Pittsburgh's Foundation

A look at the Penguins’ building blocks

Since a lot of people who are not familiar with the Penguins’ depth chart seem to see Pittsburgh circling the drain, I figured I would take it upon myself to shed some light.

Obviously, the Penguins have made it clear to the hockey world that they are in a re-building process. Following is an analysis of the Penguins’ depth chart, from the crease on out.Goaltending:

This has been the one strong point in the penguins recent history, although so far they have been unable to cash in on it, yet. Some of you may remember a guy by the name of Patrick Lalime, who is probably the most successful Penguins draft pick since Jaromir Jagr in 1990.

Jean-Sebastien Aubin-

Seabass has never amounted to anything more that a backup goalie, but we all know that goalies can suddenly become solid and reliable later in their careers. However, the depth the Pens have in goal and the removal of Robbie Tallas suggest that Aubin will remain with the Organization for at least a couple more years. If he can overcome his penchant for allowing untimely and flukey goals, he could be a reliable backstop in the NHL. However, the Pens aren’t counting on him as the future of the franchise.

Jean-Sebastien Caron-

This kid has a very enthusiastic nature and will probably share starting duties with Johan Hedberg for at least the first part of the season and perhaps even take over the job, relegating Hedberg (who consistently has had a Save Pct. over .900) to the role of backup. It is hard to say at this point, although the rookie’s stellar play at the end of last season shows some serious potential.

Marc-Andre Fleury-

He is really the only player in the Penguins system that has the potential to become a superstar, at least overtly. He plays a hybrid style, favoring the butterfly but also employing the two pad stack and a tendency to stay on his feet. If you look at the best goalies in the league (Martin Brodeur and Marty Turco), they both employ a style very similar to one another and Fleury is no different. He has Brodeur’s mental toughness, and enough speed to put him in a pretty select group of goaltenders. None of this will matter if the Penguins do not allow him to mature naturally. Even St. Patrick didn’t see regular NHL action until age 20. Nonetheless, Fleury remains the brightest prospect in the penguins’ system

Defense:

Brooks Orpik-

Initially, this defenseman was drafted for his ability to play very physically and throw crushing body checks. However, during his time in Wilkes-Barre, he has improved his skating ability as well as his vision and passing skills. He can make a good first pass and was helpful keeping the puck in and the pressure on during the power play. He is the Baby Pens’ most reliable defenseman.

Michal Rozsival-

Initially billed as a two way d-man with decent physical play and great speed, as well as the ability to jump in on the rush, Rozsival has endured some injuries that, coupled with the penguins’ sagging fortunes, have stunted his development. Look for Eddie Olcyk to help establish Rozsival as the two-way D-man he can be.

Ross Lupashuk-

A purely offensive defenseman, Lupashuk was among the AHL league leaders in defenseman scoring and is without a doubt a power play specialist. While this offensive skill is a definite upside, his downside easily offsets it. He has consistently shown poor defensive habits and does not make good decisions without the puck.

Josef Melichar-

Almost purely a grit player, he possesses decent speed, and a hunger for the game. Hopefully under the tutelage of Edzo and crew, he will improve as an all-around team member, and be a regular contributor at the NHL level for years to come

Ryan Whitney:

Viewed by many as being strikingly similar to Tom Poti, he has one element in his game that Poti has lacked. Whitney has been working on increasing his physical presence on the ice, and to go along with his large frame he is a very fast skater with good puck handling and movement skills. However, it is unlikely that he will initially receive steady work in the NHL, should he choose to forego his senior year in college.

Richard Lintner:

This is a guy who has no place defending the blue line. That said, his offensive skills are a tremendous asset. He moves the puck well in traffic and possesses both blazing speed and a very shifty style. At this point, Craig Patrick wants him to convert to forward, and has strong enough belief in his potential as a forward to retain him and allow many other, more valuable team members to depart via free agency. If he chooses to make this transition, he could provide some of the playmaking and scoring that the penguins direly need up front.

Micki DuPont:

Micki Dupont is a jack of all trades and a master of none. He has good puck movement ability and some offensive instincts, but tempers that with a sense of defensive responsibility. To accompany his good hands, he has a lot of speed. However, his small frame could hinder his development when he makes the leap into the NHL. It is worth noting that he was the MVP for Calgary’s minor-league affiliate and a finalist for AHL Rookie of the Year two seasons ago.

Forwards:

The penguins just might have the best overall depth when it comes to encouraging forward prospects. However, they probably have the largest amount of enigmatic youngsters in their system than any other NHL. Many have loads of potential, but their futures remain unclear.

Milan Kraft- Out of all the penguins prospects at center, Kraft has shown the most promise, albeit in short bursts. With regular work in an open, learning-oriented environment, it is likely that he will mature into the lynchpin of a strong offense over the next several years for the Penguins. He is very fast, and has a very accurate wrist shot with a sometimes deceptively quick release. Like all Penguins forwards though, he needs to learn to play team defense and be smarter on the other side of the puck.

Toby Peterson- He is probably the Wilkes-Barre fan favorite and one of the steadiest contributors for the baby pens over the last two seasons. He led the team in scoring in ’02-’03, while playing 80 games. He has displayed many leadership qualities and deserves a legitimate shot at a full-time NHL gig, something he hasn’t had since Lemieux’s return to the ice. He has clearly grown and matured over the last two years more than any other penguins prospect.

Kris Beech- While he has incredible potential and performed well for the Baby Penguins (finished 4th on the team in scoring despite playing only 40 games), Beech has suffered at times from a lack of confidence and little help from the penguins coaching staff, which has hindered his ability to play in the NHL. Hopefully that will not be the case this year. Now that there is very little pressure on the Penguins to win gamesand more emphasis on building a team from the ice up, hopefully he will be able to relax, and focus on improving his personal game. He is extremely strong on the puck, probably more so than anyone on the team not named Mario Lemieux. He has absolutely no fear of traffic, despite having paid the price in the form of lung contustions when he charged 3 defenders alone into the offensive zone. His willingness to sacrifice himself gives him an excellent team-oriented attitude and provides leadership by example.

Michal Sivek- Sivek is the closest thing the penguins have to a pure goal scorer in their prospect pool at the moment. He has excellent speed, good hands and great vision. He has very little NHL experience, but did nothing to discourage Penguins management during his brief stint with the Penguins toward the end of last season; a stint which was likely a move designed by penguins management to ascertain their prospects’ progress.

Tomas Surovy- An oft overlooked piece of the Penguins depth chart, Surovy has good offensive upside and has shown a penchant for scoring in pressure situations. He has good hands and very quick wrist shot, and also possesses decent size. He can pass the puck very well also. His most valued asset, is his persistent instinct for forechecking, and producing offense from forced turnovers. His passion for the game and his up tempo style fit in well with Pittsburgh’s image of what they want the team to be.

Colby Armstrong- This kid is a middle of the line power forward. He has displayed decent offensive skills, although the 02-03 season was a disappointing one. However, he can bank on his ability to deliver crushing hits, especially on open ice. His hitting ability has been compared to the likes of Rob Blake, and if he’s anywhere near that good, it is an encouraging sign. He could easily be a 25-35 point scorer whose offensive stats would be paired with 100+ PIMs a season.

Eric Meloche- He ended the season with the Pittsburgh Penguins, but had no chance to make an impact on the Major League roster. He is a somewhat skilled offensive player, more known for his forechecking and grinding abilities. He is only 5-11, but at 195, he looks more like a freight train on skates.

Konstantin Kolstov- He is definitely an on-the-bubble player. He has decent defensive and offensive instincts, but his most recognized trait is his blinding speed. The only player on either the major or minor league roster that can compare speed-wise is Alexandre Daigle, now a free agent whom the Penguins have no plan of retaining. He most closely resembles Jaromir Jagr. Unbeknownst to many, Jagr had great speed and good instincts, but did not learn to shoot the puck well until he came to Pittsburgh. With some guidance and a lot of practice, he could be a potent offensive weapon.

Matt Murley- Murley is one of the more well-rounded players not on the major-league roster. He possesses good offensive skills, finishing 3rd in team scoring for Wilkes-Barre; and was a standout at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the ECAC. He averaged over a point per game during his four year career there. He is a natural leader and has decent size. He is considered by his teammates to be a scholar of the game.

Top Kostopoulos- Kostopoulos is easily the most exciting prospect in the penguins system not named Marc-Andre Fleury. He finished second in team scoring and racked up 131 PIMs while missing 11 games during an assignment in the NHL. He led the Baby Pens in Assists, while still scoring 21 goals. He possesses good speed and a fiery spirit that endears him to teammates and fuels him on the ice. Look for him to resemble a poor man’s Jere Lehtinen.

This concludes my review of the Penguins depth chart. Keep in mind that all of this is relative, and i’m not saying that any of these players are going to be stars, or even necessarily earn regular NHL work.


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