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Penguins

Penguins' Jean-Sebastien Dea working every angle to crack NHL lineup

Jonathan Bombulie
| Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018, 5:34 a.m.
The Penguins’ Jean-Sebastian Dea takes a back-handed shot from his knees past the Blue Jackets’ Ryan Collins in the first period Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018 at PPG Paints Arena.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins’ Jean-Sebastian Dea takes a back-handed shot from his knees past the Blue Jackets’ Ryan Collins in the first period Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018 at PPG Paints Arena.

Jean-Sebastien Dea has a polite request for the folks in the NHL office who draw up the rosters distributed to the public.

If it’s not too much trouble, in the position column next to his name, could an “RW” be added to the “C” that’s already there?

Also, if there’s any way to include the notation, “can kill penalties,” that would be appreciated as well.

As Dea continues his quest to work his way into the hard-to-crack Pittsburgh Penguins lineup, it wouldn’t hurt if team management was occasionally reminded of those things.

After the Penguins made a sweeping round of cuts Sunday, 15 forwards were left on the NHL roster, and Dea was one of them.

That’s an accomplishment in and of itself for the 24-year-old forward. In his four previous pro seasons, the cruel cut came earlier.

“I’ve been working on it for the last couple years,” Dea said. “Every time I was coming to camp, I was trying to make the team. This year, I’m one step closer.”

Dea still faces an uphill battle to make the opening-night roster. The Penguins have to cut three more skaters and a goalie before they face the Washington Capitals on Oct. 4, and there’s a good chance Dea will be on the chopping block.

To avoid that fate – or to put his name at the top of the call-up list once the season starts – Dea has a couple lines on his resume that he can try to emphasize.

First, he’s coming off a pretty good season. He recorded a career-best 50 points in 70 AHL games last year, ranking second to Daniel Sprong on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s scoring list. He also played five games for the Penguins, scoring his first NHL goal against Carolina on Jan. 23.

Offensive ability, though, wasn’t the part of the game Dea had to showcase. Management had seen his pinpoint one-timer. They knew he scored at least 18 AHL goals in each of the past three seasons.

What he had to show was an all-around game, and he thinks he accomplished that goal.

“I was trying to be good on both sides of the ice,” Dea said. “That was something I had to work on in the American League. I had a really good season last year. It gave me confidence coming into camp this year. It was a big improvement for me.”

Part of that all-around improvement was demonstrating proficiency on the penalty kill. He’s 5-foot-11, 175 pounds and he was a scoring star all the way through junior hockey. Stepping in front of slap shots when the opponent is on the power play isn’t necessarily an instinctive part of his game.

But Dea is committed to working on the skill. He was used on the penalty kill regularly for the Penguins early in the preseason.

“That’s something I worked on last year as well. It was my first time killing in pro hockey and it went well,” Dea said. “I did a really good job. If I’m here, that’s going to be one of my jobs. Trying to work on it and get better.”

While Dea knows his most direct path to the NHL includes showing he can perform traditional fourth-line forward activities, he also knows it probably isn’t at his natural position of center.

The Penguins have six high-end centers on the NHL roster and another already sent to Wilkes-Barre in Teddy Blueger.

That’s where the roster request comes in. Dea has no hesitation whatsoever shifting over to the right wing.

“I can play both,” Dea said. “Last couple of years, I’ve played a few games on the wing. When I got called up, I played on the wing. I know how to play wing. We’ll see what happens.”

Keep up with the Pittsburgh Penguins all season long.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at jbombulie@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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