Center Mark Letestu is not a player whose regarded as being in the Penguins long-term plans or even considered one of the organizations top 10 prospects.
Letestu though has the confidence of head coach Dan Bylsma which can go a long way. His ability on face-offs along with some offensive ability has caught the eye of Penguins mangement. He reminds one member of the Penguins organization of Mike Zigomanis but with higher upside.
Letestu was 9-for-16 on draws against the Blackhawks and drew the assignment of going up against John Madden at 18:21 of the third period in what led to Jordan Staal’s game tying goal.
Letestu’s stay in Pittsburgh will be short as Sidney Crosby expected to return to the lineup by Thursday night but Pittsburgh likes the fact that he’s a right handed centerman as Craig Adams has struggled this season on draws. Letestu could groom into a role player down the road for the Penguins.
*Winger Chris Kunitz has been targeting this week to get back on the ice and practice. A source close to Kunitz says his return may not be until Mid-December at the earliest.
*The Sergei Gonchar to the KHL rumors are already making the rounds but that’s not coming from Gonchar’s camp. Gonchar’s focus is playing in the NHL and remaining on the East coast.
Pittsburgh remains highly optimistic they will make progress on a deal in Janaury when J.P. Barry and Ray Shero are expected to sit down for their first set of substantive contract talks since September.
Although a home-town discount is not on the table, at least that’s the word coming from Gonchar’s camp, all talk about Gonchar likely testing free agency is premature right now until Barry and Shero meet in Janaury.
Potential star defenseman in the ranks?
Over the past couple years, we have seen a number of young defensemen come into the league and make immediate impacts.
Pittsburgh could have one on their hands in 2009 1st round pick Simon Despres.
The Penguins had Despres rated as high as No. 13 prospect on their draft board and team scouts I’ve talked too in recent weeks continue to hint that Despres could play in the NHL as early as next season, although Pittsburgh doesn’t plan to rush him and why would they.
The 18 year old defenseman has 17 points in 27 games for the Saint John Sea Dogs of the QMJHL.
The development of Despres and Robert Bortuzzo, the Penguins No. 2 rated defenseman prospect, will play a factor into personnel decisions moving forward.
Both are projected by team scouts to be NHL ready by 2011 at the latest.
Olympics concern members of the organization
The growing consensus from team officials is that the only thing that could derail the Penguins chances of getting back to the Stanley Cup is the Olympics.
With star players like Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Sergei Gonchar slated to play key roles for their respective countries, the second half of the NHL season is going to be a grind.
Members of the Red Wings organization still claim the 2006 Olympics derailed their chances in the 2006 playoffs when the Red Wings were the No. 1 seed and lost in the first round.