A lot can change in eight years. The Pittsburgh Penguins alone have had three coaches, two general managers, and back-to-back Stanley Cup titles since June of 2012.
During the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, the Penguins made nine picks, the most selections they’ve had in a draft since the NHL reduced the number of rounds from nine to seven in 2005. On top of having more picks than usual, the Penguins also made a move to select within the top-10.
Round 1, 8th Overall: Derrick Pouliot
There is a lot more to unpack here than just a bad top-10 pick. On the first day of the draft, that was being held in Pittsburgh no less, the Penguins traded fan-favorite Jordan Staal, on his wedding day, to the Carolina Hurricanes for their first-round pick. With the pick, general manager Ray Shero chose Derrick Pouliot from the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL.
It’s safe to say that this pick did not pan out as planned for the Penguins. Pouliot played in 67 games over his three seasons in Pittsburgh, only producing 14 points and a minus-11 rating. Losing Staal for a defenseman that hadn’t been able to put together a successful season in the NHL seems to be one of the worst deals Shero made as general manager in Pittsburgh. Pouliot was a part of the team when the Penguins won their back-to-back Cups in 2016 and 2017, but did not meet the requirements of 41 games in a season, or a single game in the Cup Final to have his name etched on the trophy.
On top of the pick, the Hurricanes also sent Brandon Sutter and Pens’ current top blueliner Brian Dumoulin. Thanks to Dumoulin, this trade has avoided becoming a total disaster. Oh, and Penguins’ current general manager, Jim Rutherford, was GM for the Hurricanes at that time.
Round 1, 22nd Overall: Olli Maatta
Having multiple first-round picks is quite the luxury. One of them is bound to be a solid player, right? Well, Olli Maatta was a sure shot to be a top two-way defenseman, and, in his rookie season, he showed signs of a great future with the Penguins, recording 29 points and finishing fifth in Calder Trophy voting. However, unfortunate circumstances and injury issues during his prime development years derailed his progress.
At the age of 20, just 10 games into his sophomore season, Maatta underwent surgery to have a cancerous tumor removed from his thyroid. Shortly after returning from surgery to have the tumor removed, he underwent a second shoulder surgery in as many years. His first shoulder surgery forced him to miss the entire 2014 offseason, including that preseason.
Injuries followed Maatta throughout his time in Pittsburgh. He played all 82 games in a season only once, in 2017-18. His numbers turned out to be respectable, though, as he pivoted his game to be more defensively focused, rather than the two-way play he was drafted for. He was an important piece in the Penguins’ Cup runs, but a bloated contract worth just north of $4 million and a decline in foot speed sent Maatta packing after 362 games and 107 points with the Penguins.
Round 2, 52nd Overall: Teddy Blueger
Born Teodors Blugers, from Riga, Latvia, Penguins fans might wonder how he’s only in his second season with the Penguins despite being drafted in 2012. The Penguins drafted the Latvian forward out of Sidney Crosby’s alma mater, Shattuck St. Mary’s, when Blueger was 18. After the prep school, Blueger moved on to play college hockey with Minnesota State University at Mankato for four years.
After college, Blueger finally joined the Penguins’ organization in 2015-16 with the AHL Wilke-Barre/Scranton (WBS) Penguins. After four seasons with WBS, he made his NHL debut on Jan. 30, 2019 and has been a regular in the Penguins’ lineup ever since. In 97 career games, he has put up 32 points and has been a phenomenal piece to the Penguins’ shutdown and penalty kill lines.
Round 3, 81st Overall: Oskar Sundqvist
The 81st overall pick, as well as Harrison Ruopp and Marc Cheverie, were traded to the Penguins from the Phoenix Coyotes for Zbynek Michalek. The Penguins took energy winger Oskar Sundqvist from Skelleftea Jr. in Sweden. Sundqvist didn’t play much hockey in the NHL with the Penguins. He ended up dressing for 28 games in a pair of seasons.
During his time with the WBS Penguins, Sundqvist played in 108 games, picking up 63 points. While he played during the Penguins’ back-to-back Cups in 2016 and 2017, like Pouliot, Sundqvist was there for the celebrations and got a ring, but no name etched into the Cup.
Penguins’ fans will remember Sundqvist most as being a piece in the trade that brought Ryan Reaves to Pittsburgh from the St. Louis Blues. Reaves was flipped before a full season, and Sundqvist won a Cup, and finally got his name on it, with the Blues in 2019.
Round 3, 83rd Overall: Matt Murray
People may not have known it at the time, but this was the pick to highlight the Penguins’ choices at the 2012 Draft. Matt Murray, picked from the OHL’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, put up astounding numbers with the WBS Penguins. In the 2014-15 season, Murray played 40 games and finished with an AHL-best 1.58 goals-against average, .941 save percentage, and 12 shutouts.
When drafted, Assistant Director of Amateur Scouting Randy Sexton said Murray had “things to work on,” and “a ways to go,” before he would be ready for the NHL. Four years later, Murray won back-to-back Stanley Cups as a rookie, and take the reins from franchise goalie Marc-Andre Fleury.
It was Murray’s younger, cheaper presence that caused the Penguins to leave Fleury exposed during the 2017 Vegas Expansion Draft. This is still, and always will be, a dividing point in the team’s fan base.
Round 4, 92nd Overall: Matia Marcantuoni
The rest of the draft for the Penguins was less-than-stellar, as none of the remaining picks played a game in the NHL. Matia Marcantuoni was drafted from the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers, and entered the Penguins organization in 2014, where he played in the AHL and ECHL. While in the AHL with WBS, his production was lackluster, accounting for 19 points in 77 games. He played 18 games with the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers and put up 17 points.
The Penguins traded Marcantuoni to the Coyotes in 2016, where he played with the AHL Tucson Roadrunners. Now retired from hockey, Marcantuoni has moved to fashion as the founder and designer of clothing brand “Deception” based out of Toronto, Ontario.
Round 4, 113th Overall: Sean Maguire
It makes sense the Penguins would make this pick, even after drafting Murray. They have always been deep in the goaltending position, usually having two to three names in the system that could become NHL regulars. Sean Maguire, however, never panned out as Murray did.
The Penguins drafted Maguire from the Powell River Kings before he played for four years at Boston University. He went on to play 52 games with the Penguins’ organization, 47 of them in the ECHL with the Nailers. He was traded to the Arizona organization in 2017, before retiring shortly after. He is now the goaltending coach for his former team, the Powell River Kings.
Round 5, 143rd Overall: Clark Seymour
The third defenseman taken by the Penguins in the 2012 Draft, Clark Seymour was picked from the Peterborough Petes. Standing 6-foot-4, Seymour was more of a tough guy for the Penguins’ affiliates. While in Peterborough, he played in 210 games and took 287 penalty minutes (PIMs). In 92 games in the ECHL, with the Nailers, he recorded 119 PIMs.
For the 2016-17 season, Seymour signed with Bolzano HC in Austria, where he played 52 games. The following year, he played his final hockey season with the ECHL’s Florida Everblades.
Round 6, 173rd Overall: Anton Zlobin
With the Penguins’ final choice in the 2012 Draft, they took Anton Zlobin from the Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL. Described as a stocky winger, Zlobin put up big numbers in juniors; 92 goals and 120 assists for 212 points in three seasons. Granted, numbers from the QMJHL are usually inflated, but there is something to be said about it. Zlobin’s 91 points in the 2012-13 season ranked him ninth in scoring.
Zlobin played in the Penguins’ system from 2013-2016, bouncing between the AHL and ECHL. His high marks from the QMJHL did not follow him into his professional career. With the WBS Penguins, he recorded 24 points in 64 games; while with the Nailers, he put up 34 points in 51 games. Zlobin is currently playing in the KHL with his hometown team, Spartak Moskva.
The 2012 NHL Draft was mostly forgettable since the top three picks were Nail Yakupov to the Edmonton Oilers, Ryan Murray to the Columbus Blue Jackets, and Alex Galchenyuk to the Montreal Canadiens. For the most part, it was pretty forgettable for the Penguins, as well. Murray and Blueger stand as the only two picks still with the team. Both were great pickups for the team, but out of the nine picks, only three of them have made any real impact while wearing a Penguins’ uniform.
Nick Horwat is a graduate of Point Park University and was born and raised in Pittsburgh. A lifelong Penguins fan that has been watching and going to games for as long as he can remember.