A Change in Strategy
Last year, the Pens took a North American born skater in the first round for the first time since 1996. Thsi year, they went even further. Not only did they take another North American in the first round (Canadian Colby Anderson), but they spent the majority of their picks this year on players from North America.
When the Pens pick came up at 21, they had numerous options available to them. A number of quality players with varing skillsets were ripe for the picking, whether it being a hard hitting defenseman (Jeff Woywitka), a large number of solid 2-way defensemen (Gleason, Popovic), and skilled European or North American forwards (Perezhogin, Polushin, Milroy). The Pens went a different direction, selecting Red Deer forward Colby “Cheese” Armstrong, a gritty 2-way forward who is an excellent skater with a nice scoring touch.
Armstrong is an admitted pest, saying “If you talk to most guys, they probably hate me here. But that’s probably a compliment.” His game is compared to current Maple Leaf Darcy Tucker or former NHL player Brent Sutter (who is also his current coach at Red Deer).
Armstrong scored 36 goals and 42 assists in 72 games with 152 PIM for the Memorial Cup winning Rebels this past season. He also scored 6 goals and 12 points in 21 WHL playoff games and a goal in 4 games in the Memorial Cup playoffs.
Capsules for the 2001 Draftees:
Colby Armstrong, RW
Red Deer (WHL)
Rd 1, Pick 21
Ranked #8 among North American skaters in the final CSB rankings. Strong skater with excellent lateral movement. Good hockey sense, plays a solid positional game. Solid playmaker and a natural scorer. Plays an agressive game. Able to be used in all situations.
72 games, 36 goals, 42 assists, 78 points, 152 PIM
Noah Welsh, D
St Sebastien’s (US High School)
Rd 2, Pick 54
Ranked #54 among North American skaters. 2-way defenseman with an edge to his play. Will make a check at every opportunity. Attending Harvard University in the fall. Helped his high school team with the New England Prep School Championships.
30 games, 11 goals, 20 assists, 31 points, 37 PIM
Drew Fata, D
St Mike’s (OHL)
Rd 3, Pick 86
Ranked #27 among North American skaters. Punishing defenseman who is sometimes too aggressive. Was named to the OHL’s All Rookie 2nd Team. Younger brother of Calgary Flames’ prospect Rico Fata.
58 games, 5 goals, 15 assists, 20 points, 134 PIM
Alexandre Rouleau, D
Val d’Or (QMJHL)
Rd 3, Pick 96
Physical presence on defense. Admires NJ defenseman Scott Stevens. Good lateral movement. Helped Val d’Or win the QMJHL championship and participated in the Memorial Cup
70 games, 8 goals, 17 assists, 25 points, 124 PIM
Tomas Surovy, RW
SKP Poprad (Slovakia)
Rd 4, Pick 120
19 year old that was passed up in last year’s draft. Played well in the Slovak Elite League this past season, coming in 2nd on his team in points and 10th in the league. Physical forward that likes to go to the net. Expected to spend another season in Europe.
50 games, 22 goals, 28 assists, 50 points, 30 PIM
Ben Eaves, C
Boston College (Hockey East)
Rd 4, Pick 131
Ranked #115 among Noth American skaters. Has excellent leg strength which makes up for the lack of size. Excellent vision, is always around the puck. Key player on the 2001 NCAA Championship team
34 games, 10 goals, 23 assists, 33 points, 10 PIM
Andy Schneider, D
Rd 5, Pick 156
Ranked #70 among North American skaters. Known for his physical style on the blue line, but the Pens envision him being a PP QB when he develops. One of the top goalscorers among defensemen in the USHL this past season. Heading to the University of North Dakota next season.
54 games, 12 goals, 24 assists, 36 points, 136 PIM
Tomas Duba, G
Sparta Junior (Czech)
Rd 7, Pick 216
Top ranked European goalie. Backstopped the past 2 Czech WJC teams to gold medals. Considered a late bloomer. Plays a mix of stand up and butterfly styles. Signed to play for SalPa Lapeenranta in Finland next season
16 games, 3.36 GAA
Rd 8, Pick 250
Not ranked by the Central Scouting Bureau. Long-term project. Played well for a very good defensive Texas team. Michigan State rumored among the schools recruiting him, but he seems to be leaning towards playing in Texas another year. Named to the NAHL ALl Rookie team and 2nd Teeam All-NAHL
42 games, 30-9-2, 2.60 GAA, .900 SvPct