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Pens Add Gifted Defensemen to Organization

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

The 2012 NHL Draft class was deep on defensemen, and on Friday night, the Penguins added two of the best into the organization.

First, Penguins general manager Ray Shero orchestrated a blockbuster trade that sent center Jordan Staal the Carolina Hurricanes for center Brandon Sutter, defenseman Brian Dumoulin and the No. 8 overall pick – where Pittsburgh selected Derrick Pouliot of the Portland Winterhawks (Western Hockey League).

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The trade was announced minutes after Minnesota selected defenseman Mathew Dumba with the seventh-overall pick, so it all happened quickly. But Pouliot was someone the Penguins felt strongly about, and had no hesitation about drafting.

“We really liked Derrick. Our guys had seen him a lot,” Shero said. “We really feel that he’s a really good skater, has really good offensive capabilities and is a power-play quarterback of the future. Playing with Joe Morrow out in Portland, our first-round pick from last year, our guys really liked him.”

Pouliot, 18, spent time with Morrow on Portland’s power play, where he used his heavy shot to act as the triggerman. He’s one of the draft’s most offensively-gifted defensemen, with speed and acceleration that allow him to glide effortlessly around the ice.

Pouliot’s offensive talents are without question. It’s his defensive game he wants to sharpen up in order to make the transition into the NHL. And if he can do that, he’ll become more like the NHL player he models his game after – Kings defenseman Drew Doughty.

“I think it comes with a little bit of maturity and a little bit of time, and I’m working on that all the time,” he said. As if one talented young defenseman wasn’t enough, the Penguins chose Olli Maatta of the London Knights (Ontario Hockey League) with their original 22nd-overall pick.

“Just another real young asset on defense we’re adding to our group here, so I think he’s a real good addition as well,” Shero said.

Maatta, who is teammates with Penguins 2011 second-round pick Scott Harrington, is another excellent skater who has offensive talents. This year, he led all OHL rookie defensemen with 32 points (5G-27A) in 58 regular-season games. He had an outstanding postseason, recording a team-leading (tied) 23 points (6G-17A) as the Knights won the OHL championship.

But not only can Maatta skate – he’s also got size. The Finnish defenseman is already 6-foot-2, 202 pounds, and says he wants to get even bigger and stronger before turning pro. He actually considers himself a defensive defenseman, and knows he must continue honing his all-around game before transitioning to the NHL.

Look at the scouting reports for these two players, and you’ll see them littered with impressive feats. But what can’t be quantified is their character, and both of the newest Penguins have the competitive spirit and work ethic paired with their talent to spur them to success with this team in the future.
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