Penguins scout Mark Kelley critiques the team’s WJC players

By Simon Richard

The Pittsburgh Penguins had many prospects at last year’s WJC, including the 2003 first overall selection Marc-Andre Fleury. This year they had five prospects at the tournament, including second overall 2004 selection Evgeni Malkin, Czech defenseman Lukas Bolf (2003, 6th round), Canadian forward Stephen Dixon (2003, 7th round), Swedish forward Johannes Salmonsson (2004, 2nd round) and American defenseman Alex Goligoski (2004, 2nd round).

Hockey’s Future recently spoke to Pittsburgh European scout Mark Kelley at the tournament. His comments on Malkin can be found in the Q&A with Malkin.

HF: What do you think about Johannes Salmonsson so far in the tournament?

MK: He is having a really good tournament. I saw him play in November [four Nations Tournament in Sweden] and there were talks that the coach may be down on him a little bit. But he has come over here and is playing very well. He works very hard. He’s been very effective on the forecheck, going to the net. He forces things to happen.

HF: Is he very far from the NHL?

MK: He is only 18 years old. He’s got another year in this tournament. I think that the way he is progressing, the best thing for him is in Europe next year and see how he does next year in this tournament. There is no sense in rushing him. The problem right now in Sweden for these kind of kids is that there are so many NHL players that these kids who would normally play regularly in the first division aren’t. You have the same problem in Finland, the Czech Republic and Russia too. When the lockout is over, it will be a good thing for Salmonsson because he will have more ice time.

HF: What about Dixon?

MK: He is playing the same way he did last year in this tournament. What we really like about Stephen is that he came with this team leading his [Cape Breton] team in points but he came here knowing the role he had to play for Team Canada. He plays his role. He checks, he works hard and kills penalties. That is the kind of role he is going to have to play in the NHL.

HF: And Bolf?

MK: I think that he is having a very strong tournament. He makes really good decisions. He moves the puck. I think that what he is giving to the Czechs is a lot of steady minutes. He doesn’t make a lot of mistakes out there.

HF: Talk about Goligoski.

MK: The last game [against the Czechs in the round robin] was his best game in the tournament so far. This is his first experience in USA Hockey. He may be trying a little bit too much. He is a very gifted offensive player. He can move the puck and he can skate. He has great instincts to create offensive opportunities from the point. We think that so far his development is unbelievable. We drafted him on the second round and were very high on him. When we heard that he was considered by USA Hockey to make the national junior team it didn’t really surprise us, but it did in some ways by the fact that he has never been involved in USA hockey before, in the summer camp, the Under-18 or any other teams.

HF: Finally, overall the Penguins must be proud of the team’s prospects in the organization?

MK: We look at what is going on right now in Wilkes-Barre and this team is having a very good year. We like to think that the players who are playing are strong prospects. It is a good situation for Pittsburgh because we are rebuilding and retooling and we think that we are not far away.

Simon Richard is the author of La Serie du siecle, Septembre 1972, a book about the Summit Series published in 2002.
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