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Trio of first-rounders a Senators first at NHL draft

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
The Senators engineered a deal with the Detroit Red Wings to land winger Matt Puempel of the Peterborough Petes with the 24th pick in the first round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft (Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images).
With some late night wheeling and dealing, the Ottawa Senators made some franchise history at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.

The Senators shipped a pair of second-round picks (No. 35 and 48 overall) to the Detroit Red Wings for the 24th pick in the first round and used it to take forward Matt Puempel of the Ontario Hockey League's Peterborough Petes.

That marked the first time the Senators had ever made three selections in the opening round of an NHL entry draft. Earlier in the night, they chose Swedish centre Mika Zibanejad sixth overall and Plymouth Whalers pivot Stefan Noesen in the No. 21 hole.

Puempel was, well, pumped to be the record-setting guy.

"It’s pretty unbelievable," said the 18-year-old native of Essex, Ont. "Definitely, all that waiting was worth it when the Ottawa Senators selected my name. I couldn’t be more happy right now.

"It’s pretty unlikely for a team to have three picks in the first round. And once they traded, I was pretty optimistic and really hoping to be a part of (the Senators). Fortunately enough, I am."

The Senators came to St. Paul, Minn., and the Xcel Energy Center determined to build up the organization's depth at the forward position. With tonight's haul alone — the Senators still have eight picks to make on Saturday — general mananger Bryan Murray believes it's mission accomplished already. All three players the Senators took in Round 1, he added, were in the top 15 in the team's pre-draft rankings.

"Getting the type of character players that we did, we got young people ... they may not help us next year immediately, but certainly in the future they will be guys we’ll have on our roster and they’ll play a lot of years," said Murray. "That was the choice that we made and I hope it’s the right one for now."

Noesen and Puempel were both selected with draft picks the Senators obtained in trade-deadline dealing back in February. The No. 21 selection came from the Nashville Predators in the Mike Fisher deal, while the 48th pick was part of the Chris Campoli trade with the Chicago Blackhawks.

"When you trade away players of the nature we did last year, you hope that you get return," said Murray. "We were able to combine a couple of picks to get the third first-rounder. It was a sacrifice at the time at the deadline that we made, to take that step back for this day, and I thought our staff was good and really outstanding in their ratings."

Puempel, described by Murray as "an offensive machine," racked up 67 goals in his last two seasons with the Petes. But his draft status took a hit when he missed the final month of the 2010-11 season with a hip injury that required surgery. Needless to say, it raised a lot of questions in the weeks heading up to the draft.

"They’re just doing their job and making sure every player is good to go before they draft them," said Puempel, who wasn't offended by the constant prodding by National Hockey League teams. "The injury is feeling great now. There’s no more injury and I’m back to normal, skating and working out and feeling good."

He's confident the surgery, performed by world-renowned hip specialist Marc Philippon at the Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colo., was a complete success and that he'll have no issues going forward.

"He was first class, the best doctor around for a hip-oriented injury," said Puempel, the Canadian Hockey League's rookie of the year in 2009-10. "I was honoured to be his patient. You walk through the hallway there and see all the jerseys of all the different players he’s done in all sports (including Mario Lemieux and Marian Gaborik). They’ve all had full recovery, so I’m extremely confident in him and really happy that he did it."

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