MONTREAL -- Saint John’s defenseman Simon Despres
was a biased observer of the 2009 Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings.
“I wanted (Pittsburgh) to win the Stanley Cup this year with Mario Lemieux, Crosby and Malkin, all those guys,” Despres said.
Now, Despres has become a part of the Penguins family after the team selected him with 30th overall pick in the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft Friday night. Just shy of 11 p.m. and four hours after the draft began, Pittsburgh ended the opening round by calling Despres on stage.
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“I met (Penguins officials) a couple times but you never know in the draft,” Despres said. “It’s unpredictable. I’m very excited.”
Penguins general manager Ray Shero had an offer on the table for the team to trade down in the draft. However, his scouting staff felt so highly of Despres that they convinced Shero to keep the pick and take the 6-foot-4, 205-pound defenseman.
“Our guys really liked him,” Shero said. “We were actually looking to trade down but Simon was still available. He’s a good young defenseman, good size, good skater with a lot of upside to his game. It’s hard to get defensemen. That’s why you have to draft them. It’s good for our organization.”
Despres is a big defenseman with strong skating ability and good vision. Although there is one area that he would like to improve on.
“I have to shoot more,” he said.
Despres, 17, was ranked eighth among North American skaters heading into the draft. The blueliner represented Team Canada as an assistant captain at the 2009 Under-18 World Championships in Fargo, North Dakota, finishing with two assists and a plus-five rating. He was also a member of Canada's gold-medal effort at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament in 2008.
Despres recorded 32 points (two goals, 30 assists) and had a team-high plus-16 rating in 66 games during the 2008-09 season. He contributed four assists in four playoff appearances before the Sea Dogs were eliminated by Cape Breton in the first round.
Despres will take some time to develop his talents but the Penguins are excited to add a prospect of his upside to the organization.
“We talked about him quite a bit as a possibility at 30,” Shero said. “It’s tough to get those defensemen and they are very valuable down the line. We’re adding a good asset to our organization.”