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Megna proving to be enigma for Pens organization

Baby Pens defenseman Philip Samuelsson. (submitted)

Penguins/NHL Videos

Dominik Uher

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL), Center, 6-foot, 200 pounds

How acquired: Fifth-round pick, 144th overall, in the 2011 NHL draft

How he's doing: After posting 33 goals and 68 points in 65 games with Spokane in the Western Hockey League last season, Uher profiled like a Max Talbot-type player. He was a bit of an agitator who had the skill to play with high-end linemates. Now, after almost a full season in the AHL, Uher looks more like a Joe Vitale clone. He's a good skater who can cause problems on the forecheck with his gritty style but hasn't scored much. He had four points — and four fighting majors — in his first 33 games and didn't net his first goal until Feb. 12.

Why he might make it to the NHL: He's a disruptive force on the forecheck.

Why he might not: He's not big and his offensive upside appears to be limited.

By Jonathan Bombulie
Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 9:35 p.m.
 

Watch Baby Pens rookie forward Jayson Megna in practice, and he looks like a future star.

He's got speed, skill, explosiveness, a sturdy 6-foot, 200-pound frame and a shootout move that calls to mind a right-handed version of Pavel Datsyuk.

In games, however, he's been mostly invisible.

Megna had three goals and four assists in 32 games entering this weekend, including no points in his past 12.

Every young player has to take his potential and turn it into production, or he'll fall off the radar. Megna hasn't approached that point, but the clock is ticking.

“It's obviously frustrating because it's my first year at this level and you want to succeed and contribute,” Megna said, “but I think you just have to keep working hard: Stay after practice. Watch video. Keep working.”

The Penguins haven't soured on Megna, perhaps because his development is still in its early stages.

A Chicago-area native, he played just two years of junior hockey and one year at the University of Nebraska-Omaha before signing with the Penguins last summer.

When his more experienced teammates are having a hard time scoring, they know how to snap out of it. A shooter like Paul Thompson can focus on getting pucks to the net. A speedster like Brian Gibbons can focus on using his skating.

Megna isn't quite sure what to focus on yet.

“He's really in an adjustment phase right now,” coach John Hynes said. “He's working at certain areas of his game to improve, and he's getting the opportunities. Now it's just connecting the dots.”

Scoring down

Scoring is at an all-time low in Baby Pens games this season.

They're scoring 2.37 goals per game, which ranks 27th in the 30-team AHL. They're allowing 2.35 per game, which is second-best in the league.

Add it up, and the 4.72 goals per game would be the lowest such figure in the franchise's 14-year history.

One potential reason for the decline: The organization-wide tweaks the Penguins made to their defensive Xs and Os after allowing 30 goals to the Flyers in a six-game playoff series last spring have trickled down to the AHL level.

“We met a lot this summer and talked a lot about how both teams, Wilkes-Barre and Pittsburgh, would like to go deeper in the playoffs,” Hynes said. “Part of that is playing a certain way and being prepared for certain situations in a series.”

Hard feelings

Some players who get traded are excited a new team wants them. Others are bitter that their old team cast them aside.

Count Baby Pens winger Chad Kolarik in the latter group.

He hasn't been a New York Rangers fan since the team dealt him last month to the Penguins for minor-league winger Benn Ferriero.

“I don't want to say there's hard feelings, but there might be,” Kolarik said. “I'm still waiting for my call after I got traded and haven't gotten it yet.”

Under the radar

Russian winger Anton Zlobin, a sixth-round pick in last June's draft, has become an interesting darkhorse prospect in the Penguins organization.

His size (5-11, 198), strength and skating are questionable, but he's fifth in scoring in the Quebec Junior Hockey League with 82 points in 52 games for Val-d'Or. Two weeks ago, he had three goals and 12 points in a four-game stretch.

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 jbombulie@aol.com.

 

 
 


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