Here’s the mid-season breakdown of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton “Baby” Penguins by position.

Forwards



RW #7 Bill Thomas – 6’1, 185 lbs
Sniper – 5 G, 9 A, 14 Pts

Thomas was brought into the organization as a minor free agent signing by assistant general manager Chuck Fletcher, over the past summer. At first glance, many confuse Thomas to be a grinder, but he is actually a sniper by trade. A native of Pittsburgh, Thomas has played in 42 NHL games, earning 17 points (9+8). His skill showed in training camp, where he ended up staying with the parent Pittsburgh club for a few weeks into the regular season. Thomas has fallen on the depth chart since.

C #9 Connor James – 5’10, 185 lbs
Sniper – 11 G, 9 A, 20 Pts

James was re-signed this offseason to a one-year contract. One of the Penguins best penalty killers, James is also regarded as a sniper. He got off to a slow start, but started to pick it up right around the quarter-mark of the season. His speed is his most valuable asset, as he can jet past opposing defenders and unleash his wicked wrist shot. He scores most of his goals with a snap shot one-timer.


C #10 Mark Letestu – 5’11, 195 lbs
Playmaker – 8 G, 13 A, 21 Pts

Letestu is known as a young prospect in the Penguins organization. He made his way through the system from the Wheeling Nailers up to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Letestu is a player who must earn his playing time by how he presents himself. He has become the Penguins best faceoff-man, with Jeffrey at a close second. He has greatly improved over the past year on his puck making decisions and protecting the puck. His wrist shot has proven to be deadly from the circles on the powerplay. He also performs well in the shootout.

LW #14 Chris Minard – 6’1, 200 lbs
Sniper – 26 G, 15 A, 41 Pts

The “Minard Train”, as some may call him, is leading the AHL in goals scored, and is tied with Jeff Taffe for second in points. His absolute dominate play earned him a few call ups to Pittsburgh. Minard packs both a powerful slapshot and wristshot. In the 2004-05 season Minard played on a line with New York Ranger forward Scott Gomez for the Alaskan Aces of the ECHL. He scored 49 goals, showing he could adapt to playing with an NHL superstar. Was recently named an AHL All-Star starter.

C #15 Dave Gove – 5’9, 190 lbs
Grinder – 3 G, 0 A, 3 Pts

The “Governor” is the captain of the Baby Pens squad. He brings great locker room leadership, and is the oldest player on the team (age 30). After being acquired in a minor trade last season for Joe Jensen, he was seen as a key part in their Calder Cup playoff run. Due to illness and injury, Gove has been limited to playing only 20 games.


LW #19 Luca Caputi – 6’3, 185 lbs
Power Forward – 10 G, 18 A, 28 Pts

After starting off the year in a slump, Caputi is adapting quickly to the AHL level of hockey and has at times dominated the ice. He has scored a few times this year by taking the puck from behind the net, walking out and putting it through the goalie’s five-hole. His ability to protect the puck from defenders and cycle on the wall has really shown. He’s looking like my winger for Sidney Crosby every game I see him play. His potential is colossal. Add an elite player to Caputi and Crosby and that would be a scary NHL line.

LW #20 Paul Bissonnette – 6’3, 220 lbs
Grinder – 3 G, 3 A, 6 Pts

Last season, as an offensive defenseman for the Wheeling Nailers, he was named to the ECHL All-Star game. Now he’s playing left wing, and is quickly becoming one of the most improved fighters in the AHL. He fought his way onto the Pittsburgh team out of training camp, and has been sent back to better himself at the forward position. “Biz Nasty” has compiled 21 fights already this season, posting an unofficial record of 10-5-6. He has also improved his forechecking, plastering players into the glass shift after shift. Bissonnette-Zigomanis-Godard would be a nice fourth line for Pittsburgh next year possibly.



C #21 Dustin Jeffrey – 6’3, 199 lbs
Playmaker – 4 G, 13 A, 17 Pts

Jeffrey’s biggest assets are his penalty killing, and face-offs. He is a major threat shorthanded, almost reminiscent of Jordan Staal in his rookie campaign. As stated previously, I would label him as the second best faceoff man on the team. His good defensive play and spurts of offense have earned him a call-up to the NHL, where he remains currently. He scored his 1st NHL goal too.

C #22 Jeff Taffe – 6’3, 215 lbs
Playmaker – 16 G, 25 A, 41 Pts

Probably the most familiar player to fans who don’t follow the Baby Pens closely is Jeff Taffe. This is due to the fact that he played nearly 50 games for Pittsburgh last season. Taffe was an AHL All-Star last year, and he will represent the Penguins again in this year’s All-Star Classic. He likes to log the puck through the neutral zone, beat a defender or two, and feed the puck to his wingers. He has been utilized on the powerplay point a lot this year. He’s still proving he can produce, sitting tied at 2nd in points in the AHL.

C #23 Ryan Stone – 6’2, 199 lbs
Grinder – 8 G, 18 A, 26 Pts

This is Stone’s 4th pro season with Wilkes-Barre. Stone leads the team in hits, and plays every shift like it’s his last. At the beginning of the year, he was doing a lot of agitating to get under the skin of opposing players. His biggest flaw would be his discipline. Stone has dropped the gloves 6 times this season. He has a record of 3-1-2.

LW #24 Tim Wallace – 6’1, 180 lbs
Grinder – 4 G, 3 A, 7 Pts

Tim Wallace is another player who used hard work and determination to get himself into the NHL. Wallace is a powerful grinder, who can hit and is learning to fight. In Pittsburgh, Wallace fought Milan Lucic of the Boston Bruins a few weeks ago. That shows the coaches and the fans what Wallace is all about. He doesn’t back down. Could be a valuable 3rd or 4th liner in the future.

LW #25 Janne Pesonen – 5’11, 180 lbs
Dangler – 13 G, 27 A, 40 Pts

Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na. The Finnish dangler has had a very good season and it seems that he is also quickly adapting to the North American style of hockey. Pesonen has added a little to his physical game, in terms of finishing some of his checks. He has scored on a few breakaways and/or shootouts. He has a nice wrist shot and likes to set up for it, while on a 5-on-4. Some of the dekes he pulls out on defenders, particularly behind the net and on the boards, are ridiculous. We still don’t know what he can do for sure at the NHL level yet, due to his lack of playing time during call-ups.

RW #26 Jean-Michel Daoust – 5’7, 160 lbs
Grinder – 6 G, 7 A, 13 Pts

JM was originally penciled in on the fourth line, but due to multiple promotions of forwards he is now playing on the first line alongside Taffe and Stone. After tearing up the ECHL last season, he has adjusted well to playing at the higher level of the game. His small size gives him a lot of speed to accelerate past defenders. The odd thing about Daoust is that despite of his size he still finishes all of his checks, no matter how big his rival may come.

RW #28 Nick Johnson – 6’2, 197 lbs
Dangler – 4 G, 5 A, 9 Pts

Nick Johnson is regarded as one of the top prospects in the organization. After the duration of camp, he was the odd man out and accepted a demotion to the ECHL with a great attitude. He showed that he was superior to that level of hockey, and has shown great stick handling and deking ability. He also is willing to go to the front of the net to score goals, and he is very good at putting in rebounds. He likes to join the rush and let off his deadly shot up high.


RW #33 Tommy Goebel – 5’7, 166 lbs
Grinder – 3 G, 2 A, 5 Pts

Goebel was signed after excelling at Ohio State University in the last few years. Much like Johnson, he began the year in Wheeling, where he led the ECHL in points until his promotion. Goebel was a point-per-game player all through college, and has produced .50 PPG so far in his rookie campaign. He is a very speedy talent; probably the quickest on the whole team. He has only played on the fourth line this season. To add, despite being the smallest player on the team he doesn’t scurry from anyone. In one game this year, he was shown having some words with Binghamton goon Jeremy Yablonski.


RW #34 Aaron Boogaard – 6’1, 215 lbs
Grinder – 1 G, 0 A, 1 Pts

Everyone knows by now that he is the younger brother of NHL tough guy Derek Boogaard. “Boogeyman Jr.” has been working to improve his fighting game, because he has always been a willing combatant. He has 19 fights thus far, boasting a 10-5-4 record. He has played mostly in conjunction with Bissonnette and…

C #38 Adam Henrich – 6’4, 225 lbs.
Grinder – 0 G, 4 A, 4 Pts

Despite his lackluster numbers, Henrich has some scoring potential and is very good in the faceoff circle. Last year in the AHL with Norfolk, he had 31 points in 43 games. He leads by example on the ice by bringing toughness and grit. He will stick up for his teammates if the situation presents itself. He has 3 fights this season. He is the worst on the team in plus-minus with a rating of -7.

Defensemen



#2 Jean-Philippe Cote – 6’3, 215 lbs.
Defensive Defenseman – 1 G, 7 A, 8 Pts

JP is one of the newest additions to the team. Acquired from the Montreal Canadiens organization early in the season, he has excelled in blocking shots and takeaways. He likes to polish off forwards, and get into scraps with tough customers. His signature hit is catching the center with his head down and pummeling him to the ice with a hard, clean shoulder. In the last game, he attempted to block a shot with his face.

#3 Joey Mormina – 6’6, 230 lbs.
Defensive Defenseman – 1 G, 5 A, 6 Pts

Mormina plays a solid defensive style, and overpowers the opposition with his 6’6 frame while dishing out monstrous hits. I believe he could be a good replacement for Hal Gill on the Penguins blueline. He plays similarly utilizing his height and reach and he is quicker on his feet.

#4 Jon D’Aversa – 6’2, 200 lbs.
Offensive Defenseman – 1 G, 15 A, 16 Pts

The young defenseman packs a powerful slapshot but hasn’t really showcased it yet. He has put up good numbers in terms of points (15 points in 35 games). He needs to work on his defensive play, as he is prone to turnovers and giveaways. He has also taken a lot of minor penalties due to stick fouls (high sticking, slashing, hooking). No knock on D’Aversa, but I could see him being involved in a deal eventually due to the amount of offensive D-men the Penguins system owns (Gonchar, Whitney, Letang, Goligoski).

#5 Deryk Engelland – 6’2, 220 lbs.
Defensive Defenseman – 0 G, 8 A, 8 Pts

Engelland is an assistant captain, and a veteran leader for this young team. He loves the physical aspect of the game, and will clear his crease every shift. He is a good penalty killer, and a pretty good fighter. He has 8 fights this year, and is 5-2-1.

#6 Ben Lovejoy – 6’2, 214 lbs.
Defensive Defenseman – 7 G, 14 A, 21 Pts

Big Ben’s biggest asset is his hockey sense. He is such a smart player in terms of bounces off of boards, and when/where to pass that he has no choice but to get better. He plays sound defense on the back end, and has already surpassed his goal output from his rookie season. Best numbers for a defensive d-man you’ve ever seen? Leading the team with a plus-minus of +22, he was named to the 2009 AHL All-Star game. He was named to the 2009 AHL All-Star game Check out this video of Lovejoy mic’d up.


#11 Reid Cashman – 6’2, 205 lbs.
Offensive Defenseman – 0 G, 3 A, 3 Pts

Cashman likes to quarterback the powerplay when he gets in the line-up. He has put up good offensive numbers in Wheeling in the few games he has participated in. Similar to D’Aversa, his in-zone defensive play needs to improve. T.J. Kemp was traded to Montreal for a 7th round conditional pick – making Cashman 7th on the defensive depth chart.

#44 Danny Richmond – 6’0, 194 lbs.
Offensive Defenseman – 3 G, 13 A, 16 Pts

Richmond has a lot of NHL experience, playing in 49 games with the Chicago Blackhawks. He is a unique blueliner because he brings a bit of everything. His smooth quick skating allows him to open up space for forwards to get open or slide into the slot. He rarely coughs the puck up, and moves the breakout pass quickly up the ice. The other element he brings is grit. He is willing to drop the gloves and loves that aspect of the game. He has gotten into 11 fights, and has a record of 3-4-3.

Goalies



#35 Adam Berkhoel – 5’11, 185 lbs.
Butterfly Goaltender

Berkhoel is another great signing by Ray Shero and Chuck Fletcher. He was brought in over the summer on an AHL-only deal, and is in all three leading goalie categories. He has a record of 12-6-2, with 4 shutouts, a 2.43 GAA, and 0.916 save%. I would like to see the Pens offer him a two-way deal next year as he could prove valuable in spite of injuries and whatnot.

#36 John Curry – 5’11, 185 lbs.
Butterfly Goaltender

John Curry is 10-6-0 with 1 shutout. He owns a 2.73 GAA, and a 0.908 save%. He was called up to Pittsburgh where he played phenomenal in absence of Marc-Andre Fleury. His NHL stats are as followed. He has a record of 2-1-0, with a 2.40 GAA and a 0.913 save%. Should Curry be the NHL back-up next year, or could a guy like Berkhoel step in to allow the young goaltender more playing time in the AHL?