The Pittsburgh Penguins have selected St. John (QMJHL) defenseman Simon Despres with their first round selection in the 2009 NHL entry draft.
Despres, 17, was ranked eighth among North American skaters heading into the draft.
The blue-liner represented Team Canada as an assistant captain at the 2009 Under-18 World Championships in Fargo, North Dakota, finishing with two assists and a plus-five rating.
He was also a member of Canada’s gold-medal effort at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial tournament in 2008.
The 6-4, 205 pound defenseman recorded 32 points (two goals, 30 assists) and had a team-high plus-16 rating in 66 games during the 2008-09 season.
He contributed four assists in four playoff appearances before the Sea Dogs were eliminated by Cape Breton in the first round.
Despres is a former teammate of Penguins prospect Alex Grant and was heavily scouted by the Penguins over the past two seasons.
Despres has exceptional speed for his size and Penguins scouts regard him as a puck moving defenseman as he uses his speed to elude fore-checkers.
In his own end, Despres is not very physical and doesn’t take the body like he should.
He does clear the front of the net very well and is a solid shot blocker.
Despres is one of those defenseman who can help you offensively and plays very good positional hockey in his own end.
What has intrigued Pittsburgh about Despres is the potential he has when it comes to his offensive skills. The Penguins feel his offensive skills will continue to evolve with the speed and quick lateral movement he has for a player of his size.
I was just told that Pittsburgh had him rated as high as #15 on their draft board.
While Pittsburgh was very high on him, a number of teams passed on him because he was a major underachiever in the eyes of many scouts.
Be back in a bit, going to get some quotes.