The Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins (10-7-0) are surging, defeating the Toronto Marlies 2-1 on Saturday night at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. A power play goal by Riley Holzapfel (5) with 2:49 left in regulation was the difference in the game. Simon Despres (2) also scored in the win.
Wilkes Barre is 8-2-0 in their last ten games and have won four straight at home.
Rebounding from an 0-4 start, the story of the season so far for Wilkes Barre has been the play of No. 1 netminder Jeff Zatkoff who the Penguins targeted this past summer from the Los Angeles Kings farm system, an organization that boast a deep group of goaltenders. Still just 25 years old, have the Penguins found a young NHL caliber goaltender they have lacked to develop in their system behind Marc Andre Fleury?
Zatkoff at 6-foot-2, 180-pounds, doesn’t have great lateral quickness but he’s a butterfly type goaltender who scouts rave about his ability to square on shooters. One evaluator I spoke with who has seen Zatkoff often since last season, expressed confidence in Zatkoff emergering as a dependable No. 2 caliber NHL goaltender, when asked. As John Curry and Brad Thiessen have flopped to become NHL caliber goaltenders in previous years, the Penguins made a priority during the 2012 draft of replenishing their system at the goaltending position, drafting Matthew Murray in the 3rd round and Sean Maguire in the 4th round, but they still desperately need a young goaltender in their mid-20’s to develop into a No. 2 goaltender that the team had hoped in the past with Thiessen and Curry.
When the NHL returns the Penguins could have one of the NHL’s best goaltending tandems in Marc Andre Fleury and Tomas Vokoun but it’s likely a short-term tandem as Vokoun will be 37 for the start of next season.
Zatkoff tonight made 31 saves on 32 shots to earn his seventh win in eight games. Zatkoff is now 8-5-0 on the season with an impressive 1.62 goals against average and a .938 save percentage. Of goaltenders who have appeared in at least 500 minutes, Zatkoff ranks 1st in AHL in GAA.