Penguins minor league notebook: Wilkes-Barre still fields pair of NHL veterans
WILKES-BARRE — It seems impossible, given the frequent call-ups of the past month, but there are at least two players in Wilkes-Barre with NHL experience who have yet to make their Penguins debut.
Defenseman Brendan Mikkelson has played 131 games with Anaheim, Calgary and Tampa Bay. Center Nick Drazenovic has played 11 games with St. Louis and Columbus. Both are 26-year-old, seventh-year pros who signed two-way NHL deals with the Penguins in July.
Lately, their No. 1 job has been to keep the Baby Pens afloat while nine of the team's top 19 scorers have been in the NHL. Ultimately, though, both have skills that might make them effective call-ups.
Mikkelson is a 6-foot-3, 210-pounder who leads AHL defensemen with 11 power-play assists. He isn't a dynamic talent, but he's solid in all areas of the game.
“I feel like I can play any style you want to play,” Mikkelson said. “I have the size to play a rough-and-tumble game. I can play in my own end, and I can play in the offensive zone.”
Drazenovic, meanwhile, has 14 points in 15 games and has become the Baby Pens' first-line center. He plays on the perimeter a bit too much, but he has the skill to be a short-term top-six fix.
“I just want to win and whatever happens, happens,” Drazenovic said. “Help the young guys develop and if they need me in Pitt, I'll play.”
The promotion of Simon Despres, Brian Dumoulin and Philip Samuelsson opened prime AHL ice time for some young defensemen. Rookie Scott Harrington has moved to the top pair, but he was effectively playing plenty of minutes in all situations anyway.
The biggest step up might be the one rookie Nick D'Agostino is making. A 2008 seventh-round draft pick out of Cornell, he's gone from being the sixth or seventh defenseman to playing on the second pair and on the power play.
A 6-2, 197-pounder with good puck skills, D'Agostino struggled with turnovers in November before rallying as his ice time increased.
“He's got it back,” coach John Hynes said. “Maybe his confidence dipped a little bit.”
Czech winger Dominik Uher was scheduled to return to the lineup this weekend for the first time since taking a puck to the face in a Nov. 27 game.
Uher, a 2011 fifth-round pick, is in the midst of a breakout season. He has more points (nine) in 19 games this year than he had in 53 games as a rookie last year (seven).
Notre Dame center Bryan Rust, a 2010 third-round pick, slips off the prospect radar at times, largely because there's nothing sexy about a defensively responsible forward. He'll soon play in a spotlight game, however, as the No. 13 Irish will face No. 7 Boston College on Jan. 4 at Fenway Park.
Rust, a 5-11, 198-pound alternate captain, is having a solid senior year. He has 12 points in 18 games, including a goal and four assists in his past five.
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 email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com 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.