Photo: Despite playing in only 10 games in 2011-12, Beau Bennett decided to sign an entry-level deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins, ending his NCAA career. In two seasons with Denver, Bennett managed 38 points in 47 games. (Photo courtesy of Patrick S. Blood/Icon SMI)
The Penguins have drafted heavily from the NCAA over the past several years, particularly in the mid-to-late rounds. The strategy makes sense, as it gives players who likely have glaring holes in their game more time to develop before the organization has to make a decision as to whether to sign them or not. The lighter NCAA schedule is also conducive to players who may take longer to physically mature.
The Wheeling Nailers, ECHL affiliate of the Pens, hired Alain Lemieux as
their new head coach replacing Murray Eaves (who is the brother of
former Pens asst. Mike Eaves).
Lemieux is, of course, the older brother of Pens owner Mario Lemieux.
Alain was the coach of the ECHL’s Jacksonville Lizard Kings last year
before they suspended operations at the end of the season.
The Pens also announced that they will be making more of an effort to
help the Nailers on and off the ice. The Pens signed a 5 year management agreement with Wheeling 2 yeaes ago, but interaction between the organizations has been limited the first 2 years because of off-ice bankruptcy problems with the Pens and the startup of their own AHL franchise last year. The Pens plan on sending 5 to 6
players to the Nailers this season, as opposed to the 1 player (Tom O’Connor) that they sent
each of the last 2.
They will also be doing some cross-promotions with Wheeling on their
The Pittsburgh Penguins signed 3 recent draft picks to contracts yesterday; 1998 2nd round pick Alexander Zevakhin, 1998 6th rounder Jan Fadrny, and 2000 9th round pick Roman Simicek.
Zevakhin, a 6-0 187 lb left winger, scored 1 goal in 15 games with CSKA this past season. His season was cut short by a seperated shoulder suffered during the World Jr Championships, where he scored 2 goals and 3 assists in the 5 games that he played for Russia. The deal was for 3 years, terms undisclosed.
Fadrny scored a team high 26 goals and 25 assists for Brandon (WHL) this past season. The 6-1 185 lb left wing scored 21 points in 45 games in his first season with Brandon. His deal will pay him 975,000 over the next 3 seasons should he make the NHL roster.
Simicek, 29, signed a 1 year deal worth 500,000 dollars. The Czech native played in the Finnish elite league last year with Hameenlinna, scoring 12 goals and 21 assists in 29 games and was recommended to the Pens by new head coach Ivan Hlinka. His season was cut short by a knee injury. He is expected to contend for a roster spot with the Pens this season, while Zevakhin and Fadrny are expected to start their professional careers in Wilkes-Barre Scranton of the AHL.
In the press conference announcing Ivan Hlinka as the new Pens head
coach, Ivan talked about needing to get a little bigger at both the
forward and defensive positions. It didn’t take very long for the new
coach to have an impact on the draft as the Pens stocked up on tough,
gritty, hard hitting players.
For only the 3rd time in the 11 drafts that Craig Patrick has presided
over, the Pens took a non-European player in the first round (the others: Chris Wells 94 and Craig Hillier 96) when they drafted hard
hitting Boston College defenseman Brooks Orpik with the 18th overall
selection. The Pens were so sure that Orpik would be drafted before
their selection that they didn’t even conduct a pre-draft interview with
him. The Pens, however, were thrilled that he was around to select as
he was a unanimous selection at the draft table.
The Pens have needed a strong physical defenseman ever since Ulf
Samuelsson was traded to the Rangers in 1995 and they could have that in
Orpik. His hard-hitting style is likely to make him an immediate fan
favorite. The Pens were sold on his talent at the NCAA Western Regional
Final when he was paired against #2 pick Dany Heatley.
Orpik still has two years left at Boston College and the Pens aren’t known
as a team that pressures kids to leave school early. Orpik seems to
love the college atmosphere and it’s a good bet he’ll stay at BC for at
least another year.