Former Penguins GM Patrick: Taking Ovechkin was no sure thing

| Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012

Former Penguins general manager Craig Patrick couldn't help but smile while watching Evgeni Malkin put on a show Tuesday night against the New York Rangers.

Patrick, now the senior advisor of the Columbus Blue Jackets after being out of hockey for five years, drafted Malkin in 2004.

"We knew he was special," said Patrick, who entered Consol Energy Center for the first time Tuesday. "But I don't even know if we knew he'd be this good. When they're 17, you never really know. But we loved him."

Patrick's Penguins finished with the worst record in the NHL during the 2003-04 season, giving them the best odds for the first pick in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. Instead, the Washington Capitals won the draft lottery and took left wing Alex Ovechkin first overall.

Had the Penguins landed the top pick, Patrick isn't so sure he would have selected Ovechkin.

In his eyes, Malkin was that good.

"I honestly don't know what we would have done," Patrick said. "The year before, Ovechkin was the definite top pick. But Malkin got so much better that year. He really started to close the gap. We really didn't care if we had the first or second pick. We thought that highly of Malkin."

Patrick is delighted to be back in the NHL. Even during his five-year hiatus, he kept close tabs on the league.

"I watched everything," he said. "I was always watching, always paying close attention to the game."

His first trip to Consol Energy Center was an eye-opening experience. Patrick was Penguins general manager from 1989-2006, and during that time, Civic Arena was the only home his team knew.

"This is an amazing place," Patrick said. "Just looking around at the building, I couldn't be more impressed. The press box is certainly an upgrade over the last place. The team is in a better place."

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