In the press conference announcing Ivan Hlinka as the new Pens head
coach, Ivan talked about needing to get a little bigger at both the
forward and defensive positions. It didn’t take very long for the new
coach to have an impact on the draft as the Pens stocked up on tough,
gritty, hard hitting players.
For only the 3rd time in the 11 drafts that Craig Patrick has presided
over, the Pens took a non-European player in the first round (the others: Chris Wells 94 and Craig Hillier 96) when they drafted hard
hitting Boston College defenseman Brooks Orpik with the 18th overall
selection. The Pens were so sure that Orpik would be drafted before
their selection that they didn’t even conduct a pre-draft interview with
him. The Pens, however, were thrilled that he was around to select as
he was a unanimous selection at the draft table.
The Pens have needed a strong physical defenseman ever since Ulf
Samuelsson was traded to the Rangers in 1995 and they could have that in
Orpik. His hard-hitting style is likely to make him an immediate fan
favorite. The Pens were sold on his talent at the NCAA Western Regional
Final when he was paired against #2 pick Dany Heatley.
Orpik still has two years left at Boston College and the Pens aren’t known
as a team that pressures kids to leave school early. Orpik seems to
love the college atmosphere and it’s a good bet he’ll stay at BC for at
least another year.