No Sid, no problem…yet. Despite the slew of well documented health issues and injuries that has recently depleted the number of Penguins stars over the last month (Pascal Dupuis, Beau Bennett, Olli Maatta, Chris Kunitz and Sidney Crosby) they have managed to maintain their lead in the Metropolitan Division, but how? Primarily through strong goaltending, a tough and resilient blue line and lastly the burgeoning ability of their young talent to step in and play big when called upon to do so. In Monday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning two of these young players got their first NHL goals. These new kids on the block have been contributing their fair share for Pittsburgh this season and the way things have been for the Penguins so far they could be in and out of the lineup quite often so it’s best to get to know a little bit about them now.
#59 Jayson Megna – C, age 24 – Megna played 36 games with Pittsburgh last year and was re-signed by the Penguins to a one-year contract this past July. Megna started the season in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton playing nine games and tallying 2 goals and 1 assist with the team when he was recalled by the Penguins on October 30. Megna was a healthy scratch in the two games he was with the Penguins and was re-assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on November 2. Megna played another eight games in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and was recalled on November 22 to the Penguins. Megna played the next nine games with the Penguins producing one point from one assist on Evgeni Malkin’s game winning goal against the New Jersey Devils on December 2. Megna was re-assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this past week when Rust and Farnham were recalled, but has had a presence in the Pittsburgh lineup and is sure to return again this year.
#25 Andrew Ebbett – C, age 31 – Ebbett started the season on loan to Pittsburgh and was a healthy scratch for the first four games of the season. He then played 17 games with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, tallying 5 goals and 12 assists, before making his season debut with the Penguins in their November 29 game against Carolina. Ebbett played just over six minutes on the fourth line in that game, but still notched one assist. This is Ebbett’s seventh season playing between the NHL and AHL for five different franchises. He provides experience to the bottom six of the Penguins lineup and has 2 assists in 8 games, including an outstanding centering pass on Monday night which set up Bryan Rust perfectly for his first career NHL goal.
#8 Brian Dumoulin – D, age 23 – Dumoulin played six games with Pittsburgh last year and started the season in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He logged 22 games, 2 goals, 8 assists and a +/- of 16 for the Baby Penguins before being recalled by Pittsburgh on December 2. Dumoulin played just three games with Pittsburgh before being scratched this past weekend against Calgary and Columbus. He returned to the lineup on Monday night and scored his first career NHL goal early in the third period, giving Pittsburgh a 3-1 lead against the Lightning. It appears as of now that Dumoulin will stay and log time with the Penguins as long as Olli Maatta is on injured reserve.
#34 Bobby Farnham – RW, age 25 – Farnham played 23 games in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to start this season scoring 1 goal and 3 assists, but also recording an astonishing 113 penalty minutes. Farnham made his NHL debut on December 13 against Columbus after being recalled the day before with his Baby Penguins teammate Bryan Rust. Farnham has yet to tally an NHL point, but has made his presence felt through his aggressive play and willingness to fight when needed as seen last Saturday against Blue Jackets defenseman Jordan Leopold. It seems as though the Penguins are going to get a few games out of Farnham and his aggressive play has made him an early fan favorite.
#36 Bryan Rust – RW, age 22 – Rust like Farnham played the first third of the season in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Rust had an excellent start to his season scoring a team leading 10 goals and adding 4 assists. Rust was recalled with Farnham on December 12 and has played in the last two games with Pittsburgh. He has also shown his toughness and ability to stand up for his teammates as seen last Saturday when he confronted Blue Jackets forward Corey Tropp after Tropp charged Farnham midway through the second period. Rust also already got his first NHL point and goal in his second NHL game on Monday night due to the aforementioned assist from Andrew Ebbett.
#6 Scott Harrington – D, age 21 – Harrington like Ebbett started the season on loan in Pittsburgh, but was a healthy scratch for the first four games of the season. Harrington then went to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, played seven games, tallied 2 assists and was recalled to Pittsburgh on November 3 after Olli Maatta’s surgery. Harrington was back in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on November 9 to play against Syracuse and stayed with the club for 14 more games, adding three more assists, before being recalled again on December 14. Harrington was a healthy scratch on Monday and has yet to play in an NHL game, but this is the fourth time he has been recalled this year so the Penguins must see potential in this young talent.
These are the young guns for the Penguins this year and we are sure to see them in and out of the lineup throughout the season, especially with the health issues the Penguins have experienced to this date. The significant takeaways from this are that the Penguins are 7-3-2 since November 22, when Megna made his first start with the Penguins. Their youth have been mixed in throughout that stretch and only eight NHL teams have similar or better records over that period, none of which have lost the talent the Penguins have lost over the last month. The Penguins are finding ways to produce wins and even though this group might not be producing significant points thus far they have provided aggressive, physical play and are starting to look more comfortable on the ice. To get three rookies into the rotation this early in the year is not always desirable, but if your team can still produce wins it can hopefully only help in their progression. The experience of Megna, Ebbett and Dumoulin will also help to calm the injury infected waters of the NHL season, waters that the Penguins hope will rescind rather quickly. In the end, while you might not know them yet, go ahead and get acquainted with the new kids on the block, you’ll be seeing them around for some time.