Penguins Unveil 2010-11 Roster, Four Freshmen Make the Cut

The Pittsburgh Penguins concluded training camp and revealed their opening night roster for the 2010-11 season on Wednesday, a very respectable crop of players which includes no less than four promising youngsters experiencing full-time NHL duty for the first time in their careers.

Left winger Eric Tangradi, centerman Mark Letestu, and defensemen Deryk Engelland and Ben Lovejoy all made the team, giving the Penguins a youth quartet to be reckoned with to go along with their collection of seasoned veterans. While Tangradi and Lovejoy were legitimate pre-season favorites to crack the roster, Letestu and Engelland were rewarded for excellent showings during camp, Letestu’s spot partly thanks to Jordan Staal’s battered foot emerging as a storyline once again. Letestu was one of (if not the biggest) surprises, producing points during exhibition play at a staggering rate, to the point where it was simply inconceivable not to pencil him in the lineup on October 7th and onward. Tangradi, a former World Junior Championship standout for the United States, impressed the Pens’ brass with his lethal combination of bruising physical play with soft hands and a deft scoring touch, honed in the Ontario Hockey League with the Belleville Bulls. Tangradi also had a brief taste of the NHL last season, suiting up in Pittsburgh’s regular season finale against the New York Islanders.

The Penguins’ final cut was a difficult one to say the least, as Simon Despres, the team’s first-round draft choice (30th overall) in 2009, was assigned to the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Despite having an outstanding performance throughout camp, the Pens’ logjam on the back end worked against him, along with his age and the opportunity for further development playing top-pairing minutes in junior, rather than limited icetime on a high-quality pro roster. Consider Despres to be a safe bet to suit up for the big club a year from now. Head Coach Dan Bylsma commented on the understandably tough decision to send Despres back to the “Q”:

"One of the factors for Simon was if he was going to be in our opening night roster and what’s the best situation for him and for our team. Given our opening night roster and given the makeup of our defense, there’s not a lot of minutes available for Simon. And he’s done a lot of good things, but making a mistake would create a situation that I’m not sure is good for Simon’s development. And I’m not sure sticking around and not playing is best for his development."

The Penguins also announced a new addition to the club’s leadership group, naming Brooks Orpik as the team’s newest alternate captain, replacing Sergei Gonchar, who signed with the Ottawa Senators as an unrestricted free agent during the summer.

The final 23-man roster for opening night is listed below. Of note, Tangradi was assigned to Pittsburgh’s East Coast Hockey League affiliate, the Wheeling Nailers, but the move was purely paperwork-related. He will be in the lineup when the Penguins officially christen their new home, the CONSOL Energy Center, and drop the puck on the new season on Thursday night.

* = Rookie
** = Off-Season Acquisition

F Craig Adams
F Arron Asham**
F Mike Comrie**
F Matt Cooke
F Sidney Crosby “C”
F Pascal Dupuis
D Deryk Engelland*
G Marc-Andre Fleury
F Eric Godard
D Alex Goligoski
G Brent Johnson
F Tyler Kennedy
F Chris Kunitz
D Kris Letang
F Mark Letestu*
D Ben Lovejoy*
F Evgeni Malkin “A”
D Paul Martin**
D Zbynek Michalek**
D Brooks Orpik “A”
F Mike Rupp
F Jordan Staal “A” (Injured Reserve, Not on Active Roster)
F Maxime Talbot
F Eric Tangradi*