This is a section where we will talk about different players in the Penguins system. From Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to Wheeling and beyond.
Last weekend, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins took a pair of wins in overtime from the newest AHL team the Laval Rocket (Montreal) and in the shootout from the Hartford Wolfpack (Rangers). Some important names to look at from last weekend’s slate…
I’m not going to go into a long-winded rant on Daniel Sprong because he’s likely going to get a full story here in short order but… I will mention him. The thing that was most noticeable about Sprong this weekend was, simply put, how far above everyone else he was. I don’t mean this as a slight to other players but it’s abundantly clear his brain functions and reads the game at a level different from those around him.
He can make plays and passes and see openings that others simply can’t. Last year, Jake Guentzel torched the AHL ahead of his call to the show. This year, Sprong looks like he could torch Guentzel’s numbers. Look to see if the Penguins don’t start trying to move around some wingers, if they somehow escape their injury woes, to clear up the logjam a bit and add Sprong as early as Christmas. Things to know about him, his shot is already so scary a player literally hit the deck Saturday night to avoid getting struck by it. But he also can dish out strong passes as well. It took him a little bit to pull them together but he found his teammates on several occasions and would have found them even more if they could all skate as fast as he does.
This one seems a little silly now as he’s not a name to know and officially a Pittsburgh Penguin. But still, let’s talk about him a bit. During the game DeSmith played on October 21, the NHL club’s back-up was getting caved in. The Antti Niemi experience is now over and DeSmith has been brought up to the NHL. So what can be expected from DeSmith? Simply put, “Matt Murray lite.” He reads plays incredibly well and does everything very good. He doesn’t have any one skill that’s going to wow fans. He isn’t overly athletic or a god of any one skill. But he’s calm and his rebound control is good. There were two specific times he helped ease pressure on his defense with a well-placed rebound last Saturday. One to the corner neatly and one over the heads of the scramble in front of him to the blueline. Bonus: He’s also worked extensively with the Penguins goaltending coach, Mike Buckley, and has been a student of his for years.
Bengtsson and the next name on this list have something in common. They’re both tied for the fourth-most points in the AHL with 5. But that’s not what’s remarkable about Bengtsson. What’s remarkable about Lukas is the stellar play he’s turned in early despite barely playing last season. You probably know his name from his diagnosis with Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (or what we all just call it – POTS). But the extraordinary thing is now that he knows what’s going on with his body, he’s been stellar (I mean the play is obviously second to his health, let’s be real, but it is nice). His play reading so far has been top notch and his tenacity was shown in a last-ditch play at his defensive blueline last weekend where he batted the puck away from the opposing forward deftly, recognizing he was the last line of defense keeping the guy from streaking in on a partial breakaway. Forget the points and his defense alone has been strong early. He tags his man relentlessly and joins the attack when necessary. Add the scoring in and he’s been downright impressive. Which is good since the defensive injuries have officially arrived.
Daniel Sprong’s linemate to some, Quinney has been great early on and making a case to be known as much more than that. He and Sprong have developed some chemistry and his nose for going to the dirty areas is not going unnoticed. He plays a no-nonsense style that compliments the beautiful playmaking of Sprong. Quinney, who started his pro career playing in the ECHL with the Wheeling Nailers and is only on an AHL deal right now, is probably still going to take a bit of time before we know what he really is. But all in all, he’s started off strong and after the successes of Carter Rowney and Conor Sheary don’t count anyone out just because they’re undrafted. He plays a style similar to a Hornqvist. He’s a demon in front of the net and good at deflections but while helping to possess the puck down low.