Friday, September 23, 2011

Heading To The AHL

It didn’t take long for the Pittsburgh Penguins to send Simon Despres to the American Hockey League.

Despres, along with former Sea Dogs defenseman and captain Alex Grant, were among the 11 players assigned to the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre-Scranton Penguins today. 42 players – 13 of them defensemen – remain at Penguins training camp.

Comments from Pens fans is that that Despres didn’t have the greatest camp this year. Despite that, it is still a surprise to see him sent down so early. This is a defenseman that was among the final cuts at Pens camp a year ago.

Is it a step back?  Not necessarily- a lot of fan reports said Despres didn't look like an NHL defenseman in early camp, and that's natural.  He's a 20 year old playing arguably the toughest position in defense to make a transition from junior to pros.  
And that aside, the Pens defensive depth is absolutely stacked.  The top four players are set and Matt Niskanen, Deryk Engelland, Ben Lovejoy and Alex Picard are battling out to join the lineup and roster.  That doesn't include Boris Valabik and Robert Bortuzzo, currently injured and also Brian Strait.  All of the above have an incredible amount more of experience than the young and green Despres. 
So this isn't the worst thing in the world- Despres will get a full AHL camp in, learn the ropes there and work on his game. 
Despres had 13 goals and 28 assists in 47 games with Saint John last year. He also won a silver medal with Team Canada at the World Junior Hockey Championships, was named the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s top defenseman, and don’t forget about the shorthanded goal he scored in the Memorial Cup final.

Along with Grant and Despres, a couple of other former Sea Dogs will be heading to AHL camps.

Goaltender Karel St. Laurent, who was a free agent invite to Vancouver Canucks rookie camp, is heading to Chicago Wolves camp.

“Flying tomorrow to Chicago,” he tweeted Wednesday.  “Going to the Chicago Wolves (AHL) camp. It was an amazing journey here in Vancouver! Enjoyed every second of it!”

“I will miss Vancouver for sure! Excited though for the Wolves camp. Thank you Canuck fans for all the encouragement, you guys are the best.”

St. Laurent played quite well for the Canucks at the Penticton Young Stars Tournament.

The Winnipeg Jets also sent Sea Dogs all-time leading scorer, Michael Kirkpatrick, to the AHL’s St. John’s IceCaps. Kirkpatrick had 31 goals and 51 assists in 63 games with the Sea Dogs last year.

The IceCaps finally unveiled their jerseys on Thursday. They feature a Mary Brown’s Chicken advertisement on the upper right side. 

Well done, IceCaps.

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