Penguins minor league report: Goaltending depth has improved
WILKES-BARRE — On a list of the top prospects in the Penguins' minor league system, there's an element included that hasn't been there for years.
Baby Pens rookie Eric Hartzell, 18-year-old Tristan Jarry and 19-year-old Matt Murray have given the Penguins more depth at the position than they have had in more than a decade.
Replenishing the stock of goalies began at the 2012 NHL draft. The Penguins had a few extra picks, and since they hadn't chosen a netminder in three years, they picked Murray in the third round and Sean Maguire in the fourth.
Last spring, they signed Hartzell as an undrafted free agent after an All-American season at Quinnipiac. Then they traded up to select Jarry in the second round of the 2013 draft.
Maguire is having a rough sophomore year at Boston University, but Murray, Jarry and Hartzell are big, athletic goalies having great seasons.
In his first stint as a full-time starter with the Edmonton Oil Kings, the 6-foot-2 Jarry leads the Western Hockey League with 33 wins and six shutouts.
The 6-5 Murray has bounced back from a mediocre season to post a 27-9-4 record with six shutouts for the Ontario Hockey League's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
The 6-4 Hartzell won AHL goalie of the month honors in January, going 5-2 with a 1.33 goals-against average and .944 save percentage.
It's a little too dramatic to suggest the Penguins are preparing for life after Marc-Andre Fleury, who is 29 with a year left on his contract, but they have created a competitive situation in the prospect pool.
“I would like to play in the NHL as soon as possible. At the same time, I'd like to be ready,” Hartzell said. “I think you're going to find competition no matter where you go, and I think competition's healthy. I think it will help make you better. I'm excited about it.”
Defenseman Brian Dumoulin suffered a left leg injury in a Jan. 31 game against Norfolk.
Coach John Hynes said Dumoulin is considered week to week.
Despite a solid six-game call-up in December, Dumoulin is having a lackluster season in the AHL. His minus-5 rating is worst among Baby Pens defensemen.
Second-year winger Adam Payerl, out since Nov. 30 with an upper-body injury, could be back in the lineup as soon as next weekend.
Coming into this weekend, the Baby Pens have failed to score on 34 straight power-play opportunities and have lost four of their past six games.
“We're in a stage with the power play right now where we're trying to find the right pieces that work together,” Hynes said.
With a hat trick Wednesday night against Cape Breton, Rouyn-Noranda center Jean-Sebastien Dea cracked the 100-goal mark in his 167th career game in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Dea, who signed with the Penguins as an undrafted free agent in September, is fourth in the league with 39 goals 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 email@example.com.