Recently, it’s not new news that the Penguins’ have been facing injuries upon injuries. Mumps, lower body injuries, upper body injuries… you name it. Inevitably, they look to their farm team, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (WBS) for aid. Little did anyone know that these young guns called up from WBS would be making an impact at the NHL level, right away.
Three players, Derrick Pouliot, Brian Dumoulin, and Bryan Rust all scored their first NHL goals this week. Pouliot scored on his NHL debut last night while Dumoulin and Rust notched their first goals in the same night (12/15).
Pouliot: A Night of Firsts
Last night, Derrick Pouliot, the Penguins’ first-round pick (8th overall) in the 2012 draft, made his NHL debut after being called up late the night before. In only his second shift in the NHL, Pouliot sniped the Florida Panther goaltender, Roberto Luongo, to give the Pens’ a 2-1 lead. The 20-year-old scored his first NHL goal on his first shot in his first game.
First game. First shot. First goal.
“It’s incredible … something you dream about,” said Pouliot, “First NHL game, first goal … it’s very exciting.”
The last player for the Pittsburgh player to do so was Brian Gibbons on Nov. 18, 2013 and the last NHL player to do that was Sven Andrighetto of the Montreal Canadians on Dec. 6, 2014. And before that…? Well, let’s not forget about Mario Lemieux. Lemieux and Pouliot shared a handshake in the locker room after the game and it was a moment captured of a great, and a great-in-the-making.
The offensive defenseman led WBS in scoring before he was recalled with 20 points (7G-13A). Pouliot is known for his offensive play and has been compared to be the next Kris Letang… clearly he showed he could live up to that expectation last night.
The 2014 CHL’s Defenseman of the Year had been coached by now Penguins’ head coach Mike Johnston for five seasons for the Portland Winterhawks. Pouliot said in regards to playing his first game under Johnston at the NHL level, “I kind of know his system, what he wants us to do out there. We went over some stuff beforehand too so I’m pretty familiar with it, but I still have to go out there and execute.”
And execute he did.
His first goal ended up being the game-winner in the Penguins’ 3-1 win at home against the Panthers, with Crosby scoring his 10th goal, Fleury making a season-high 47 saves, and setting a season high of 5 consecutive home game wins.
Bryan and Brian
Bryan Rust and Brian Dumoulin both notched their first career NHL goals on December 15th versus Tampa Bay. Rust, 22-years-old, was playing in his second NHL game when he fired a shot from the slot and scored top-shelf. The Penguins’ third-round pick (80th overall) in the 2010 NHL Draft got the chance to play a few shifts on the Pens’ top line with Evgeni Malkin and Blake Comeau. So far, the right wing has 1 goal and 10 shots on net in 4 games at the NHL level.
In the same game versus the Lightning, Brian Dumoulin found the back of the net for his first NHL goal as well. Dumoulin, 23-years-old, was playing in his 10th career NHL game. The Penguin’s second-round pick (51st) overall in the 2009 NHL Draft is proving his abilities at the NHL level and has to continue to prove himself game in and game out.
Despite all of the recent injuries to Pittsburgh, there’s no doubt that their future is still, and always will, look bright. With players like these three, plus Simon Despres and Scott Harrington seeing ice time, the Penguins’ depth goes beyond what one might think. And, it was proven this week.