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Penguins

Penguins' Andrey Pedan might provide flexibility

Jonathan Bombulie
| Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, 9:20 p.m.
The Red Wings' Robbie Russo defends on the Penguins' Teddy Blueger in the first period Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Red Wings' Robbie Russo defends on the Penguins' Teddy Blueger in the first period Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017, at PPG Paints Arena.
The Penguins' Zach Aston-Reese tries to redirect the puck past Sabres goaltender Chad Johnson in the first period Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, at Pegula Ice Arena in State College.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins' Zach Aston-Reese tries to redirect the puck past Sabres goaltender Chad Johnson in the first period Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017, at Pegula Ice Arena in State College.

From Kris Letang to Ryan Whitney to Alex Goligoski, some pretty decent offensive defensemen have made a stop in Wilkes-Barre on their way to the NHL over the years.

Last weekend, Andrey Pedan did something they never did. He became the second defenseman in the nearly two-decade history of the Baby Pens to net a hat trick, winning AHL Player of the Week honors for his efforts.

Acquired from Vancouver in the Derrick Pouliot trade at the end of training camp, Pedan has moved to the front of the call-up line on defense in the Penguins organization.

Don't be fooled by the hat trick, though. Pedan's calling card isn't his stick-handling skills. It's the fact he's a hulking, 6-foot-5, 218-pound presence on the blue line.

He has 16 points in 31 AHL games this season, sure, but he also has 21 fighting majors to his credit in his five-year pro career.

“I'm a big guy. Guys go at me. I just fight back,” Pedan said. “I don't know. It's just the way it is. I like to play hard. It gets the fans going, too, with big hits and stuff, and opponents don't like to play against physical teams.”

In that sense, although their body types couldn't be more different, Pedan is carrying on the tradition of physical Lithuanian defensemen in the Penguins organization started by Darius Kasparaitis.

“I've never met him, but I would like to,” Pedan said. “He's different. He's more the hip checks and stuff. I wish I could do that. With my size, I don't think it would work.”

With Chad Ruhwedel ready to return soon from an upper-body injury, the Penguins don't have an immediate need for reinforcements on the blue line. That could change as the trade deadline approaches, however.

Having an option like Pedan on the farm might make general manager Jim Rutherford more comfortable moving a defenseman like Ian Cole, perhaps in a deal for a third-line center.

In the meantime, Pedan will continue toiling for a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton team that carried a seven-game winning streak into Wednesday night and sat atop the AHL's Atlantic Division with a 23-10-3 record.

“One of the best teams I've been on,” Pedan said. “It just feels like a family, a family atmosphere. It's fun coming to the rink.”

Here's a look at four other Penguins prospects in Wilkes-Barre who have yet to dress for an NHL game this season:

Teddy Blueger

The 6-foot center is having a solid sophomore season, posting 11 goals and 11 assists in 36 games despite playing in the bottom six and not recording a single power-play point. A standout on the penalty kill. Leads the AHL with three overtime goals.

Zach Aston-Reese

The college scoring star isn't tearing up the AHL as a rookie, but he's on a positive trajectory. In the first two months of the season, he posted two goals and nine points in 21 games and had dental surgery. In the last month, he has been a fixture at first-line left wing and has put up three goals and 12 points in 13 games.

Adam Johnson

The star of development camp after coming out of Minnesota-Duluth early, Johnson's had his growing pains as a rookie. He's playing primarily on the left wing rather than center and has four goals in 30 games. Heating up since Christmas, though, with seven points in seven games.

Thomas Di Pauli

The second-year pro has had an up-and-down season. Seven of his nine goals came before Thanksgiving, and he missed some time around Christmas with an upper-body injury. Still, he projects as a bottom-six winger with speed who can kill penalties.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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