Penguins sign rookies Pouliot, Maatta to entry-level contracts

| Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2012, 8:14 p.m.

The Penguins had an embarrassment of riches in defensive prospects before the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Thanks to their work in that draft, they now possess perhaps the finest stable of young blue liners in hockey.

Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta, both selected in the first round, signed three-year entry-level contracts that will be triggered when they opt to turn pro.

“We already had a lot of talent in the system,” assistant coach Todd Reirden told the Tribune-Review this summer. “And we are very impressed with these two.”

Pouliot is considered one of the finest offensive defenseman to emerge from the draft in recent years. The Penguins believe he has the potential to become a power play quarterback and a top-four defenseman in the NHL. They loved him before the draft but were only able to select him because of their trade with Carolina. As part of the Jordan Staal deal, the Penguins received the eighth pick. They did not hesitate in selecting Pouliot, who plays with the Penguins' 2011 top-pick — defenseman Joe Morrow — for the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Hockey League.

The Penguins then selected Maatta with their other first-round pick. Maatta and Pouliot will join the Penguins for training camp whenever it begins, pending the labor negotiations. Camp is scheduled to begin Sept. 21 at Consol Energy Center.

While Pouliot and Morrow form a dynamic pairing of offensive players in the WHL, Maatta and Scott Harrington — the Penguins' second-round pick in 2011 who has rapidly climbed the organizational depth chart — have given the London Knights a well-rounded pair of blue liners in the OHL.

Maatta isn't an offensive force but was considered one of the finest two-way defensemen in the 2012 draft.

“He just does everything so well,” Harrington said. “He's so good defensively and such a smooth skater. He's one of those guys who's just always in the right position. He's going to be a heck of a player.”

Neither Pouliot nor Maatta will compete for a job with the Penguins this season. The team is blessed with considerable NHL depth, to say nothing of prospects like Despres, Morrow and Harrington. However, the Penguins project Pouliot and Maatta as difference-making defensemen who could reach the NHL in two or three years.

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

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