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Prospect Watch

Two months into a season is a good time to assess talent and trends, and as the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins season enters its third month, December is a good time to check out the talent on the farm.

Brad Thiessen (G)
Thiessen has been making a name for himself as a part of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The current No. 1 goaltender for the Baby Pens, Thiessen has started 13 games this season for the Pittsburgh Penguins’ AHL affiliate. He is 9-3 on the season, including two shutouts. So far, he’s notched a 2.17 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage.

In a total of 44 appearances during the 2010-2011 season, Thiessen posted a 34-8-1 record.  Thiessen ranked first in the AHL with his franchise-record 34 wins during the season, second with a 1.94 goals-against average, ninth with a .922 save percentage and tied for first with seven shutouts while helping the Penguins to the top-ranked defense in the AHL. Along with his amazing stat line in 2011, Thiessen was named to the first-team all-star team for the AHL.

Although the Pens rely on Marc-Andre Fleury and solid back-up goaltender, Brent Johnson, Thiessen has a bright future ahead of him. At only 25 years old, Thiessen has a chance to possible make Johnson expendable next fall and move up to the NHL consistently.

Simon Despres (D)
Despres is a first-year professional for the Baby Pens. At only 20 years-old, Despres has played in 15 games this season, notching three goals and two assists.

Despres’ upside lies within his size, speed and smart decision making with the puck. Hockey’s Future, a prominent NHL prospect website, states that Despres’ potential comes from his fluid, powerful skating. He does not take many risks offensively; however, his shot has improved significantly over the last few seasons.

While Despres doesn’t have the extreme defensive or physical capabilities as someone like Brooks Orpik, nor the phenomenal offensive prowess like Kris Letang, he does have incredible potential to become a force within the Pittsburgh blue line over the next few seasons due to his size and speed.

Eric Tangradi (F)
Eric Tangradi is one of the more prominent figures on the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins. Tangradi, a 22 year-old standing tall at 6-4 and weighing 225 lbs., is the prototypical power-forward the NHL is always looking for. In 12 games this season in the AHL, Tangradi has seven goals and five assists and is among team leaders in both categories.

Hockey’s Future analyzes Tangradi as using his size and potentially explosive speed in becoming a prominent prospect in the AHL. His greatest strength is his front-of-the-net presence, using his large frame to place himself in front of the goalie and be a force in front of the goal. Combined with a high hockey I.Q., Tangradi exploits every aspect of the game he can in order to further his physical advantage over other players. In the past, Tangradi is not afraid to drop the gloves, get physical for his team and stick up for teammates.

Tangradi has been back and forth between the AHL and NHL sporadically and is seen as someone the Pittsburgh Penguins can currently bring up in place of injured starting players. Some feel he has been slow to progress; however, due to his play in the AHL, Tangradi still appears to have a bright future ahead of him.

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