ShareThis Page

Second-year Baby Pens winger endures growing pains

Jonathan Bombulie
| Saturday, Dec. 22, 2012, 8:02 p.m.
Paul Thompson, left, with Eric Tangradi (The Citizens' Voice)
Paul Thompson, left, with Eric Tangradi (The Citizens' Voice)
LONDON, CANADA - OCTOBER 14:  of the Erie Otters plays in a game against the London Knights on October 14, 2011 at the John Labatt Centre in London, Canada. The Knights defeated the Otters 6-4. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Getty Images
LONDON, CANADA - OCTOBER 14: of the Erie Otters plays in a game against the London Knights on October 14, 2011 at the John Labatt Centre in London, Canada. The Knights defeated the Otters 6-4. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

For some prospects playing in Wilkes-Barre, the road to the NHL goes through the weight room. Once they improve their strength and stamina, they're ready for the big time.

For other prospects, the road goes through the practice rink. Once they refine their technique and learn the finer points of the team's system, they're on their way.

And then there's second-year Baby Pens winger Paul Thompson.

At times, he looks like a potential NHL power forward, just a half-step behind Beau Bennett or Eric Tangradi on the prospect depth chart.

Other times, he can barely crack the AHL lineup.

To rid his game of inconsistency and find his own path to the NHL, Thompson doesn't need to look in the weight room or the practice rink. He needs to look in the mirror.

“Drive,” coach John Hynes said. “When he doesn't have drive in his game, when he doesn't have second effort in his game, when there are no confrontations, he's not as effective.”

Thompson isn't a diva or a malcontent. It's not that he doesn't care about his professional development. It's just that he hasn't yet found a way to bring a consistent level of drive on a daily basis.

“Right now I'm just trying to get back to playing the same way, with the same mentality, to put myself in position to have better opportunities,” Thompson said.

There's no doubt Thompson was headed in the right direction in the first few weeks of the season. He scored six goals in his first nine games, including a natural hat trick Nov. 4 at Bridgeport.

A decent skater with a sturdy 6-foot, 200-pound frame and a good right-handed shot that helped him score 28 goals in 39 games as a senior at the University of New Hampshire, Thompson looked like a real-deal prospect. He wasn't just leading the team with 39 shots on goal. He was leading the league.

“He has all the tools,” Hynes said.

Then the bottom fell out.

Heading into this weekend, Thompson had just one goal on 22 shots in his last 14 games and had been a healthy scratch three times in the last month.

As Thompson slumped, the Baby Pens started losing. After winning 13 of 15 games from late October through early December, they dropped six a row (0-4-1-1). It's the longest losing streak in Hynes' three seasons as coach.

Tangradi, like Thompson, has fallen into a scoring drought. He has one goal in his last 12 games. The veteran free agents the Penguins added in the offseason to help carry the offensive load — players such as Trevor Smith, Benn Ferriero and Phil Dupuis — have been OK but not great.

A return to early-season form from Thompson, therefore, is exactly what the Baby Pens need.

“I gotta get back to playing around the net more, shooting the puck more,” he said. “That's something I'm trying to focus on.”

Jonathan Bombulie has covered the Baby Pens for the Citizens' Voice in Wilkes-Barre since the team's inception in 1999. He can be reached via email at

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.