PITTSBURGH — The trade of the night helped land the Pittsburgh Penguins a top defenseman from the Portland Winterhawks.
Derrick Pouliot was selected eighth overall by the Penguins in the first round of the 2012 National Hockey League Entry Draft on Friday.
The Penguins acquired the pick by sending Jordan Staal to a reunion with his brother Eric in Carolina.
When NHL commissioner Gary Bettman announced the trade, Consol Energy Center shook with the kind of fervor normally reserved for a playoff game.
Pouliot set career-highs with 11 goals and 48 assists for 59 points in 72 games last season, as he finished fourth in Western Hockey League scoring among all defensemen.
Pouliot added three goals and 14 assists for 17 points in 22 playoff games, tying for the league lead in playoff scoring among defensemen with teammate Joe Morrow, who was a first round draft pick (23rd overall) of the Penguins last year.
That Pouliot was taken so high wasn’t remarkable, it was the team that got the pick to grab him that shook up the night.
The Hurricanes had the eighth pick but things changed quickly when Bettman walked onto the stage and announced a trade the hometown crowd “might want to hear.”
Moments later Pouliot pulled on a black Pittsburgh jersey.
“Yeah, I was a little surprised,” Pouliot said.
So was the crowd following a whirlwind 24 hours in which the 23-year-old Staal turned down a contract extension from the Penguins, setting off a series of events that ended with Staal — who is getting married this weekend with most of his former Penguins teammates expected to attend — moving on.
“We wanted a deal (with Staal),” Pittsburgh general manager Ray Shero said. “But it was obvious in the last 24 hours that … this was the right thing to do.”
“The Penguins are not only getting a terrific player, but an outstanding young man as well,” said Portland Winterhawks general manager and head coach Mike Johnston in a press release.
Pouliot is the fifth Winterhawk taken in the first round in the last three years, following Sven Bartschi (Calgary) and Joe Morrow (Pittsburgh) last year, and Ryan Johansen (Columbus) and Nino Niederreiter (New York islanders) in 2010.
Nail Yakupov is ready to live with the pressure of being a No. 1 pick, as he was taken — as expected — by the Edmonton Oilers.
“I can’t wait,” Yakupov said after being the first Russian taken with the No. 1 pick since Washington drafted Alex Ovechkin in 2004.
The Columbus Blue Jackets continued to shore up their blue line by taking Ryan Murray of the Western Hockey League’s Everett Silvertips with the second pick. The 6-foot, 198-pound Murray had nine goals and 22 assists in 46 games last season.
The 18-year-old Murray became the youngest player since Paul Kariya in 1993 to play for Team Canada in the world championships this spring, and his ability to make an impact on both ends of the ice won over the rebuilding Blue Jackets.
“We are very happy to have Ryan Murray join our organization,” Columbus general manager Scott Howson said. “He solidifies what we believe is a position of strength. His character and two-way play will be very valuable to our hockey club.”
Five of the first eight picks were from the WHL.