Jordan Staal, centre, gives the Pens another talented forward. (YouTube)
Although a defenceman might have been a wiser selection, with Erik Johnson predictably grabbed at No. 1, the Penguins instead added to their growing stable of talented forwards by selecting Jordan Staal second overall.
The 17-year-old centre is the latest member of the Thunder Bay Staal clan to be brought into the NHL, with more on the way. This family is quickly becoming near Sutter-like in its development of professional hockey players.
The 6’4″, 215-pounder, drafted from Peterborough of the Ontario Hockey League, is a gritty player who should combine with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin to breathe new life into a moribund Pittsburgh organization, assuming the team remains in Steel City. Regardless of the location of this franchise, Staal, who doesn’t turn 18 until next month, will be an asset.
His offensive game is not overwhelming (he averaged just a point per game last season with the Petes, but was particularly sharp come playoff time, scoring 10 goals in 19 games), but Staal is a solid two-way player, recording a +16.
The left-handed shooter is a fine skater, but expecting him to match older brother Eric’s offensive exploits may be pushing it. However, Jordan is a tremendously smart player who will give 100 per cent at all times, and that’s something he definitely gets from the family.
Staal is coming off an All-Star season in the OHL, showing very good playmaking skills with 40 assists and he really solidified his position as a Top five selection with an impressive performance at the NHL Combine leading up to the draft. He also got fantastic experience in leading the Petes to the OHL Championship and a berth in the Memorial Cup this past season — a winning background that will be very welcomed in a young Penguin locker room that’s trying to find out what it takes to win at the NHL level.
If you’re looking for a career path he may follow, we’ve seen Staal compared to Trevor Linden, a five-time 30-goal man who’s scored 830 career points and is expected back for a 19th season this fall. And for what it’s worth, Staal’s favourite player is Todd Bertuzzi.
When you mix skill, size and grit into a hockey player, wonderful things are possible and from all reports, Staal is also a great kid. So while he may never challenge for a scoring title, he has the potential to be a real leader in helping the next great march of the Penguins.