AHL Penguins notebook: Harrington uses Pens' Maatta as inspiration

| Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013, 10:53 p.m.

Last season, Scott Harrington and Olli Maatta rode buses all over Ontario together as teammates with the London Knights.

This season, the 19-year-old Maatta has upgraded to the charter flights of the NHL while the 20-year-old Harrington continues to travel via luxury motor coach as a rookie with the AHL Penguins in Wilkes Barre.

If Harrington is jealous, he isn't letting on. In fact, he said he sees Maatta more as an inspiration than an obstruction.

“It shows they're comfortable taking a younger player if he's ready to go,” Harrington said.

If the first 11 games of Harrington's pro career are any indication, there's a pretty good chance of that happening. He has a goal, three assists and a plus-5 rating playing a shutdown role in the Baby Pens' top four.

“He's done a nice job of adapting to how we want to play systematically and he's done a good job, for a young guy, showing strength and the ability to compete down low,” coach John Hynes said.

Like other stay-at-home prospects who have come through Wilkes-Barre over the years — Rob Scuderi and Brooks Orpik, for instance — Harrington will probably have to bulk up and refine his game in the minors for a while. The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder seems ready for the climb.

“Whenever you're breaking into an organization that's very deep at your position,” Harrington said, “you have to be patient.”

Heavyweight con

The Penguins signed 28-year-old heavyweight Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond to a two-year, two-way NHL contract on Thursday largely because they've liked his work so far in Wilkes-Barre. He's played a regular shift on an energy line and is second in the AHL with six fighting majors.

After signing, Leblond described how he sees his role if called up.

“Having a bigger guy or an enforcer on a team is not going to prevent everything, especially in the NHL where our role is more limited than it was 10 years ago,” he said, “But if I can make a difference and give them a little more room on the ice and keep the other team honest, I've done my job.”

Young and younger

For a game last weekend in Hershey, 26-year-old defenseman Brendan Mikkelson was out with a minor injury, replaced in the lineup by Nick D'Agostino, a 23-year-old rookie from Cornell.

D'Agostino was the oldest defenseman the Baby Pens dressed that night. Harrington is 20, Brian Dumoulin and Reid McNeill are 21 and Simon Despres and Philip Samuelsson are 22.

All six are younger than the youngest Washington Capitals prospect Hershey dressed on defense, 23-year-old Tomas Kundratek.

Overtime heroics

Jake Guentzel set up Josh Archibald for an overtime winner on back-to-back nights last weekend, leading the University of Nebraska-Omaha to a pair of 3-2 victories at the University of Denver. Both are Penguins prospects.

Archibald, a 2011 sixth-round pick, leads UNO with 10 points in eight games. Guentzel, a freshman picked in the third round last June, has seven points in eight games. Both are 5-10 forwards who can skate.

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(at)aol.com.

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