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Trending Up and Down after the scrimmage

After seeing last night's Black and Gold scrimmage, a look at who we think is trending up, and who is going the wrong way.

Trending Up

Beau Bennett
The 21 year old may not be experienced enough or strong enough to compete with NHL defensemen in the corners and along the boards, so he might be ending up back in the minors this season. But what’s undeniable is his ability- both physically and mentally to think the game. And both were on display in the goal he scored in the team’s scrimmage last night. In a heady move, Bennett played the puck off the wall to himself while avoiding the incoming defender looking to make a hit. He collected the puck and swooped in on a two on one, gave some moves and chipped a puck past Marc-Andre Fleury. It happened in an instant and showed the high amount of skill there. It also may be worth pointing out though that the more experienced Eric Tangradi played more on the Evgeni Malkin / James Neal line, so the numbers may not work out for Bennett this time around. But it won’t be long before he gets his chance to be in the NHL full-time.

Brandon Sutter
Looked great at the scrimmage. As NHL fans we knew Sutter was a good, young player, but now we’re starting to get an appreciation for just how good he is. I was impressed by his skating and foot-speed, both of which stood out. He produced points in the scrimmage, which may not always happen every night in games, but he looked confident with the puck on his stick and was making things happen.

Brooks Orpik-Paul Martin defensive unit
Sure it was an intra-squad scrimmage and Malkin and Sidney Crosby probably didn’t have the foot all the way down, but Martin and Orpik were on the opposite team from the Pens two stars and got a lot of looks at them and they didn’t look too out of place. Malkin scored a sick goal, but it was on a 5-on-3 drill, at even strength the Martin/Orpik unit was just fine. Orpik was physical, Martin made some good outlet passes. For one night, all was well with Dan Bylsma’s new “shut-down” pair.

Jayson Megna
Last night was one of the first times I’ve seen him play, and definitely the first time I had his number circled as someone to try and notice. To see why the organization is so high on him. It wasn’t hard to tell. Megna, an undrafted rookie free agent, has size, can skate and has some nifty hands that on at least two instances handled the puck enough for it to make an impression on me. I wouldn’t be surprised, if he kept improving and working at it, if Megna has a real shot to make the NHL roster or at least be a call-up starting next fall.

Dan Bylsma
Hard not to be impressed with this scrimmage. Not only was there a crowd, there were refs, television timeouts, full intermissions, arranged powerplay work, a scheduled overtime and shootout all set-up by the coaching staff. They had a lot of time to think and plan during the lockout, and the idea to basically have a fake pre-season game to get everyone closer to full NHL game speed has to be a good one.

Penguins fans
Yeah it’s hokey but when you get 18,000+ people for a meaningless scrimmage on a Wednesday night and actually have to turn people away, that’s saying something. Sure it was free admission and parking, but on the heels of the lockout the Penguin fans are in full-force and probably more ready than the players for the season to begin.

Trending Down

Simon Despres
Might be mean to say “trending down”, as it’s just a dry run scrimmage and Despres’ performance certainly isn’t going to change anyone’s long-term impression of him. But for a guy battling a numbers game to make the NHL roster (with 8 defensemen ahead of him on one-way contracts) Despres needed to standout and really prove that he belonged. And they paired him with Kris Letang at points last night, giving him the chance to do just that. Last night was definitely not the night. Either Despres or Letang got lost right from the opening faceoff, allowing Matt Cooke to get all alone and pot an easy goal. From there, maybe he was rattled but pucks seemed to explode off Despres’ stick all night. He just didn’t look like a guy you would put into an NHL lineup right now.

Warren Peters


(Image from The Pensblog)
Oh Warren Peters, poor, poor Warren Peters. The recipient of free candy in front of everyone.

Eric Tangradi
This could be just my sight of things, but in the battle between Bennett and Tangradi; Bennett made the splash plays, Tangradi was hardly noticeable. And when he was, it wasn’t a positive impression. Now the Pens brass may have their sights on letting Tangradi get the first chance at playing on the 2nd line, but as a man with exactly 1 goal in 40 NHL games, Tangradi just didn’t make an impact. Maybe he’s having better practices and showing stuff on different days, and you have to take the overall body of work into things to evaluate a roster spot, but for this night Tangradi was pretty much a dud.

Dustin Jeffrey
Again, barely noticeable, and unlike Tangradi it’s not as if he’s at least getting to play with some skilled players. Jeffrey seems absolutely buried, playing on lower lines with lesser players that don’t factor into the Penguins plans this season. It seems like a shame but Jeffrey’s stuck in some sort of opportunity rut that he’s just not getting out of. Hopefully there’s a roster spot in Pittsburgh for him, because it feels like he has something to offer the team. But from the way he’s used, it doesn’t seem like the coaches are in too much of a hurry to find that out.

Tyler Kennedy
This one may be a head-scratcher. Kennedy played pretty well and even scored a goal. But that could be the problem. TK scored from a really tight angle, throwing a junk shot at the net that just happened to get lucky enough to find a way past Tomas Vokoun. It’s happened many times in Kennedy’s career and then he starts throwing pucks from all sorts of places on the ice, most of which don’t have a reason to be shot or a prayer at beating an NHL level goalie. In the process the play is killed and all energy and momentum is stopped in its tracks. Hopefully that doesn’t happen this time around, but sometimes scoring a goal in a bad way can be bad for mental makeup.

From your vantage point who do you think has seen their chances of making the team improve and who has disappointed?