Photo: Defenseman Simon Despres was the 30th overall pick of the 2009 NHL Draft. Despres has split the 2013-14 season between the NHL and AHL. (courtesy of Jeanine Leech/Icon SMI)
The 2009 NHL off-season was one of the most important in Pittsburgh Penguins history as it marked their first Stanley Cup parade in over 15 years. The off-season also marked a major transition period for the Penguins as General Manager Ray Shero and his management team used the opportunity to rebuild the organization's then-barren defensive pool.
Photo: Brian Dumoulin is one of many talented young defensemen in the Penguins minor-league system. Dumoulin made his NHL debut on December 14th and played in six games before returning to the AHL. (courtesy of Abelimages/Getty)
The Pittsburgh Penguins currently lead the NHL in man games lost to injury and at one point were missing their entire top-four defensive unit. The team has not missed a beat, however, and currently leads the NHL's Eastern Conference with 63 points and 31 wins.
Photo: Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Tristan Jarry has been among the top goaltenders in the WHL this season. Through 23 starts, Jarry has a 15-7-0-1 record, a 1.98 goals against average, and a .923 save percentage. (courtesy of Marissa Baecker/Getty Images)
Over the past few years, the Pittsburgh Penguins have shown a proclivity for drafting mobile defensemen early and often out of the Canadian major junior leagues. That philosophy has shifted in the last two years however, and the organization now has focused on replenishing their goaltending and forward ranks.
Photo: Syracuse Crunch forward and Tampa Bay lightning prospect Nikita Kucherov is currently tied for second in goals with 13 so far in the 2013-14 AHL season (courtesy of Minas Panagiotakis/Icon SMI)
The AHL is nearly at the quarter-pole for the 2013-14 season, with most teams approaching the 20-game mark in their season. Teams are beginning to find their strengths and weaknesses, and some players – like Tyler Toffoli – have already been called up to their NHL affiliate.
Photo: Eric Hartzell is one of several promising goaltending prospects in the Pittsburgh Penguins system. Hartzell was signed as a free agent on April 14th, 2013. (courtesy of Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Pittsburgh Penguins front office has shown a preference for selecting mobile, puck-moving defensemen early and often in the NHL Draft. The organization believes puck-moving defensemen hold premium value in the NHL, and by having several with very high pedigree, they are in a position of strength.