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Baby Pens notebook: Forward Gibbons enjoying uptick in scoring production

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Brendan Mikkelson

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) – Defenseman

6-foot-3 – 210 pounds

How acquired: Signed as free agent, July 19, 2013

How he's doing: The Baby Pens have a handful of top-tier defensive prospects, but they're all 22 or younger. That's why Mikkelson is a critical part of the developmental system this season. He's 26 and has played 191 NHL games. Young defensemen can turn to him for a veteran presence on and off the ice. And if the Penguins need a short-term call-up who won't be learning on the job, he's their man. He's also been an offensive force in the early going, putting up seven points in six games.

Why he might make it to the NHL: Has nice combination of speed, skill, size and experience.

Why he might not: His D-zone play is sometimes ragged. Could be stronger on the puck.

By Jonathan Bombulie
Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013, 8:50 p.m.
 

In the first period of a game last Sunday in Manchester, N.H., Baby Pens forward Brian Gibbons went below the goal line to retrieve a dumped-in puck and quickly flicked an airborne backhand pass toward a teammate in the slot.

It hit Manchester goalie Jean-Francois Berube in the back of the head and bounced into the net.

When you're hot, you're hot.

Gibbons opened the season on a torrid scoring pace, putting up four goals and seven assists as the Baby Pens got off to a 6-0 start.

In one respect, it's a surprise. The 5-foot-8 Gibbons had just 30 points in 70 games in each of his first two seasons in the AHL.

In another respect, it's not. Gibbons had 101 points in 81 games in his final two seasons at Boston College before the Penguins signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2011.

“He's a perfect example of a guy who's got all the hockey sense, all the ability, all the skill, but now his mind is right,” Baby Pens coach John Hynes said.

While the uptick in production doesn't hurt Gibbons' chances of making it to the NHL, it's probably not his ticket to the show. That would be his speed. He's one of the fastest players in the AHL, an attribute he has put to good use paired with Jayson Megna on one of the Baby Pens' top penalty-killing units.

“I want coach to be able to trust me against other teams' best players,” Gibbons said. “It's something I enjoy. If that was my role, I'd be good. I'd be happy with it, but I think I can provide more than that, too.”

Slow start

Around the same time the Penguins signed Gibbons out of Boston College, they also signed winger Paul Thompson out of the University of New Hampshire.

Thompson, who scored 20 goals in the AHL last season, has no goals and one assist in four games this season and was a healthy scratch twice.

“You've got to prove it through practice,” Hynes said. “You've got to make it known you're ready to play.”

Late show

In their first six games, the Baby Pens were tied after two periods three times and trailed heading into the third period twice. They won all five of those games.

Last weekend, winger Tom Kuhnhackl scored a power-play goal with 40 seconds left to give the Baby Pens a 3-2 win over Worcester and defenseman Brendan Mikkelson scored 22 seconds into overtime in a 4-3 win over Manchester.

Seven up

First-round defenseman Derrick Pouliot is off to a typically prolific start for the Western Hockey League's Portland Winterhawks.

He had 13 points in his first eight games, including two assists and a plus-7 rating in an 8-1 win over Tri-City on Oct. 19.

Red, white and blue

Upper St. Clair native Dylan Reese will play for Team USA in the Deutschland Cup from Nov. 8-10 in Munich, Germany.

It's not exactly the Olympics, but it's a fairly prestigious four-team international tournament that's been around since 1987. Team USA, which also includes former Penguins Chris Bourque and Noah Welch, is made up of Americans playing abroad. Reese is with Khabarovsk Amur in Russia's KHL this season.

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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