The Pittsburgh Penguins were drafting for character in the 2003 Draft. They selected gritty forwards
Ryan Stone, Jonathan Filewich, and Daniel Carcillo in the second and third rounds.
In the fourth round, 121st overall, they took Paul Bissonnette, the first
Penguins defenseman of the draft. He is a character player personified. Bissonnette could be the next Bob Boughner, and that is exactly what the Penguins need from their young players; leadership, hard work and toughness.
Last season was pretty good to Bissonnette. He finished seventh on his team, the
OHL Saginaw Spirit, in scoring with 23 points (7 goals and 16 assists) in 67 games and won a gold medal with Team Canada at the Under-18 World Championships. Those accomplishments aside, he is best known for earning MVP honors at the 2003 Top Prospects game where he was one assist shy of a
Gordie Howe hat trick. He scored a goal in the second period of the game and fought Calgary Flames prospect
Dion Phaneuf in the third period.
Bissonnette’s occasional scoring is nice, but he knows that he is not the second coming of Paul Coffey. Bissonnette describes his game very simply.
“(I’m a) defensive defenseman, just a character guy. Sacrifice for the team, things like that.”
Defensively, he is sound and that is the best aspect of his game, but like many young players, the area that needs the most improvement in Bissonnette’s game is his skating.
“Skating definitely. It’s got to come up to the next level, so I’ll be taking some steps forward to improving that.” Bissonnette plans to start with some power skating lessons this summer. “Oh yeah, for sure, this summer I’ll be doing that.”
Last year was a big change for Bissonnette when the North Bay Centennials moved to Saginaw and became the Spirit.
“It was great,” said Bissonnette of the move. “We had the same bunch of guys, so we didn’t have to adapt to new guys and meet new people. We were put into a better situation- the fans were unreal, and the facilities were amazing. I’d say it is one of the top three rinks in the OHL. They spent $15 million in renovations on it. The community is really involved, and our owner is great. The coach actually played for the Saginaw Gears in the IHL when they were in town. So, it’s a big involvement in the community–it’s awesome.”
Although the Spirit did not fare too well in the win column last year, Bissonnette has hope for the upcoming season playing on a younger, hungrier team.
“Yeah, we’re going to get a little bit younger, but, when you have young guys like that, they tend to want to do better; they want to compete better than an older guy who really isn’t going anywhere. It’s a development league, and that’s what they want to do, they want to get better. I say, as the season goes on, we’ll get better, definitely.”
Bissonnette may wear the “C” at some point down the road in Pittsburgh. It will be a few years before Penguin fans see him in black and gold, but he will be worth the wait.