before the draft (right)

Lundqvist making his way up to talk to all of us (left)... Lundqvist and Daniel Alfredsson

The Ottawa Senators' All-Star reps...pretty sure Milan Michalek is lookin' right at me (left); Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf opt to take the escalator (right)

6:01 PM:
Nine and a half hours later, the Pens web crew has rolled into Canada's capital! The whole city is decked out for the festivities that are to take place this weekend. They've done a fantastic job. I've got to start getting ready for tonight's Player Fantasy Draft, but stay tuned for a TON of great pics. Here's one for in the meantime...

3:20 PM:
Note to travelers: always stop at the Duty-Free store before crossing into Canada or else you may find yourself having to cross the border multiple times. As if it wasn't embarrassing enough having to explain ourselves to the guards, we had to keep doing it in our inconspicuous Penguins vehicle that kept getting comment after comment...(and the occasional fan asking to take a photo with it).

But no worries, after crossing into Canada, having to go back into the States and then sheepishly enter Canada once more, we finally made it into our destination with no issues.

I have no words for the game that's on the left...big scary grizzly bear greeted us as we went to exchange our currency

We finally made it! Yay!

12:07 PM:
It's been a long day so far already. We are making the roughly nine-hour trek to our northern neighbor's capital instead of flying because everywhere we need to be this weekend is pretty spread out, so it'll be a huge advantage to have a car with us. Plus, we have a ton of equipment. Our car is packed to the brim. I took a two-hour nap snuggled up with a tripod and my skates (that I brought for racing Mearsy on the Rideau Canal) are a foot from my face. Luckily I put dryer sheets in them to hide the smell.

Since we're leaving the day of the draft, we had an obscenely early wakeup time: 4:30 a.m. Rough. But although I was infamous for oversleeping and being late for bus trips during my college hockey days, I was actually early this morning! Pat on the back.

Waking up in what felt like the middle of the night (left); had to stop at my desk to get my equipment (right)

My boss Sam left me a checklist so that I wouldn't forget anything (left) actually proved to be really helpful, ha! (right)

PensTV editors Mark Cottington and James Archer in front of our sweet ride that needs a name...any ideas?!

UPDATE (8:08 P.M.): We asked the Twitter world what this wonderful vehicle should be named...and we have a winner!!!

     "@PensInsideScoop I think the car is classified as a PUV, Penguins Utility Vehicle. Should be named Pens Inside Coupe."

11:30 AM:
Good morning everyone! I'm blogging this from the backseat of a Chevy Equinox covered in Penguins decals (more on our ride later) because myself and PensTV are roadtrippin' to the 2012 NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa, Ontario to cover all of the happenings.

There are three Pens participating in the festivities this weekend, as James Neal earned a well-deserved invite on Wednesday, Kris Letang was honored to get the call on Monday and Evgeni Malkin, of course, was named to the initial roster.

I'll keep you posted on all the day's events (and mishaps), cumulating with the second annual NHL All-Star Player Fantasy Draft. And overall, we'll be bringing you all the coverage you could possibly want from the weekend -- so make sure you check out on the regular!

It doesn't feel like a Pens Report if it doesn't start with a song. I spent a long time searching for an appropriate one (I really wanted to use a Drake song, since he's performing at the game on Sunday) but couldn't find one I liked yet. So I decided to revert back to ol' faithful. Here's Smash Mouth's "All Star." Nice comfortable way to get us started.

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