There are no fail-proof formulas available to National Hockey League general managers as they go about attempting to build a championship-caliber squad, but the pieces required usually don’t change much from plan to plan.
|Mark Recchi was taken by the Penguins in the 4th round of the 1988 NHL Draft. He went on to record five 20-goal seasons in three tours of duty. Credit - Getty Images |
Take a look at the five teams to capture the Stanley Cup since the NHL returned from the lockout in 2005-06 and you’ll notice each has been buoyed by quality goaltending, three solid offensive lines capable of supplying goal scoring and a deep defensive corps.
That’s a lot of holes to fill on a 23-man roster, so relying on free agent signings and trading deadline pickups alone cannot be the sole way to construct a contender. Instead, to get the best bang for the buck in the salary-cap world, teams must build the core of their foundation the old-fashioned way – through the draft.
The Penguins have had some really good teams for the better part of the last 20 years – three Stanley Cup champions, a fourth Cup finalist squad, one Presidents’ Trophy winner and three Eastern Conference runners-up. Along the way some high-end talent has made its way to Pittsburgh via the trade route (Joe Mullen, Larry Murphy, Rick Tocchet, Ron Francis), free agency (Bryan Trottier, Sergei Gonchar) and the waiver wire (Robert Lang).
But while all teams need to use several avenues to add players of that ilk, it’s the Penguins’ success during the annual entry draft which has allowed them to spend much of the past two decades ranked among the league’s top franchises.
As general manager Ray Shero and his staff prepare to add another infusion of talent into the Penguins arsenal at the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles, we take a moment to reflect back on the Penguins’ top all-time draft choices by round. It won’t be hard to take note of the fact that many of those highlighted helped Pittsburgh capture its three Stanley Cup championships.Round 1: Mario Lemieux – 1st overall, 1984
Jaromir Jagr spent a significant portion of the 1990s considered by many to be the best player in the game, and Sidney Crosby
currently holds the same distinction. Both are franchise players in every sense of the word, but Lemieux is the best player to ever lace up a pair of skates.
His gaudy point total, inspiring comebacks and sheer impeccability could fill an entire novel, but what makes Lemieux really stand out above all others was his keeping the Penguins in Pittsburgh not once, not twice, but three times upon being drafted by then-GM Eddie Johnston in 1984. Simply put, if the Penguins didn’t draft Lemieux in ’84 the team wouldn’t have survived much longer in the Steel City.
When he wasn’t busy saving the team off the ice, Lemieux was the most graceful big man ever on it. He finished his remarkable career ranked seventh all-time in points (1,723), ninth in goals (690) and 10th in assists (1,033). Lemieux captained the Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 1991 and ’92, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP on both occasions.HONORABLE MENTION:
Jaromir Jagr (5th overall, 1990); Sidney Crosby
(1st overall, 2005); Evgeni Malkin
(1st overall, 2004); Marc-Andre Fleury
(1st overall, 2003); Jordan Staal
(2nd overall, 2006).Round 2: Greg Malone – 19th overall, 1976
The Penguins haven’t had the best of luck in the second round over the years, although promising blueliner Alex Goligoski and recent draft picks playing in the system such as Carl Sneep
and Keven Veilleux
hope to change that.
One second-rounder who did succeed with the Penguins for a prolonged period was Greg Malone. The former Oshawa General, who later spent 18 years as a scout for the team, played 495 games with Pittsburgh between 1976-83, scoring 143 goals and recording 364 points. His best season came in 1978-79 when he led the team with 65 points (35G-30A).HONORABLE MENTION:
Alex Goligoski (61st overall, 2004).Round 3: Troy Loney – 52nd overall, 1982
There’s a good chance Michel Briere would have taken home this honor had he not passed away tragically after just one season, and Kris Letang
will make a huge play for this title in the future, but Troy Loney takes home the crown this year.
Loney spent 10 years as an anchor on the Penguins’ third and fourth lines as a phsycial presence and penalty killer from 1983-93, scoring 69 goals and 100 assists in 532 games. A two-time Stanley Cup champion, perhaps Loney’s biggest goal as a Penguin came late in Game 5 of the ‘91 Final when he gave Pittsburgh a 6-4 cushion in the pivotal swing game of what was at the time an even series.HONORABLE MENTION:
Michel Briere (26th overall, 1969); Kris Letang
(62nd overall, 2005); Jean-Sebastien Aubin (76th overall, 1995); Erik Christensen (69th overall, 2002). Round 4: Mark Recchi – 67th overall, 1988
Outside of Round 1, the fourth round has produced arguably the most long-term contributors to the Penguins as any round in the draft. Among the many fourth-rounders to make their mark in Pittsburgh include: Rob Brown, Ryan Malone and Tyler Kennedy
. As important as those three figures were to the Penguins’ success the past 20 years, nobody stands above Mark Recchi.
Considered a bit undersized, Recchi was an instrumental part of the team’s ’91 championship squad, ranking second only to Lemieux with 34 points (10G-24A) in 24 games as the Penguins won their first Cup. Recchi led the Penguins in scoring during that regular season with 40 goals and 113 points. In three tours of duty with Pittsburgh the Kamloops, British Columbia native registered 317 points (130G-187A) in 307 regular-season games with five 20-plus goal campaigns.HONORABLE MENTION:
Rob Brown (67th overall, 1986); Ryan Malone (115th overall, 1999); Chris Tamer (68th overall, 1990); Frank Pietrangelo (64th overall, 1983); Tyler Kennedy
(99th overall, 2004).Round 5: Rob Scuderi – 134th overall, 1998
|Rob Scuderi's blocked shots late in Game 6 of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final allowed the Penguins to protect a 2-1 lead late in regulation. Credit - Getty Images |
No list would be complete without ‘The Piece,’ so Rob Scuderi skates away with this nod. He might not have come anywhere close to matching the offensive production of his chief competitors – Doug Shedden and Jan Hrdina – but producing offensively wasn’t Scuderi’s calling card.
Teaming with fellow defensive-minded blueliner Hal Gill, Scuderi was one-half of the Penguins’ shutdown D-pairing which helped the team navigate to back-to-back Cup Final appearances in 2008 and ’09. Scuderi’s play to dive into the crease and make two clutch saves late in Game 6 of the ’09 Final secured the victory which gave the Penguins a chance to win the Cup in the decisive seventh game a few days later.HONORABLE MENTION:
Doug Shedden (93rd overall, 1980); Jan Hrdina (128th overall, 1995).Round 6: Shawn McEachern – 110th overall, 1987
Between 1986-89 the Penguins drafted three players in the sixth round who would each later have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup, but the contributions from speedy Shawn McEachern exceed those of Jeff Daniels and Mike Needham.
McEachern joined the Penguins late in the 1992 regular season after appearing in the ‘92 Albertville Olympic Games and quickly made his mark in the postseason. Filling in on the top two-lines due to a rash of injuries, McEachern posted nine points (2G-7A) in 19 games. Overall in two stints with Pittsburgh, McEachern scored 53 goals and 112 points in 170 regular-season contests. He added 17 points (6G-11A) in 48 postseason games.HONORABLE MENTION:
Ian Moran (107th overall, 1990); Patrick Lalime (156th overall, 1993); Jeff Daniels (109th overall, 1986).Round 7: Tom Kostopoulos – 204th overall, 1999
It’s not often that players picked this low are able to forge out a lengthy NHL career unless they are a goaltender, but Tom Kostopolous has done just that. Since originally making his NHL debut with the Penguins in 2001-02, Kostopoulos has currently appeared in 458 career games with Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Montreal and Carolina.
A gritty and hard-nosed presence, Kostopoulos spent parts of three seasons with the Penguins, scoring 10 goals and 26 points in 79 games. His best season was ’03-04 when he established career highs with nine goals and 22 points in 60 games.
|Maxime Talbot earned himself a permanent spot in Pittsburgh sports lore with his two-goal performance as the Penguins defeated the Detroit Red Wings, 2-1, in Game 7 of the '09 Final to clinch the Stanley Cup. Credit - Getty Images |
: Eric Meloche (186th overall, 1996); Ed Patterson (148th overall, 1991).
Round 8 or later: Maxime Talbot – 8th round, 234th overall, 2002
Jim Paek and Paul Stanton combined to provide a steady, stay-at-home unsung presence on the back line during the Penguins’ run to back-to-back titles in ‘91 and ’92, but Maxime Talbot was THE hero when Pittsburgh captured its third Stanley Cup in 2009. The ‘Superstar’ scored both goals in the Penguins’ decisive 2-1 victory in Game 7 at Joe Louis Arena.
While Talbot will always be remembered in Penguins lore for that magical night last spring, the Lemoyne, Quebec native has successfully filled a variety of roles since joining the team in 2005-06. A superb penalty killer, Talbot already ranks among the franchise leaders with 10 career shorthanded markers. In 306 career regular-season contests Talbot has 44 goals and 87 points. His endearing personality has made him one of the team’s most-liked players off the ice.HONORABLE MENTION:
Paul Stanton (8th round, 149th overall, 1985); Jim Paek (9th round, 170th overall, 1985); Andrew Ference (8th round, 208th overall, 1997); Toby Petersen (9th round, 244th overall, 1998); Hans Jonsson (11th round, 286th overall, 1993).