Alex Grant, D – Saint John Sea Dogs
Acquired: 4th round, 118th overall, 2007
Grant sustained a concussion in the off-season and as a result was unable to properly contribute at the Penguins rookie tournament in Kitchener. After being reassigned to the Saint John Sea Dogs, Grant posted five points in his first four games and picked up defensive player of the week honors for Oct. 6-12. The good times continued for Grant as the Penguins signed him to an entry-level contract on Oct. 27. Because of his point shot, Grant has been mainstay on Saint John’s power play. His right-handedness makes him particularly intriguing. The Sea Dogs’ captain however is not a one-dimensional player as he willingly engages in rough play and does not back down from physical confrontations. Most recently, the slick defenseman participated in the 2008 ADT Russia Canada Game. He has 18 points in 19 games from the back line.
Keven Veilleux, RW – Rimouski Oceanic
Acquired: 2nd round, 51st overall, 2007
After the Penguins rookie tournament in Kitchener, Veilleux was invited to NHL training camp. Among the first wave of cuts, Veilleux returned to the QMJHL where he posted 20 points in 17 games. The numbers do not tell the whole story as the rangy winger has diversified his skill package, winning 54 percent of his draws, throwing body checks, and blocking shots. The tall winger’s season was interrupted though when he sustained a right shoulder injury in the middle of November. With a great deal of inflammation still in his shoulder and a surgery due in the next month, Veilleux will be on the shelf for a good chunk of the season.
Joey Haddad, RW – Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
Acquired: signed as undrafted free-agent in October of 2008
The Penguins CHL prospect who hung around training camp the longest, after a strong performance as an invite at the Kitchener rookie tournament, Haddad was invited to NHL training camp, then assigned to the Penguins AHL training camp. In the first week of October, Haddad signed an entry-level deal before and was then sent back to the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles. The power forward struggled to find his scoring touch upon returning to the QMJHL. However, in a game against Baie-Comeau on Oct. 26, Haddad posted four points, and now has eight goals, seven assists in 12 games.
Casey Pierro-Zabotel, LW – Vancouver Giants
Acquired: 3rd round, 80th overall, 2007
The off-season workouts and mandate to build more muscle has given Casey Pierro-Zabotel an explosive start to his first full season playing for the Vancouver Giants of the WHL. After participating in the Penguins’ rookie tournament in Kitchener, the tall forward was invited to the Penguins main training camp. Sent back to the WHL in the first wave of training camp cuts, he exploded out of the gates with 25 points in his first 12 games. Amid the streak, Pierro-Zabotel was named WHL player of the week for Sept. 28 to Oct. 5. Drafted as a center, Pierro-Zabotel now plays left wing alongside WHL scoring sensation Evander Kane and is now tied for fifth in league scoring, with 35 points in 23 games. The Kamloops native has become a more complete player in his second season in the WHL, logging regular power-play minutes and appearing on the positive side of the plus/minus sheet with regularity.
Nathan Moon, C – Kingston Frontenacs
Acquired: 4th round, 120th overall, 2008
The Penguins first pick of the 2008 draft, Nathan Moon was sensational to start the season, posting 18 points in his first 15 games before suffering a shoulder injury Oct. 30 against the Brampton Battalion. After missing three games Moon returned to the Frontenacs lineup and has continued to be offensively productive. He now has 23 points in 21 games. The right-handed forward has excelled with an increased workload, chipping in goals on both special teams. In addition to his offensive abilities, Moon has dropped the gloves once and amassed a variety of roughing, slashing, and tripping calls.
Patrick Killeen, G – Brampton Battalion
Acquired: 6th round, 180th overall, 2008
After allowing 19 goals in his first five starts, all losses, and posting a GAA just south of four, Killeen’s season was off to a rocky start. The 6’4 netminder then proceeded to allow only 13 goals in his next seven starts, all wins. Currently playing in a goalie platoon with OHL rookie Brandon Foote, the tall and rangy netminder will likely split starts for the rest of the season, as the Battalion settle into a comfortable lead in their division. Overall, in 13 games Killeen has a .878 save percentage and 3.00 GAA.
Jake Muzzin, D – Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Acquired: 5th round, 141st overall, 2007
The physical defenseman has seen increased responsibilities and success with a Greyhounds team that has at times struggled. Picking up minutes left by defensive prospect Andrew Campbell and Josh Godfrey (WAS), Muzzin has almost as many points in his first 21 games than in all of his 2007-08 season. On top of his increased point production (half a point a game with 11 in 22 games), the 6’3 defenseman has become a more complete player with increased responsibilities on both special teams. Muzzin continues to assert himself physically, already dropping the gloves in a one-sided bout with St. Louis Blues prospect Philip McRae and delivering a fair share of bone-crunching checks. Muzzin remains one of the only members of the Penguins 2007 draft class who has yet to be offered an entry-level contract. With several months of hockey left to play in the OHL though, Muzzin’s focus will be on having a successful third year in juniors before he can set his eyes on the next goal.
Robert Bortuzzo, D – Kitchener Rangers
Acquired: 3rd round, 78th overall, 2007
With the Penguins blessing, on Aug. 26, defenseman Robert Bortuzzo underwent surgery to repair his right shoulder. Although the shoulder bothered him for over two years, the hard-nosed defenseman played trough the pain. A separation experienced during the 2007-08 OHL finals exposed several torn muscles around his right shoulder and surgery was considered the best solution. While his recovery was initially projected at around a month, no formal timetable was set and Bortuzzo has yet to play a game in his third OHL season.