Every now and then, I'll provide some self-analysis (particularly when it doesn't give away SUPER TOP SECRET INFORMATION). Now, naturally, I'm talking about my own team so there will be some natural bias. One person's steal is another person's ridiculous bust. So feel free to point out how mediocre Niskanen is/how incorrect this comparison might be in the comments.
When the Pho-icanes picked Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang, it made me a sad panda. No doubt about it, the young offensive defenseman wasn't perfect last season but he handled big minutes about as well as you could expect from a 22-year old D.
In the framework of this draft, Letang brings a lot of nice things to the table. He's a right handed defenseman who can be a capable top-pairing powerplay guy. At this point in his career, he's already hit the 30-point mark and could flirt with 40-plus as he matures on the PP alongside Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. And better yet, he's in a contract year with a cap hit under $1 million.
You don't get much better than that.
But, apparently, you can find a guy who's almost exactly the same. He's Matt Niskanen. Just look at the way the two guys compare according to stats taken from DobberHockey.com:
The similarites are almost unreal.
Again, they both shoot right-handed. They're both 22 years old, in a contract year and constitute less than a $1 million cap hit. Niskanen scored 35 points (or .44 points per game) while Letang scored 33 points (.45 points per game).
But even the seemingly random stats are surpisingly close. They both had 5 multi-point games and about the same amount of "zero point" games. The one area in which there's a significant difference is PP time but that may be explained by the fact that the Penguins dispersed PP time in an extremely lopsided fashion.
On the other hand
There haven't been terribly glowing reviews of Niskanen, particularly when looking at the 2008-09 season.
The tones of both Defending Big D and Mike Heika's profiles on Niskanen seemed more than negative, experessing hope that he'll bounce back from last year. No doubt about it, seeing all of these accounts are a bit discouraging (even for a second pairing D).
Ultimately, the choice came down to Niskanen and Stephane Robidas, a guy known for making the All-Star team after a few injuries and also for getting his nose broken approximately 5 million times.
While Niksanen might have a higher offensive ceiling, Robidas can play the PK and PP at a reasonably high level. He's more experienced and logged some huge minutes last year.
Nonetheless, Niskanen was a nice find.
Here's how the three defensemen were drafted. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.
6-12 (162) - Carolina Hurricanes - Kris Letang
8-24 (234) - Toronto Maple Leafs - Matt Niskanen
9-30 (270) - Florida Panthers - Stephane Robidas