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Dejan Kovacevic's Blog

Pittsburgh sports talk with the Trib columnist

On location: NHL Entry Draft

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Checking in from inside Xcel Energy Center, site of the NHL Entry Draft. I’ll be sharing stuff from here as the evening goes along, whether it’s draft-related or otherwise.

Snapped a couple quick pics for you outside …

Here’s the floor, with executives already beginning to move toward their tables. If you see the Caps’ logo down there on the left, the Penguins have the first table just beyond that, closer to the front.

Always best to be in the back of this room, by the way.

Seriously, there are more of these people walking around outside than anyone else. I’m sure that will change when the Minnesotans arrive, but it’s neat to see.

For those who don’t know, the Winnipeg franchise will officially re-christen itself the Jets with the No. 7 overall selection tonight. Very cool.

UPDATE 5:23 p.m.: I just asked Steve Yzerman, the Lightning GM who played until he was 41, if Jaromir Jagr could still handle the rigors of the NHL, based on what he and his scouts have seen: “Sure, he can. I think people make too big a deal out of age. If guys are healthy and they train hard and have desire, age is irrelevant. It comes to an end for every player sometime. But if Jagr is healthy and ready to play, I don’t think anybody should doubt that.”

7:15: The Oilers, as expected, make Ryan Nugent-Hopkins the No. 1 overall pick. And all you need to know about the quality of the upper part of this class is that Nugent-Hopkins is a 6-foot, 164-pound playmaking center. Yikes. He’d better be Adam Oates or Nicklas Backstrom.

8:05: Dan Bylsma told me an hour ago that the Penguins will have multiple formations on power play next season to avoid being predictable. Even an umbrella.

8:11: The Jets are officially back, announced at the podium with the seventh overall pick while hundreds of traveling Winnipeggers leaped and cheered like they’d won the Cup. Neat scene.

There was no jersey, though. They made the kid put on a generic black NHL shirt. There will be an official unveiling some other time, I guess.

9:28: J.T. Miller of Coraopolis goes 15th overall to the Rangers, making him the highest pick in Pittsburgh history, one notch ahead of R.J. Umberger, who went 16th overall.

9:36: Only four teams pick before the Penguins at No. 23, and Gibsonia’s Brandon Saad is still on the board. If I were betting — and I’m not — I’d say the Pittsburgh table hopes he makes it that far.

10:15: The Penguins take defenseman Joe Morrow from Portland of the WHL. Can’t say I saw them going for an offensive defenseman, but that’s what he is.

11:14: Some odds and ends here before we get chased out: Ray Shero explained to me that bypassing Saad wasn’t really an issue, in the sense that they don’t look at positional needs in the draft or at local angles. They go for assets. Seeing that Saad has dropped out of the first round now, it’s a hard position to dispute, at least on the Saad front. Clearly, he dropped by all 30 teams for a reason. … Shero did not have talks with Petr Svoboda today and didn’t sound certain any would happen this weekend. Depends on Svoboda, who might not have arrived here yet. … Morrow reminds me of just about every WHL kid I’ve ever interviewed. Super humble. Pond in the back yard. Hockey family. Skilled but tough. Struck me as having a little bit of an edge to him, though. We’ll see.

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