WBS goalie Brad Thiessen. (photo by AFC Media)

Give it Up for Baby Pens

It looks like the future of the Pittsburgh Penguins is bright…and in good hands. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Pens are in the midst of one of the best regular season in American Hockey League history. They’ve captured the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy – think NHL’s Presidents’ Trophy – as the AHL’s top regular-season squad. WBS has 56 wins, which is a franchise record and the third highest total in AHL history.

When you consider the fact WBS has had a total of 11 players (including nine of its top 10 scorers) called up to play 140 games in Pittsburgh, this is quite an accomplishment. So, how did the Baby Pens do it?

Well, let’s start with coaching. In his first year as a pro bench boss, John Hynes won the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the league’s outstanding coach. At 36, Hynes is the youngest coach in the AHL. Let us not forget the team’s goaltending. Brad Thiessen won the Aldege “Baz” Bastien Memorial Award as the AHL’s top netminder. A second-year pro, Thiessen is 34-7-1 and ranks second in the league with a 1.93 GAA.

It’s no wonder the Pens didn’t miss a beat when hit hard by injuries this season. The minor-league call-ups were prepared, and they contributed. The importance of a strong minor-league system cannot be understated. An organization’s ability to develop talent is crucial to its success. It’s encouraging to see what the Baby Pens have accomplished as a team this season, and it’s even more encouraging to witness how the players have performed at the NHL level.

 With Dan Bylsma behind the bench in Pittsburgh and Marc-Andre Fleury between the pipes, it may be difficult for Hynes and Thiessen to get promoted from within. That’s a great problem to have, though. For now, let’s hope for their continued success in the AHL.

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