Penguins will be doing some shuffling
June, 23, 2012
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com
Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma, echoing the sentiments of his GM, Ray Shero, acknowledged remorse about losing center Jordan Staal, who was dealt to Carolina Friday for a package that included checking center Brandon Sutter.
"I spent a lot of time watching him grow up as a great player. He’s done a lot of great things, so to see him go and be in that situation is not the easiest thing to do," Bylsma said Saturday afternoon. "At the same time, we’re getting a player back in Sutter that in a lot of ways is going to fit in our team and do a lot of great things for our team. Third-line center, penalty-killing guy, got a lot of grit in his game, got a lot of character in the way he plays, and having added him to our team is a big plus to us."
Gee, sounds an awful lot like Staal, doesn’t it?
Bylsma quickly noted that his comments weren’t made to compare the two players.
"No. And that’s not the point at all," he said.
Interesting to see what the Penguins do on the blue line now that Zbynek Michalek has been dealt back to Phoenix. Hard to imagine Shero won’t be testing the waters on Ryan Suter, whom he knows from his days in Nashville. where he was assistant GM. But there is also a plethora of young defensive talent in the Penguins' system that must be given a chance to prove itself. Bylsma cited prospects Brian Strait, Robert Bortuzzo and Simon Despres, who is "a big-bodied guy; he can do a lot of different things. I think he’s going to be a good defender in this league as well and he’s shown that.
"There’s still a lot of guys back there. It’s not like we’re thin on the back end."
Blood is thicker than ice
It’s always fascinating to chart the bloodlines of draftees. Some are obvious, like Lukas Sutter of the famous Viking, Alberta, Sutter clan who was selected in the second round by the Winnipeg Jets.
"It's an honor, it's something you take a lot of pride in," Sutter said of the family name that has become synonymous with hard-nosed hockey for decades.
"The last name is obviously a legacy in the game of hockey, something you want to live up to. And that's something I really pride myself on,” added Sutter, whose father is longtime NHLer Rich Sutter.
And regardless of the family member, there’s never any shortage of advice about the game to be had.
"It doesn't matter who you go to. Whether it's Dad or Uncle Ronnie or Uncle Brent," Lukas Sutter said. "You're going to get the same thing from each and every one of them. They know how to play the game; they know what they're talking about it. It's definitely invaluable to have that support system."
Sometimes the bloodlines are less obvious.
As was the case with Jon Gillies, the 6-foot-4 goalie taken by the Calgary Flames with the 75th overall pick in the draft. His father, Bruce Gillies, played goal at the University of New Hampshire, then played in the International and American Hockey Leagues.
"We had a lot of pictures of my dad in our house and stuff like that and my uncle was a goalie and so was my grandfather, so it kind runs in our family. He actually made me play forward for my first year of hockey just to make sure I really wanted to play hockey, but from my second year of Mites on, it was what I wanted to do," Gillies told reporters Saturday.
"He doesn’t talk much about his playing career for some reason. What I know about him is what I hear through the grapevine. I know in men’s league he plays defense now because he doesn’t want to play goalie anymore. He played football, too, so he had a few knee surgeries," Gillies said.
Although the 18-year-old who played last season with Indiana of the USHL avoided his dad’s hand-me-down gear, he never wanted for advice.
"He helped me out with the technical side until I was about 12 and then he moved me on to a goalie coach who could to teach the recent type of game better. But still on the mental side and the advice part, he’s my dad, so he’s the person who’s responsible for getting me here, he’s had my back all the way through, so I can’t thank him enough," Gillies said. "I’m actually surprised my dad was in the seat [when Calgary made the pick]; he likes to pace a lot during games and stuff. That was nice, too."
It was another good day for U.S. college hockey, as 68 current and future NCAA players were taken, including six in the first round. That is the highest total in the past five years -- 74 were taken in 2007.
All but three teams -- Colorado, Columbus and Montreal -- selected at least one player with collegiate ties.
This past season, 301 former college players skated in the NHL, representing 30.5 percent of the league.
"College hockey has proven to be home of talented players, and NHL teams know that players in college will develop. That's shown when you have 301 college players in the league, including the last three Conn Smythe winners. This weekend, with almost every team taking a college player, shows that influence at the NHL level will continue," Nate Ewell, interim executive director of College Hockey Inc., told ESPN.com following the draft.