Pittsburgh-Area Products Project As First-Rounders
0Comment December 25 Pittsburgh Tribune Review *
"Imagine Consol Energy Center rocking on a future Friday night in late June because of a great win that has nothing to do with the Penguins.
A blasphemous suggestion -- unless, of course, that Friday night marks Round 1 of an NHL Entry Draft and that great win is for Pittsburgh-area hockey because an NHL team has selected a local boy.
The dream-big scenario is not so far-fetched. The league has not announced a destination for the 2011 draft, the Penguins have applied to host a future draft weekend, and a local prospect "certainly will be" a first-round pick that year.
"Unless something goes majorly wrong," said Kyle Woodlief, head of scouting for independent service Red Line Report, "Brandon (Saad) isn't going to last long in 2011."
What excites local youth-hockey supporters -- including Penguins president David Morehouse -- is the probability that Saad, a forward from Gibsonia, will follow in the footsteps of Wampum-born defenseman Stephen Johns, who Woodlief projects as a mid-first-round pick for the 2010 draft in Los Angeles.
Woodlief said Pittsburgh "is perhaps on the verge" of joining Los Angeles and Dallas as dominant non-traditional producers of hockey talent.
"There is huge potential for Pittsburgh producing more top American prospects," Woodlief said.
To date, the only regionally born prospect chosen in the first round of an NHL Draft was Columbus Blue Jackets winger R.J. Umberger, who was selected 16th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in 2001. Tampa Bay Lightning winger Ryan Malone, the most prominent Pittsburgher in the NHL, was a fourth-round pick by the Penguins in 1999.
"It's hard trying to find stories about Pittsburgh guys," Johns said. "I'd only heard stories from my (midget Pittsburgh Hornets coach) about R.J., but ..."
Saad, a teammate of Johns' on the exclusive Under-18 club for USA Hockey's national team development program, found a way of finishing that thought.
"There are some kids coming out of Pittsburgh now -- good kids -- but not as many as I think there could be," he said. "Guys like Ryan and R.J. made it, and if one day people look at us that way and think, 'Yeah, I can make it, too' -- that would be an honor for Pittsburgh players to look up to us.
"(That's) if we make it. I don't want to put the jinx on us.""
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