Penguins minor league report: Rookie defenseman proving an offensive asset
WILKES-BARRE — Rookie Scott Harrington's stat line with the Baby Pens this season has raised an interesting question about the development of young defensemen.
Before he was chosen in the second round of the 2011 draft, his official NHL scouting report called him a “steady eddy.” He's a solid, 6-foot-2, 205-pound shot blocker with a high hockey IQ.
Yet take out the players currently in the NHL, and Harrington is fourth on the Baby Pens in scoring with 14 points in 37 games entering this weekend. He's on pace to accrue more points this season than he did in any of his four seasons of junior hockey with the Ontario Hockey League's London Knights.
“It's been exciting,” Harrington said. “You want to be known for one part of your game being really strong compared to other players, but I think if you're a good defensive defenseman, when you chip in offensively or move the puck, it's going to make you more valuable to your team.”
How Harrington has managed to put up points isn't a mystery. His goals and half his 12 assists have come on the power play. He also makes a good first pass, as nine of his 14 points are second assists.
But it prompts the question: Might NHL teams be better off drafting stay-at-home defensemen and encouraging them to explore their offensive side than picking gifted puck rushers and teaching them how to play defense?
Should they follow the Harrington path or the Ross Lupaschuk, Kris Letang and Joe Morrow route?
Baby Pens coach John Hynes said it depends on the player.
“Sometimes you can have a guy that plays defense and you're trying to encourage him to play offense, but he doesn't feel comfortable and doesn't really buy into doing it,” Hynes said. “It's really player and personality specific.”
On opening night, the Baby Pens used four centers — Brian Gibbons, Andrew Ebbett, Nick Drazenovic and Zach Sill — who had 617 career AHL points among them.
With Drazenovic having been called up Tuesday, the four remaining centers in Wilkes-Barre — journeyman Mike Carman and Wheeling call-ups Zack Torquato, Denver Manderson and Carter Rowney — have combined for 66 AHL points entering Friday, and 56 of those belong to Carman.
“Every time you think people are going to come back or it's going to turn in a different direction, there's another injury,” Hynes said.
Baby Pens defenseman Brendan Mikkelson, a seventh-year pro with 131 NHL games to his credit, might not be the most accomplished player in his family.
His sister, Meaghan Mikkelson-Reid, is a member of the Canadian Olympic women's hockey team. She won gold in Vancouver in 2010.
Goalie Sean Maguire, a 2012 fourth-round pick, is having a trying sophomore season at Boston University.
As a freshman, Maguire went 13-8 with a .926 save percentage and split starts evenly with classmate Matt O'Connor. This season, O'Connor has started 14 of BU's 20 games and Maguire is 0-6 since an Oct. 11 victory over UMass.
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.
- Penguins continue to thrive, despite spate of ailments
- With 3 more players possibly affected, Pens’ mumps fight escalates
- Penguins notebook: Kunitz tests foot by skating during practice
- Mumps confirmed for Penguins’ Bennett; team intern also affected
- Penguins defenseman Letang having best season in new system
- ‘Rash of sickness’ hits Crosby, Penguins
- Penguins’ Maatta to seek second opinion for shoulder
- Penguins player might have exposed Children’s Hospital patients to mumps
- Penguins taking mumps precautions; forward Bennett may have virus
- Malkin’s success a source of pride for Russian educator