Okay, let’s see, the Penguins have won 10 games in a row, they are now first overall in the Eastern conference, they are getting balanced scoring from all lines lately, Sidney Crosby has somewhere close to like 100 points during those 10 games, they have done this with a slightly banged up Evgeni Malkin who has missed the past couple of games and will most likely miss one more tomorrow, and we still have yet to see Jordan Staal. So, obviously, you should leave everything alone, right? No. Currently, the Penguins have a player down in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, their AHL minor league affiliate, who is putting up almost Crosby like numbers. Dustin Jeffrey, the Penguins’ 6th round draft pick in 2007 currently has 30 points in 24 games for the Baby Penguins including 10 in his last five. Jeffrey, who can play both Center and Left Wing, has had two call ups to the big club previously having played 14 games here in 08/09, and a one game cup of coffee last year. For most of these games, he was here as an injury replacement and only occasionally got anything above fourth line duty. The soon to be 23 year old is now starting to blossom as a first line player in WB/S, and it’s not like Jeffrey hasn’t shown signs of being able to put up numbers like this before. In 06/07, with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, he put up 92 points in 68 games and then he followed that up the next season with 97 points in only 56 while upping his +/- rating to a whopping +25. Of his 13 goals scored so far this season for the Baby Pens, four have come on the Power play and another four have come while short handed showing that the coaching staff believes in his defensive abilities enough to have him killing penalties as well.
After watching the Penguins’ last two games, yes both were wins and one was a blowout, and seeing what was being sent out as a second line (Talbot with Cooke and Asham), it does start to become a little amazing that the Penguins are winning the way they are. Of the three, maybe Fu Max Chu has the talent to be a top six forward, but surely the likes of Asham and Cooke are better served elsewhere in the lineup. If Jeffery continues to play at the pace he’s playing at now, I really can’t see how much longer they will be able to keep him down in the minors. One of the things that kept the Penguins from going after another top flight wing this past off season (Along with salary cap restrictions) was their hope that Eric Tangradi was finally ready to take the next step in his development. Well, obviously that did not work out as planned and currently Mr. Tangradi sits 11th in scoring for W-B/S with a whopping eight points in 18 games.
The Penguins are going to have to make some decisions on playing time when Malkin returns and even more when Staal returns in a couple of weeks so I’m sure they don’t need another one with trying to figure out what to do with Jeffrey, but how much better would a second line of Malkin/Talbot/Jeffrey look than what they are currently running out there? That would give them a third line of Staal/Cooke/Kennedy when Jordan returns and then have the option to choose between Asham, Adams, Rupp, Letestu, Conner and Goddard for a fourth line.
Here’s hoping that this is the last time we see Jeffrey’s hockey card with a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton logo on it instead of one that says Pittsburgh.