As the Pittsburgh Penguins prepare to chase immortality during the 2017-18 season, they are going to require a healthy injection of prospects to supplement any holes that may appear on the roster. Pittsburgh has seen its fair share of injuries in recent seasons, which has allowed general manager Jim Rutherford to display his true genius in yielding talent from some interesting sources.
Revisiting Pittsburgh Penguins Prospects Heroics
Recently, Connor Sheary, Matt Murray, and Jake Guentzel have been at the forefront of an infusion of youth, that has helped the Penguins reach the top of the mountain. The young guns have proven that age is only a number, solidifying the notion that rookies can make an immediate impact on the line-up and rewrite history along the way. Here is a look back at a few Penguins rookies that performed quite admirably in single game situations, and began laying the groundwork for solid careers.
On the Path to Prospect Glory
The Penguins selected defensemen Zarley Zalapski with the fourth overall pick in the 1986 draft. Zalapski would make his NHL debut on March. 5, 1988 registering 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in 15 games with the Penguins that season. On March. 19, 1988. He would collect the first four-point game of his career, as the Penguins torched the Philadelphia Flyers 8-0. Zalapski earned three assists on goals by Mario Lemieux, Kevin Stevens, and Randy Cunneyworth. Zalapski also collected his first career NHL goal, with Lemieux and Rob Brown earning assists on the second period marker.
Right winger Rob Brown was selected by the Penguins in the fourth round of the 1986 draft. It didn’t take Brown long to establish himself as one the top prospects in the league during the 1987-88 season. He collected two goals in his first NHL game. He also finished the season with 44 points (24 goals, 20 assists) in 51 games. One of the finest performances of his rookie campaign occurred on March 13, 1988 against the Winnipeg Jets. Brown potted two power-play goals as well as earning assists on two others, including Dan Quinn’s game-winning goal, in the third period.
Centerman Martin Straka appeared in 560 games with the Penguins over 10 seasons, scoring 442 points (165 goals, 277 assists). His most productive game as a rookie occurred on February 28, 1993, against the Washington Capitals. Straka factored in on three of four Penguins goals, setting up Troy Loney’s two goals as well as adding a third assist, connecting with Shawn McEachern on the power play.
Prospects from the Ashes
Thunder Bay, Ontario, native Jordan Staal joined the Penguins organization as the second overall pick in the 2006 entry draft. His contributions to the team would propel the Penguins to new levels of success. Staal redefined what the role of a third line center in the NHL was. He took his game to a new level on February 10, 2007, against the Toronto Maple Leafs, as he collected the first hat-trick of his career and notched his third game-winning of the season. Staal would finish the season with 42 points (29 goals, 13 assists) in 81 games.
The arrival of Evgeni Malkin to the NHL has all the earmarkings of a fantastic spy novel. The Toronto Maple Leafs found out first hand that it was no mystery why the Penguins selected Malkin with the second overall pick in the 2004 entry draft. On January 20, 2007. Malkin collected five assists as well as four penalty minutes. The Penguins routed the Leafs by a score of 8-2. The eventual 2006-07 Calder Trophy winner put the league on notice that he would be a force to reckoned with in the seasons to follow.
It didn’t take long for 18-year-old Sidney Crosby to make an impact in the Penguins line-up. He proved the hype surrounding his arrival to the NHL was well warranted. On October 8, 2005, Crosby collected three points (one goal, two assists) in just the third game of his career. He set up Brooks Orpik, Ric Jackman as well as buried his first power-play goal in a 7-6 Penguins victory over the Boston Bruins. Crosby registered 29 multi-point games during the 2005-06 season. He was only held off the scoresheet 22 times in 81 games.
With training camp well underway, several Penguins rookies are making strong cases for the spots on the roster. Given the Penguins penchant for keeping medical staff busy; it should not take long for some of the youngsters to crack the line-up. They will get the opportunity to display some heroics of their own.
PITTSBURGH, PA – MAY 31: Jake Guentzel #59 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with Brian Dumoulin #8 after scoring a goal during the third period in Game Two of the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Final against the Nashville Predators at PPG Paints Arena on May 31, 2017 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)