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Season in review: Simon Despres

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Key Stat: Of the Penguins’ defensemen who played as many NHL games as Simon Despres did (18), none had a higher percentage offensive zone starts (64.7%) and none faced worse quality of competition.

Interesting Note: Born July 27, 1991, Simon Despres became the first skater born in the decade of the 1990’s to play a regulation game for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The Good: In his first professional season, Despres was on a yo-yo, re-called officially five times from Wilkes-Barre. That he was good enough to dress for 18 NHL games this early shows his ability already, with a high ceiling still to be realized. And though Despres was given some very shielded and limited minutes, he still saw a pretty respectful 2.71 GF per 60 and 1.37 Ga/60 while he was on the ice at 5 on 5.

The Bad: As mentioned, Dan Bylsma seriously covered for Despres and put him in a position to succeed with #6 minutes, mainly starting in the offensive zone and almost always against non-scoring opponents. Also, Despres had to fill in for injuries a lot, but the Pens were only 9-9-0 when he suited up this season.

Moment to Remember: December 17, 2011 vs Buffalo Sabres, with the Pens on the powerplay, Jason Williams and Tyler Kennedy played the puck around. Kennedy eventually found himself with the puck towards the point, and Despres had cut in by the right dot. Kennedy threw a nice pass to Despres, who got enough of a quick shot that snuck through goalie Ryan Miller. It would be Despres’ first (and to date only) NHL goal.

Moment to Forget: March 29, 2012, vs the New York Islanders. After many turnovers, misplays, failures to clear the zone, positioning lapses, Simon Despres only got 1 shift in the third period. He also took a hooking minor. That would be the last game of Despres’ NHL regular season, as the Pens would send him back down the Wilkes-Barre after the game.

Discussion: Thanks to a knee injury, Despres only played a combined 62 regular season NHL+AHL games this season. Turning 21 this summer, is he ready to make the jump full-time into the NHL? Ray Shero always likes defensive depth and guys like Robert Bortuzzo, Brian Strait could be in Despres way, let alone NHL level vets like Matt Niskanen (who needs a contract) and guys like Deryk Engelland and Ben Lovejoy that already have contracts. Where do you see all these non-top 4 defenseman pieces slotting in for next season?