ShareThis Page

Penguins' young defensemen hope to stick around

| Saturday, July 20, 2013, 10:57 p.m.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Derrick Pouliot (20) skates with the puck with Tom Kuhnhacki (14) in pursuit during the Penguins prospects scrimmage Saturday, July 20, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Right wing Tyler Barnes (17) and defenseman Ryan Segalla fight for control of the puck during the Penguins prospects scrimmage Saturday, July 20, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.
Sidney Davis | Tribune-Review
Goaltender Tristan Jarry deflects a shot during the Penguins prospects scrimmage Saturday, July 20, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.

Most professional sports teams refer to talented, young players in their organizations as prospects.

The Penguins prefer the tag “assets,” and have treated them as such during the past five years, dangling several such players in trades.

Do the future Penguins who gathered at this week's Prospect Camp feel like assets?

So far, they haven't developed a complex.

“I don't think it makes much sense to spend a lot of time thinking about it,” defenseman Scott Harrington said. “We're all aware of it, but I think we're just doing our best to show the Penguins that we're getting better. Of course, we all want to play in Pittsburgh.”

Being a talented, young defenseman has often earned a ticket out of Pittsburgh.

Former first-round pick Ryan Whitney, a foundation piece of a 2007 Penguins team that reached the postseason for the first time in the Sidney Crosby era, was traded in 2009.

Alex Goligoski, once considered the power-play quarterback heir apparent to defenseman Sergei Gonchar, was traded in 2011.

Joe Morrow, the team's first-round pick in 2011, was dealt to Dallas in March.

The Penguins don't hide the reality that part of their preference for drafting defensemen is that their trade value is often magnified. Standouts such as forwards James Neal and Chris Kunitz have been the return in such trades.

Top prospects such as Harrington, Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta attempt to ignore the recent history of deals.

“I really don't let it creep into my mind all that much,” said Pouliot, the eighth overall selection in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.

A talented, slick-skating defenseman, Pouliot's skill set is eerily similar to that of so many defensemen traded in previous years. Whitney, Goligoski and Morrow were highly regarded offensive defensemen.

Pouliot is aware of this and interested in letting Penguins management know that trading him wouldn't be wise.

“If I get traded, I get traded,” he said. “That's the team's decision, not mine. But I will say that I'm going to do everything in my power to play here soon.”

If recent history suggests the Penguins' blue-chip, blue-line talent shouldn't make any real estate ventures in Western Pennsylvania just yet, the team's depth chart at the NHL level probably isn't reassuring, either.

Kris Letang is locked up with the Penguins for almost a decade. Rob Scuderi just signed a four-year contract. Paul Martin still has two years remaining on his deal, and Simon Despres and Robert Bortuzzo likely will be Penguins property for many more years.

Brooks Orpik only has one year left on his contract, but the Penguins could opt to give the veteran a new deal. Matt Niskanen and Deryk Engelland are still on the NHL roster, too.

So, how does a young player expect to break in with the Penguins?

“I compare it to my time in London,” said Harrington, referring to his junior years with the Ontario Hockey League power. “We always had really good teams. Sometimes, the young guys had to wait their turn. It's just the way it is when you're playing with a good team.”

Maatta, Harrington's teammate in London, likely was the finest player in this week's camp. He's only 18, but Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald acknowledged “it will be a tough decision” whether Maatta returns to London or cracks the Penguins lineup in September.

Harrington, too, will be hoping to play in Pittsburgh and likely will find himself in Wilkes-Barre to begin the season.

They'd like to be teammates again, this time at the NHL level.

“That stuff (trade rumors) goes around,” Maatta said. “I don't focus on it.”

Josh Yohe is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @JoshYohe_Trib.

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.