Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Prospects Need to Step up for the Penguins
- Sidney Crosby has the mumps. So does Beau Bennett, who visited a children’s hospital last week.
- Olli Maatta’s surgically repaired shoulder is sore and he hopes to avoid a second surgery.
- Chris Kunitz is skating, but he’s also out and, frankly, wasn’t playing that well before his injury was reported.
- Robert Bortuzzo and Zach Sill are also out with upper-body injuries.
In order to make it through the next few weeks, the Penguins are going to need big contributions from the team’s young prospects from Wilkes-Barre / Scranton.
Bobby Farnham: A true heart-and-soul, agitator type, the 5’9”, 180 lb. Brown University product can certainly find ways to get under the opponent’s skin. Against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Farnham drew veteran defenseman Jordan Leopold into his first fight in the NHL. Farnham, who wears #34 for the Penguins, has 553 penalty minutes in 152 career games with the WBS Penguins. He’ll never be a huge contributor offensively, but that’s not his job.
Bryan Rust: Called up to replace Jayson Megna, who took four minor penalties in Friday night’s victory over the Calgary Flames, the Notre Dame product has speed and actually knows how to use it. Like Patrick Hornqvist, Rust likes to go to the dirty areas. During his NHL debut, he used his speed on the off-wing to drive to the net. Not only can Rust create his own scoring chances, but he also stood up for Farnham against the Blue Jackets.
It’s unlikely that Rust will be able to steal Bennett’s job. However, the right-winger appears to be on his way to earning a bottom-six spot next season with the big league team. Rust may not be a big guy, but he has a nose for the net and can forecheck.
Brian Dumoulin: I’m happy to see that Dumoulin will be getting one last shot to prove that he belongs in the NHL. While he certainly didn’t play well against the New York Rangers on Monday, Dumoulin does have a valuable skillset. Even if he doesn’t “use his size” the right way, Dumoulin can still use his large frame to shield the puck from attacking forecheckers.
While the goals-against were an obvious issue during the Rangers game, I’ve also found that Dumoulin has an issue connecting on breakout passes from the defensive zone into the opposition’s blue line. Dumoulin should look into making short, support passes to forwards that are open while coming through the neutral zone. Alternatively, Dumoulin could also look to simply dump the puck into the zone as opposed to forcing a bad pass.
The wingers that are standing along the boards at the blue line are drawing the attention of the opposing team’s defenders for three reasons: to create space on the breakout, to get into position for a dump-in, and to give the puck carrier another option. All too often, it seems like Dumoulin just wants to force a pass to the winger.
Scott Harrington: If Dumoulin can’t hold onto his spot, 2011 second-round pick Scott Harrington will be the man to take his place. Olli Maatta’s London Knights teammate, who stayed with the team during the early part of the season, is a more defensively-minded player than can also move the puck up the ice with a good first pass. He’s also drawn praise from veteran defenseman Paul Martin:
“I think with [Harrington], he’s been in the system for a while. He’s one of our better prospects. I think he came into camp very sharp expecting to make the team like he should. He’s good in all areas. Really solid. Very consistent. He skates really well. He’s strong on the puck. I think the big thing for younger guys is the defensive zone. He’s very good at being in the right spot and communicating. He makes it easy to play with.”
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)