Aleksey Morozov, the 6’1″ 180lb winger, who scored a mere 19 points (9+10) last year, is finally showing the flashes of brilliance Pittsburgh had hoped he would. Now, just 8 games into a brand new season, Aleksey already has 6 points (3+3) to show for his efforts. So what’s changed? The moment he hits the ice it’s all about finding the net. Defenders be warned however, Aleksey’s not as easy to shake off a puck as he used to be. Brilliant puck handling, incredible speed, and world of desire and determination are turning this young forward into a rising star. It’s not yet certain whether Aleksey has the ability to become a complete player, but he is definitely heading in the right direction. In the meantime, the Penguins organization and it’s fans are in for a real treat. The keys to a successful season for Morozov will be concentration and health. Currently, Pittsburgh anxiously awaits his return from an injury sustained in a game against Los Angeles last week.
The Pittsburgh Penguins headed out on a 4 day/3 game West Coast road trip with the intention of shaking off a few cob webs and reestablishing their presence in the NHL. Instead, they discovered the California clubs had a different game plan in mind. If there was any way they could take advantage of the Penguins stagnant start, the Ducks, Kings, and Sharks would do so…and that’s exactly what they did.
First stop Anaheim. On Wednesday, October 27th, the Penguins skated away with a decent performance against the Mighty Ducks despite the lack of key players: Barasso, Slegr, Kasparaitis and Hrdina, and a 2-1 loss in overtime. The highlight came when Teemu Selanne challenged Jean-Sebastian Aubin to a penalty shot. The young netminder did however stand his ground, made the save, and had an overall impressive evening.
Los Angeles, on the other hand, proved itself to be an even greater foe than it’s inner state rivals, the Ducks. What seemed to be Pittsburgh’s night, soon turned into a nightmare. With a mere 26 seconds left of the first period, Aubin was forced out by a hamstring injury. By the third period the Penguins had totally lost control of the game, facing a barrage of Kings goals in a span of less than 3 minutes. Sean O’Donnell, Luc Robitaille and Glen Murray scored to lead their squad to a 5-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
With the first step to financial recovery finally behind them, the Penguins began a new era with the draft on Saturday. None of their draft picks this season are expected to save the franchise like player-turned-owner Mario Lemieux did, but nonetheless, there could be a couple of impact players in this draft for the Penguins.
The Penguins seemed to make an attempt to fill some needs, such as their lack of depth on the left side and lack of size on the blueline. They drafted one goaltender, three defensemen, and seven forwards (six left wings, one right wing). Three picks came from Europe, two from the OHL, two from the ECAC, and one from each of the QMJHL, WHL, WCHA, and USHL.
Here’s a look at their draft picks this year:
1: Konstantin Kolstov, LW(1st Round, 18th overall)
Vitals: 6’0″ 187lbs 18 years old
Stats: Cherepovec (Russia) 33 Games, 3G-0A-3PTS 8PIM.
Belarus (WJC) 6 Games, 4G-3A-7PTS 30PIM.
Belarus (U-18) 5 Games, 5G-2A-7PTS.
A wild card who was unknown until the World Junior Championships, Kolstov is touted as the best skater in the draft with good speed and acceleration, some even go as far to say that he is faster than Pavel Bure. He is a good puckhandler and has shown his offensive skills in international tournaments, despite his low numbers in the Russian Elite League. He’s probably at least two years away and will spend at least all of next season in Russia.
2: Matt Murley, LW – (2nd Round, 51st overall)
With the Penguins out of the playoffs and straight into bankruptcy court, Pittsburgh fans are left wondering if there will be another season of NHL hockey in Pittsburgh. Will they be moved to another city, disbanded by the league, or will they come through this for the second time in team history. With a court date not scheduled until June 24th, the Penguins future may not be known until the draft is right upon us. But, if they do survive to play another season, look for some salary cutting to occur.
The draft will be the first offseason test for the Penguins, as they will not be doing much in the way of trades and signing until the bankruptcy situation is settled. As with any team, the Penguins will probably pick the best player available with their first few picks. The speculation always seems to be that they will go to Europe, most likely the Czech Republic, with their first pick. But, I wouldn’t count on that happening. At the 18th spot, there will likely be better talent than another Czech player. Three players who should be given a serious look by the Penguins are Barrett Heisten, Jeff Jillson, and Alexander Buturlin, all three should be available at the 18th pick and are solid picks. Jillson and Heisten are both aggressive and could privide some much needed toughness, Buturlin is creative and highly skilled. The Penguins could definitely use some depth atleft wing as well as some size on the blueline.
April 27th, 1999
The playoffs are starting to wind down for most of the Penguins prospects, and most are done for the season. The NCAA tournaments are complete and the Syracuse Crunch finished with one of the worst records ever in AHL history. Canadian Major Junior hockey is in the finals of each league’s playoffs and only one Pittsburgh draftee has survived to that point, Joel Scherban of the London Knights. In the IHL, the Conference Semi-Finals are about to begin and only Robert Dome of the Houston Aeros is still playing.
In the OHL, the London Knights have surprised everyone by knocking off top-ranked Plymouth in the second round, then pulling off another upset of Owen Sound in the Conference Finals. Joel Scherban, a seventh round pick of the Penguins, is finishing off his second OHL season strong. After being injured for all but a handful of games in his draft year, he ended this season with 54 points in 68 games and is continuing to do well in the playoffs. He scored two goals in the last game of the Owen Sound series and has five goals and ten assists total.