Pittsburgh Penguins 2009 1st round pick Simon Despres (6-4, 218) has been regarded by some as the steal of the 2009 draft. One Penguins source indicated that the Penguins had Despres rated among the top 15 prospects on their board.
The 18 year old defenseman appears to have fallen into the Penguins lap with the No. 30 selection in the 2009 entry draft and the Penguins could have another cornerstone defenseman among their core.
Clearly the Penguins No. 1 prospect in their system, Despres caught the eye of many during the Penguins prospect camp last July. After a slow start, Despres established himself as the best defenseman on the ice near the end of the camp, along with 2006 second round pick Carl Sneep.
Despres at the time was 17 and Sneep was 22.
Despres continued to earn rave reviews after an impressive showing in training camp last September with the Penguins.
A knock on Despres by some scouts last year leading up to the draft was consistency and based on his physical skills, some felt that he should have been dominating games on a more consistent basis.
In his third season (2009-2010) with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, Despres proved his critics wrong and is quickly developing into an NHL ready defenseman that is on the fast track to the NHL.
Despres had a strong regular season, scoring 9 goals and 38 assists for 47 points, including an impressive plus-26 rating in 63 games.
Despres play in the playoffs has been even better and has been characterized as dominant by a number of scouts.
In just 18 games played, Despres has 2 goals and 17 assists for 19 points. Despres also has a team high plus-16 in the playoffs. By comparison, Despres was a minus-5 in four playoff games last spring.
Exceptional numbers for a young defenseman in the best Junior-A league in hockey.
The 18 year old defenseman has made tremendous strides in his development and has drawn great praise from Saint John assistant coach Marc Hussey.
Hussey who was the Penguins second round pick in 1992, took the time to do a 10 minute phone interview Thursday afternoon with me to discuss Despres, 2009 4th round pick Nicholas Petersen and 2010 draft prospect Stanislav Galiev who could be on the Penguins radar in the 1st round.
Hussey on Simon Despres
– “Highly skilled player and has made “huge improvement” this season, ” Hussey said.
– Biggest Strength: “Anticipation”…..”He reads the play extremely well, ” Hussey said. “See’s the play before it happens,” he added
– What caught my attention during the interview was how Marc talked very highly of how Despres strives to get better by putting the extra work in after practices and indicating that he’s a highly motivated player to get better.
– Marc said that Despres has taking the initiative to develop his shot, which I can contend was a clear weakness of his game during Penguins training camp.
– “He’s taking the initiative, working after practice on his shot and the results show that the extra work has paid off. ” Hussey said. Despres had a 7 goal improvement in 2009-2010. Marc added that he in particular has spent a lot of time with Despres working with him after practice on a number of areas including his shot.
– Could the 18 year old push for a roster spot in the NHL next season? Hussey said not to rule it out and believes that Despres is on the cusp of making the jump to the NHL as early as next fall.
– “He has a great opportunity in front of him and is prepared for a big summer, ” Hussey said.
Despres who possesses exceptional size (6-4, 218), has the skills, hockey sense and size to make the jump to the NHL.
– Hussey though says that strength work will have to continue to be an area of focus for Despres this summer.
Hussey on RW Nicholas Petersen
– The Pittsburgh Penguins 2009 4th round pick. Petersen (6-3, 188, 20 yrs old) had 39 goals and 40 assists for 79 points in 55 games played for the Saint John Sea Dogs.
– “Big powerful player, skates well, ” Hussey said.
– Like Despres, Hussey praised Petersen’s commitment to the game, telling me that Petersen has put in “countless hours” on improving his game.
– An area of Petersen’s game that he has improved greatly is his ability in “tight areas”, according to Hussey.
– As an individual, Hussey spoke very highly of Petersen, calling him a “real nice kid.”
– An interesting part of the discussion was about 20 year olds playing against younger players. Some scouts and evaluators downplay how well an older player performs in the top Junior-A leagues.
– Hussey downplayed that notion to some extent, calling Petersen a late bloomer whose is in a good position. “As a 20 year old, expectations were high for him and he met those expectations, Hussey said.
Petersen has 6 goals and 19 assists in the playoffs and his play down the stretch and in the playoffs has been impressive.
“There has been lots of time this season where he’s completed dominated games, ” Hussey said.
– Hussey praised Petersen’s determination as a goal scorer. “He’s hungry to score goals, ” Hussey said. According to Hussey, that kind of determination in a player who has the skills to be an elite goal scorer is very important and something that can’t be overlooked.
Hussey on 2010 1st round draft prospect Stanislav Galiev
Birth date: 1992-01-17 – Age 18
Position: LW Height: 6’1″ Weight: 177 lbs Shoots: Left
Central Scouting Ranking: 20
Stats: 67GP -15g-45a-60pts
– “Highly skilled, one of our Russians, “Hussey said. “Skates extremely well and has a great shot.”
Hussey called Galiev “one to watch” in the upcoming draft and Galiev is believed to be a player of interest for the Penguins as the team has scouted Saint Johns heavily over the past year.
Most mock drafts have Galiev going in the 20-30 range.
An area of concern from teams has been whether Russians are committed to play over-seas.
According to Hussey, Galiev has done just about everything necessary to show that he committed to playing in the NHL.
Prior to joining Saint Johns in 2009, Galiev came to North America at age 15 and played two seasons with Indianapolis
“He is very dedicated to play in the NHL, ” Hussey said. Hussey also indicated that Galiev’s family moved to Saint Johns this year and unlike Russian draft prospects playing over-seas, Galiev has made himself very attractive to teams which has bolstered his stock as a legitimate 1st round pick.