Hutchinson making biggest impact mentoring young players
Defenseman Andrew Hutchinson recorded six points in his first three games with the Baby Pens and filled in for five NHL games when the Penguins were hit by injuries, but his greatest impact in the organization might not be the offense he creates or depth he provides.
For the past two games, Hutchinson has been paired with Carl Sneep, a talented-but-raw rookie out of Boston College.
Hutchinson, 30, generally downplays his role as a mentor.
"I add what I can, but I don't want to be overbearing and tell him the way things are supposed to be done, because I don't always know, to tell you the truth," he said.
Baby Pens coach John Hynes gave Hutchinson more credit.
"Hutch has so much experience," Hynes said. "I think his demeanor is great for a young guy. He's so controlled. To come back to the bench and have that guy talking to you and helping you out is a great experience."
A month into the season, the Baby Pens have emerged as legitimate Calder Cup contenders. They finished 8-0 in October, including three wins over the two-time defending AHL champion Hershey Bears.
"It all comes down to later in the year. We know that," goalie John Curry said. "But we're proud of what we've done so far. Hopefully, we did make a statement."
Nick of time
At the start of the 2008-09 season, 2004 third-round pick Nick Johnson couldn't crack the Baby Pens' roster and had to begin his pro career with the ECHL's Wheeling Nailers. He registered 24 points in 18 games and hasn't been back since.
Winger Nick Petersen, a 2009 fourth-round pick, seems to be following the same career path.
Sent down by the Baby Pens on Oct. 25, Petersen had a four-goal game last Saturday and was named ECHL player of the week.
"He definitely has the skill level. He has good hockey sense," Hynes said. "Now, it's his compete level nightly against men and learning the ins and outs of the game."
The Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League were 5-3 before they got 2009 first-round draft pick Simon Despres back from the Penguins on Oct. 6. Since then, they're 10-1 and are leading the league in scoring.
Despres has three goals, 10 assists and a plus-11 rating.Additional Information:
Player to watch
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL) • Goalie
5-foot-11, 185 pounds
Baby Pens goaltenders John Curry and Brad Thiessen are off to nearly identical starts to the season. Coming into this weekend, both were 4-0. Both had goals-against averages under 2 and save percentages of .930 or better. But there's a difference between them. For Thiessen, coming off a solid rookie season, the good start is a luxury. For Curry, coming off a subpar season, it's a career necessity. By aggressively challenging shooters and calmly holding the fort during net-front scrambles, Curry has climbed back into a situation where he and Thiessen appear to be even on the organizational depth chart.