Previewing the 2012-13 Season (Part 1)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012
The 2012-13 season is quickly approaching. This will be the second full season of daily coverage of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL) on Highland Park Hockey and the hopes are it will be the best yet.

In addition to being able to bring live in-game updates on Twitter at all home games, the goal is to make Highland Park Hockey your source for road coverage of the WBS Penguins as I plan to make a lot more road trips than in seasons past. For example, I already traveled 680 miles to bring live coverage of the two road preseason games. Not something you are going to find anywhere else.

I got my first AHL Media Credential in Rochester last Wednesday, and hope to continue to be able to bring you as close as I can possibly get to the Penguins this season. Alright, enough about me and onto the hockey!

This season is different than in years past. The NHL Lockout still has no end in sight and AHL teams are fully loaded for the start of the season. After the jump, a look at the Penguins roster heading into the season opener on Saturday with close detail to the defensemen and goaltenders.

The Roster

Forwards (14): Beau Bennett, Phillipe Dupuis, Benn Ferriero, Brian Gibbons, Riley Holzapfel, Steve MacIntyre, Denver Manderson*, Jayson Megna, Warren Peters, Zach Sill, Trevor Smith, Eric Tangradi, Paul Thompson and Keven Veilleux*.

* injured

Now lets take a look at the defensemen...

Robert Bortuzzo
2011-12 Stats (AHL): 51 games played, 3G, 9A, +9, 61 PIM

Bortuzzo is a defensive defenseman entering his 4th season of professional hockey, all of which have been with the Penguins organization. The 6-4, 207 pound blue liner looks to play a pivotal top four role with the Pens this season, killing penalties and playing a solid two-way game.

Simon Despres
2011-12 Stats (AHL): 44 games played, 5G, 10A, -5, 45 PIM

After splitting time between Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in his rookie season, Despres looks to build off that and continue to improve at the AHL level this season. Look for Despres to log big minutes on both the power play and penalty kill and develop into a solid two-way defenseman that will be ready for the NHL when it resumes. 

Brian Dumoulin
2011-12 Stats (Boston College): 44 games played, 7G, 21A, +27, 26 PIM

Acquired from the Hurricanes in the Jordan Staal trade this summer, Dumoulin has a ton of potential to become a top four NHL defenseman. I was impressed with him at the Penguins prospect camp and even more excited to see him after watching him this preseason. Sky is the limit for this 6-4 defenseman.

Alex Grant
2011-12 Stats (AHL): 61 games played, 10G, 27A, +5, 73 PIM

Grant had a breakout season last year, becoming dominant on the power play and excelling offensively. His defensive game still needs some work but he's physical and hard working. Should be a mainstay on the power play this season.

Joey Mormina
2011-12 Stats (AHL): 59 games played, 6G, 15A, -11, 70 PIM

The decision to bring back the 6-6 defensive defenseman has to be for his pro experience and ability to mentor the younger defenseman in the system.  Mormina looks to be a 6th/7th defenseman that can kill penalties and take away opposing players time and space.

Joe Morrow
2011-12 Stats (WHL): 62 games played, 17G, 47A, +6, 99 PIM

Morrow has a ton of hype surrounding him entering his rookie season and for good reason. Offensively, he might be NHL ready. Morrow is an offensive-minded, puck moving defenseman that has a cannon of a shot as fans witnessed in the preseason. The question will be his ability to be reliable in his own zone. But he is a fierce competitor that has his head on right. All eyes will be on Morrow this season from the Pittsburgh brass.

Dylan Reese
2011-12 Stats (AHL): 27 games played, 2G, 13A, Even, 12 PIM

Reese has spent the last two seasons split between the AHL and NHL and at 28 years old he adds experience to a young Penguins blue line. 

Philip Samuelsson
2011-12 Stats (AHL): 46 games played, 1G, 8A, +4, 26 PIM

After an up-and-down rookie season which saw Samuelsson bounce between the AHL and ECHL, Samuelsson looks to use last year as a learning experience as he continues to develop into a solid two-way defenseman.

Carl Sneep
2011-12 Stats (AHL): 40 games played, 0G, 10A, +5, 26 PIM

After injuries plagued the second half of his season last year, Sneep looks to get back on track in 2012-13. The offensive minded defenseman needs a good start to make a name for himself or he might get lost in the shuffle behind bigger name prospects such as Despres and Morrow. 

Brian Strait
2011-12 Stats: 41 games played, 4G, 12A, +7, 26 PIM

Strait is a solid, reliable defenseman that will need to lead by example and play tight defensively. With a young defensive core, the Pens will look to have Strait on the ice during all important defensive zone situations.

Now a look at the two goaltenders.....

Brad Thiessen
2011-12 Stats (AHL): 41 games played, 23-15-2, 2.82 GAA, .887 SV%, 2 SO

Not the best season for Thiessen after nabbing goalie of the year honors in 2010-11. With the addition of all-star goalie Jeff Zatkoff it has to be a now or never mentality for Thiessen this season as head coach John Hynes still hasn't named a starter for Saturday's season opener.

Jeff Zatkoff
2011-12 Stats (AHL): 44 games played, 21-17-1, 2.49 GAA, .920 SV%, 3 SO

Zatkoff comes to the Penguins after being an All-Star goaltender for the Manchester Monarchs last season.  He didn't sign with the Pens with the intentions of being the backup goaltender and after watching him in the preseason I get the feeling both goalies will split time to start the season until a clear number one emerges.


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