In the past, the Penguins have drafted high and often from the Canadian junior leagues. This past summer they added three players, Simon Despres, Nick Petersen, and Andy Bathgate to the prospect pool, taken in the first, fourth and fifth rounds, respectively.
Simon Despres, D – St. John Sea Dogs
Acquired: Drafted 1st round, 30th overall in 2009
Possibly the smoothest skating defenseman in the Penguins system, Despres has developed at a seeming exponential rate since attending the Penguins NHL training camp and signing an entry-level deal in mid-October. In 20 games this season, the 18-year-old has posted five goals, 10 assists while playing in all situations. More important than the stats though is how the blueliner’s offensive game has matured. He has always had a solid outlet pass, but this season he regularly jumps into the play and looks much more confident playing the offensive side of the game.
Despres and defensive partner Yann Sauve (VAN) were named to the QMJHL team of the Canada-Russia Subway Super Series. In two games, Despres posted four penalty minutes, three shots, and a -1 rating as the QMJHL team beat Russia in both games.
The Sea Dogs have an astounding record of 23-4-1 and are amid a 15-game winning streak, tied for seventh longest in league history. However, the streak does not even tell the whole story as the Sea Dogs have been stout defensively and explosive offensively, scoring an average of 4.32 goals a game and allowing an average of only 2.68.
Nick Petersen, RW – St. John Sea Dogs
Acquired: Drafted 4th round, 121st overall in 2009
Now in his third season of junior hockey, the 20-year-old Petersen is building upon his breakout season in 2008-09 when he posted 37 goals, 53 assists in 68 games. The hard-working forward has already potted 14 in just 20 games this season and on pace for over 45. The overager has also been a model of consistency, showing up on the scorecard in 15 of his 20 appearances and never going longer than two games without a point.
Like Despres, Petersen also plays for the St. John Sea Dogs and has helped contribute to the team’s league-leading win and goal totals, not to mention their 15-game winning streak. He is often deployed on a line with Stanislav Galiev and Mike Hoffman and also utilized on the man-advantage.
Andy Bathgate, C – Belleville Bulls
Acquired: Drafted 5th round, 151st overall in 2009
Although durability is still a concern, Bathgate’s ability to adapt to the Canadian junior level no longer is. After posting only four goals, 12 assists in an injury abbreviated 2008-09 season, the 18-year-old has already surpassed those totals with seven goals, 11 assists in 27 games.
Bathgate has seen some time on the power play, posting one goal, three assists but it is in even-strength situations where he is able to use his speed to create scoring chances. The slick-skating forward has shown some chemistry with forward Kyle DeCoste, posting six goals, five assists since DeCoste came to the Bulls in a Nov. 4 trade with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
Right now the main concern for Bathgate is that he remains healthy and continues building on what has so far been a solid third season in the OHL.
Patrick Killeen, G – Brampton Battalion
Acquired: Drafted 6th round, 180th overall in 2008
The first half of the 2009-10 season has been a rollercoaster for Killeen as he is burdened with the duties of backstopping a Battalion team that has been among the lowest scoring in the OHL. The 19-year-old started the season poorly, posting a 5-7-1-1 record and a 2.96 goals-against average in his first 14 games. It was not until November started that Killeen started to shine, posting a 5-2-1 record, a 2.42 goals-against average, and one shutout in nine starts. To date, Killeen has appeared in 23 of Brampton’s 25 games and posted a 10-9-2-1 record, a 2.76 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage.
In the past, prospects such as Thomas McCollum (DET) and Bryan Pitton (EDM) were deployed alongside Killeen in a goaltending platoon. While this provided insurance for the team in case one of their goaltenders was having an off night, it has also meant Killeen never made more than 34 starts in one season. With 16-year-old backup Jacob Riley not yet ready to challenge for the starting job, Killeen is in uncharted territory this season as the Battalion’s uncontested starter.
Nathan Moon, C – Kingston Frontenacs
Acquired: Drafted 4th round, 120th overall in 2008
Now in his fourth season of junior hockey, Moon has established himself as an offensive forward who can be relied upon to not only provide offense, but to be a thorn in the side of opponents. In 27 games this season, the 19-year-old has posted a team-leading 12 goals, 17 assists in 27 games as well as 37 penalty minutes. Of his 12 goals, eight have been scored in even-strength situations, often playing alongside winger Zach Harnden, while the other four goals have come on the man-advantage. He also upgraded his defensive play considerably over the past two seasons and currently has a +2 rating.
Moon’s stats do not tell the whole story though. For being as agitating of a player as he is, he occasionally shies away from contact and at times looks completely uninterested in the physical part of the game. Inconsistency has also plagued Moon through much of his career and he continues to run really hot and cold. This season, the talented forward posted only one goal, three assists in his first 11 games. Then, he went on a tear and posted 11 goals, 13 assists over the next 14. Historically Moon hits a drought mid-way through the season then finishes very strong. With that in mind, the remainder of this season will be telling of how much progression Moon has made as a prospect and whether or not the Penguins will sign him to a contract.