Ray Shero and the Draft Table Part One

Rumors run rampant and blame is being cast like a fly fisherman in the wake of yet another early playoff exit/flameout by the Pittsburgh Penguins. This time it was a blown 3-1 series lead against the New York Rangers.

I believe a large portion of the reactions, or over reactions at times, isn’t so much on the losing alone but rather how they have lost. I would like to think that even the most Kool-Aid drinking Penguins fans, who believe just because they have Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, that they should be in the Cup Finals every year, realize the difficulty that is the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The fandom demands of players being traded and coaches being fired is an oft found reaction when a season ends earlier than you like, but this time there is plenty of ire in the direction of the General Manager, Ray Shero as well. People site unnecessary trades for players that didn’t help as well as a poor draft record, especially among the forward position.

In the recent mid road years of the Steelers, people have highly questioned coach Mike Tomlin’s drafting…er…ability and I felt curious to how bad or average he had really drafted. Now I am curious to look at Shero’s drafting profile in his tenure as Penguins GM with, of course, salting with hindsight to taste.

2006:

Rd1 Pick 2 – Jordan Staal (Center) – Even if they picked Staal over the likes of Jonathan Toews and Phil Kessel, there is really little if anything to complain about this pick. Even if Staal is no longer a Penguin, he went a long way into the Cup success of 08 finalists and 09 Cup winners.

Rd2 Pick 32 – Carl Sneep (Defense) – Sneep was drafted out of a Minnesota HS before committing to Boston College. Sneep’s only true asset was a breakout pass but speed and shooting were lacking and only had a shot at the NHL in a bottom pair role. San Jose picked Jamie McGinn at pick 36 and while undersized at the time, has bulked to around 200 and was considered a smart player who cycles well and played physical for his size while having great speed. Someone that would have fit in well here with how today's and the Penguins game likes to play.

Rd3 Pick65 – Brian Strait (Defense) – In all honesty, I feel picking Strait here was well done. It is unfortunate that he was caught as the odd man out in the numbers game coming out of the lockout. This was due to the large number of one way contracts for defensemen on the team including Simon Despres seemingly still in the teams plans at the time. While he may have been a bottom pair defenseman on the Pens, he would have been considerably cheaper than say…Rob Scuderi and possibly better in regards to the possession game. Nearby picks included Brad Marchand and Cal Clutterbuck.

Rd5 Pick125 – Chad Johnson (Goalie) – Ocho Cinco had a solid college career in Alaska with conference player of the year and Hobey Baker finalist honors in his senior year only to be traded to the Rangers for a 5th round pick in 2009. Johnson is now backup to Tuukka Rask in Boston. While playing in 27 games he had a 92.5% 5v5 save percentage this past season, Marc-Andre Fleury’s was 91.5%. In a ranking of goalies who have played at least 21 games (or 25% of their games), Johnson ranks 8th, Fleury 27th.

Rd7 Pick185 – Timo Seppanen (Defense) – Scouting is such an inexact science. Seppanen was the CSS 13th ranked European skater in the final rankings ahead of Jan Mursak (who the Red Wings already picked at 182) and Nikolai Kulemin (Picked 44th by Toronto). While definitely shaping up to be a longshot, taking a shot at a defenseman at 6’1’’ and 209 pounds isn’t anything to complain about. 7th rounders that made the NHL include Derek Dorsett (189), Benn Ferriero (196) and Eric Condra (211).

Sometimes, it’s not the pick on draft day that goes wrong as much as it is the development of a player or the management of one’s assets. For the 2006 draft in Shero’s debut I can thumb up 3 of the 5 picks with only thumbing down the Sneep pick. Despite only Staal making any degree of impact as a Penguin and zero currently in the organization let alone on the NHL roster. Later tonight, I’ll take a peek at the 2007 and 2008 drafts.