Where has Boris Protsenko gone?

By Richard A. Plisco
When the Pittsburgh Penguins drafted rugged winger Boris Protsenko in
the third round of the 1996 NHL entry draft they figured they had
recruited a top-notch power forward prospect. On his Tier II junior club
Boris notched 52 points in 47 games and backed up the offense with 199
penalty minutes. The Pens were banking on this young man to come into
his own as a close range sniper that was not afraid to grind in the
corners and along the boards. The Ukrainian was not to disappoint early,
compiling an impressive 229 points in 208 games with Calgary of the WHL.
Those same 3 seasons saw Boris chalk up 328 minutes in penalties. That
was early.

Boris was sent to Syracuse of the AHL, the former Penguins
developmental affiliate for the 1998-99 campaign. That season was the
beginning of the downward spiral. Playing with bigger, stronger
competition and the added pressure of being that much closer to the NHL
ranks, Boris began to flounder. He managed a mere 48 points in 65
appearances and his penalty minutes were a meager 84. The Penguins
carried Boris over to Wilkes-Barre’s roster for their debut season in
1999-00 and he produced even less. Protsenko put up a meager 36 points
in 64 contests and tallied a very non-aggressive 41 penalty minutes.

All was not lost however, as the Penguins invited the 5′-11″ 195lbs.
forward to the 2000 training camp with the hope that he would show a
glimmer of the potential the team had seen in the past. Protsenko was
there…his promising talent was not. Boris spent 48 games this season
with the Wheeling Nailers in the ECHL, which is as close to Siberia as a
Penguins prospect can be. On the Nailers roster, Boris had an
opportunity to work his way back up into the Penguins good graces.
Wheeling dressed a very aggressive young team that should have provided
Protsenko with the atmosphere conducive to a gritty winger that loves to
bang around in the trenches. Again, he came up short. Although his -25
plus/minus rating should be as no surprise considering the ECHL team’s
goaltenders can be likened to swiss cheese, his 26 points was shockingly
low. To compound the dilemma, he could only muster 42 penalty minutes,
ridiculously soft for a gentleman that once had the moniker of
“Ukrainian Nightmare”.

Surely, Protsenko will be on the guest list for Penguin training camp
2001-02, if only because of the presumed departure of Jagr and the
failures of Morozov. The Penguins will undoubtedly be searching for that
elusive power forward that they have sought for several seasons. Boris
will get an opportunity to earn an NHL job…one more shot to prove he
wants to thrive in the city of Pittsburgh and not fly home to Kiev.