NHL Draft Class 2012 300x203 Penguins, Capitals win the NHL Draft; Columbus the big loserWith the CBA looming, the Pittsburgh Penguins both hosted and were maybe the biggest player at the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Here are some of the biggest winners and losers of the 2012 NHL Draft.

Winner: Pittsburgh Penguins
Penguin’s GM Ray Shero continues to prove he is one of the best in the business. For years now, the Penguins have had the greatest luxury in hockey, a 2nd (or even 1st) line center playing on the 3rd line in Jordan Staal. News broke just before the draft that Staal had turned down a 10 year contract in Pittsburgh and the race was on to try to land the center in light of a thin free agent class. Now, Shero could have kept Staal for the upcoming season, which many thought was possible given his skill and the Penguins ambitions for a Stanley Cup. The only way Shero would make the deal is if it did not hurt those ambitions. And despite knowing he would be available next offseason, Shero found a buyer, moving Staal to Carolina to join his brother Eric for center Brandon Sutter, prospect Brian Dumoulin, and the 8th overall pick in the draft, an extremely impressive haul for a player who wanted out. While Sutter is not as gifted offensively as Staal, he is arguably better defensively and has not yet reached his potential as an offensive player (and it’s not as if the Pens are short on talent down the middle). He is a more true 3rd line center than Staal and really creates balance in the Penguins offensive attack. The Penguins used the 8th pick on defenseman Derrick Pouliot (14th ranked North American skater and 8th best defenseman) before somehow adding the 4th highest rated North American defenseman Olli Maatta at 22. That’s two top 8 North American defenseman in a draft where almost everyone picked defenseman. And to top it off, Shero moved the overpaid Zybnek Michalek back to the Coyotes, clearing cap space for a run at Ryan Suter. An impressive weekend for the host Pens.

Loser: Columbus Blue Jackets
If Shero is the best, Scott Howson is one of the worst. While their 2nd pick Ryan Murray is one of the few NHL ready prospects in the draft, Howson reported turned down EVERY ISLANDER PICK, including the 4th overall pick, for the 2nd pick. While the immediate dropoff from Murray to the 4th pick (Griffin Reinhard) is big, it will not be in the longterm. And the Jackets are supposedly trying to rebuild. An addition 6 draft picks could have moved that rebuild up a year. Howson’s decision defies logic. And this was after he traded 3 picks (2 this year including a 2nd rounder) to the Flyers for the wildly inconsistent Sergi Bobrovsky. Top that off with there still being no resolution to the Rick Nash saga and it was not a good weekend for the Blue Jackets.

Winner: Washington Capitals
Capitals GM George McPhee made his most aggressive move yet to fill one of his teams biggest needs when he traded prospect Cody Eakin and a 2nd round pick for center Mike Riberio. For the last 5 years the Caps have been searching for a legitimate 2nd line center and Riberio is the most skilled player to try to fill the role yet. He routinely tops the 50 assist 70 point mark and should flourish playing either with Ovechkin or on the 2nd line with lesser defenders. He also has a tough streak for being such a skilled player and is great in the shootout. Huge improvement. And the cost was low for a player of Riberio’s caliber as Eakin projects as a 3rd line center and they kept both their 1st round picks. And it is good that they did, since the top rated European skater Filip Forsberg fell into McPhee’s lap at number 11 due to the run on defenders early. With the impending departure of Semin and the uncertainly surrounding Kuznetsov, the big and mature for his age goal scorer with one of the hardest shots in the draft will prove valuable. They later added the toughest player in the draft in Thomas Wilson, which is another type of players the Capitals routinely are looking to trade or sign. All in all a solid weekend for the Capitals.

Loser: Detroit Red Wings
Thee Wings do not do much wrong, but with an old roster and needing to replace Lidstrom, the weekend could have gone better. The Wings again had no 1st round pick as they traded it for Kyle Quincey and had a new horse enter the race for Suter (Penguins). The Red Wings always find late round gems, but someday they are going to need a high draft pick and in a deep draft, this would have been the year to have that pick.

Other Notables:
Despite rumors to the contrary, the Oilers made the right choice at the top, selecting the ultra talented Nail Yakapov. Yakapov will made an immediate impact and unlike other Russians is Canadian trained and is unlikely to ever consider the KHL.- The Bruins also did well, adding the best goalie on the board, Malcom Subban, to replace Thomas down the road. Subban is the brother of Canadien defenseman PK, which will only add more intrigue to one of the most heated rivalries in hockey.- Interesting trade between the Flyers and Leafs went down after the draft with James Van ReimsDyk moving North for Luke Schenn. Nice move by Burke as JVR should thrive with more ice time.

Matt Ragghianti is an NHL writer for The Sports Blitz.  He can be contacted at MRagghianti@TheSportsBlitz.com.