Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Player Recaps: Guys That Played In 1-20 Games (including Kovalev and Neal)

As promised, I am now going to start the recap of each player that got in to at least 1 game for the Penguins this year. The nice part of this season was that the team got a chance to see what was in the cupboard with so much injury time. I"m not doing anything incredibly in depth. If you want to see their detailed stats and things of that nature just go to the Penguins website or something. My template will cover the basics: games played, the highs, the lows, additional comments, and the future. All photos are courtesy of Yahoo! Sports or Getty Images.

Name: Corey Potter
Position: D
Games Played: 1

The Highs: Corey made it back to the NHL, playing in his 9th career game.

The Lows: Played in only 1 game, which surely disappointed him.

Additional Comments: Potter showed a strong fire in preseason camp. He leveled a forward in a team scrimmage I was at. I can't remember who it was, but it was an NHLer. This is risky because you don't want to hurt your own guys, but he was demonstrating his willingness to do what it takes.

The Future: Potter is 27, so the fact that he hasn't caught on at the NHL level is a concern. He won't get his break here as the team has a glut of defenseman at both the pro and minor league levels. Hopefully he will get his shot. If not, there's no real shame in earning a living in the AHL or any other hockey league around the world. He is capable of playing for pay somewhere.

Name: Brian Strait
Position: D
Games Played: 3

The Highs: Strait saw his first NHL action after 2 season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

The Lows: Strait looked a bit nervous here and there, but can hardly be blamed.

Additional Comments: Strait had a successful career with Boston University previous to joining the Penguins organization.

The Future: Strait has the potential to be a Ben Lovejoy type. He will likely need some roster movement to get that chance here. Personally, I would keep him in the fold of defenseman at the minor league level for as long as possible in case he is needed.

Name: Nick Johnson
Position: RW
Games Played: 4

The Highs: Had a goal and 2 assists in his time with the Pens.

The Lows: Suffered a concussion and went on IR 2/18/2011.

Additional Comments: Johnson has decent size at 6'2", 202 lbs

The Future: With the potential departure of so many forwards this off season, Johnson may have a shot at a roster spot next season IF he works his tail off and proves a willingness to do what it takes to make the club.

Name: Andrew Hutchinson
Position: D
Games Played: 5

The Highs: Saw his first NHL action since the 2008-09 season.

The Lows: Wasn't particularly much so that I forgot he saw action.

Additional Comments: Has played in 140 career games.

The Future: Hutchinson is 31 so it is likely his shot at NHL regularity has passed him by. I wish him the best in whatever chances he gets though.

Name: Ryan Craig
Position: C
Games Played: 6

The Highs: Had 12 PIMs against the New York Islanders in the brawl game.

The Lows: Didn't seem to handle the defensive responsibilities well with a -3.

Additional Comments: Was willing to drop the mitts on more than one instance.

The Future: He's played in 190 career NHL games, so his limiatations are pretty well known at this point. Will continue to be a fringe guy unless he catches on with a team that is need of a player of this mold.

Name: Brett Sterling
Position: LW
Games Played: 7

The Highs: Had a 5 game point scoring streak from 2/10 to 2/20. Also had 12 PIMs vs the Islanders in the brawl game.

The Lows: His size at 5'7".

Additional Comments: Has played in 26 career NHL games.

The Future: He has the desire, but his size likely limits his chances. He handled himself well in his time with the Pens.

Name: Tim Wallace
Position: RW
Games Played: 7

The Highs: Stepped up to fight then Washington Capital David Steckel to stand up for the somewhat questionable hit on Sidney Crosby in the Winter Classic.

The Lows: Didn't fare well on the score sheet.

Additional Comments: He is from Anchorage, Alaska.

The Future: I have a bias towards Wallace, I love the intangibles he brings to the table (does not back down ever). If there is a mass exodus of forwards, would like to see him compete for a spot near the bottom of the lineup.

Name: Joe Vitale
Position: C
Games Played: 9

The Highs: Scored 1st NHL goal 2/16 at Colorado.

The Lows: Hard to cite anything in particular, but it is evident why he did not make the pros until now.

Additional Comments: Is a native of St. Louis, Missouri

The Future: Management was impressed with Vitale's work ethic by all accounts. He will likely get a shot as a 4th liner somewhere in this league based on his time up this past season.

Name: Eric Tangradi
Position: RW
Games Played: 15

The Highs: Created a screen of Tampa G Dwayne Roloson on the Pens only Power Play Goal of the playoffs.

The Lows: Suffered a concussion at the hands of the construction worker from the Village People in the Islander brawl game.

Additional Comments: Scoring only 1 goal in the regular season is a real concern.

The Future: Tangradi has the size at 6'4", 221lbs. He has the ability and desire to be around the net. The question mark will be his hands. Hate to put too much pressure on the guy, but in theory if he's not a 20 goal guy next season, it may be time to worry. Some have already suggest that if another team calls about him, GM Ray Shero should not hesitate to make a move if it serves the Pens needs.

Name: Matt Niskanen
Position: D
Games Played: 18 (with Pittsburgh)

The Highs: Played exceptionally well 3/2 against Toronto with 1 goal and 1 assist.

The Lows: Nearly every shift he took was a turnover or anxious moment late in the season.

Additional Comments: Has already developed the nickname "Riskanen" due to his substandard play.

The Future: He is a $1.5 million cap hit so if he is around he will see some form of playing time. The team is hoping he can live up to his status as a former 1st round draft pick. To do that, Niskanen has to be confident in his handling of the puck and possibly pared with a steadier partner than Ben Lovejoy. It may do him well to be with a Brooks Orpik or Zbynek Michalek.

Name: Eric Goddard
Position: RW
Games Played: 19

The Highs: Goddard will be remembered as one of the best enforcers in Penguins history. Unlike Georges Laraque, he didn't take no for an answer. Ever.

The Lows: Served an automatic 10 game suspenstion for leaving the bench to come to the aid of G Brent Johnson during the Islander brawl game.

Additional Comments: Was held in high esteem by teammates by all accounts. Wore outlandish suits and generally helped keep the mood light when not in the lineup. Will be missed by anyone that "knows" the game.

The Future: Will almost certainly not be retained after free agency starts July 1. KHL teams have already expressed interested, at the very least.

Name: Alexei Kovalev
Position: RW
Games Played: 20 (with Pittsburgh)

The Highs: He scored his 1,000th point in the NHL this season (while with Ottawa), becoming the 3rd Russian born player to reach that milestone.

The Lows: 5 minor penalties and a -3 in the playoffs.

Additional Comments: Looked like a shell of himself. I had taken to calling him "Ghost of Kovalev", which is a play off of a nickname I had for another former Russian star at the end of his career, Sergei Fedorov.

The Future:  All signs point to Kovy returning to Russia to play in the KHL. I do thank him for his time here in the past. It just didn't work the 2nd time around.

Name: James Neal
Position: LW
Games Played: 20 (with Pittsburgh)

The Highs: Scored in the 2nd OT of Game 4 against Tampa to give the Penguins a 3-1 series lead.

The Lows: His scoring drought lead some to call him "James Ponikarovsky".

Additional Comments: Often times he was counted on to carry the puck too much. This does not appear to be his strength.

The Future: Hopefully will get to be paired with Malkin or Crosby, and he can just get to an open spot on the ice and use his lethal shot to score goals instead of hitting goalies in the logo.

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