Despres making impression on his Penguins teammates

| Monday, Dec. 12, 2011

Defenseman Simon Despres has been "thrown into the fire" during his first two weeks in the NHL, according to coach Dan Bylsma.

By all accounts, he is passing the test.

"All these young guys have been better than we thought they'd be," defenseman Brooks Orpik said. "Simon has been really, really good."

Despres, the 20-year-old who was selected in the first round of the 2009 draft, has an assist and is a plus-1 in his first five games.

And those weren't just any five games.

He faced Alex Ovechkin and Washington in his debut, and later took on defending Stanley Cup champion Boston and made his first trip to always-hostile Philadelphia.

"Those were some of the best-paced games of the season," Orpik said, "and he's played really well."

By no means is Despres a finished product, but he has not looked out of place at the NHL level. He has been challenged in numerous one-on-one battles and hasn't been burned yet.

"If you're not noticed," Orpik said, "that's a good thing."

Despres produced an assist in his first game, and has shown flashes of his superb offensive ability. He jumped into the rush in the second period against the New York Islanders, only to be stoned by a strong save from goaltender Al Montoya.

"And he's only going to get better," defenseman Paul Martin said. "All the tools are there."

Orpik noted that the rush of energy Despres felt in his first couple of NHL games is gone. Now, the youngster is relying on his fundamentals and pure talent.

And he seems to be thriving.

"It's obvious that he doesn't have any fear," Martin said. "He's just going out and making things happen every game. He's been very, very good."

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