Penguins Preview: Is Maxime Talbot's Setback a Gain for Janne Pesonen?

Sergey ZikovSenior Analyst IJuly 9, 2009

TORONTO - SEPTEMBER 26:  Janne Pesonen #20 of the Pittsburgh Penguins warms up prior to their preseason NHL game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre on September 26, 2008 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Penguins defeated Leafs 5-4.  (Photo By Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

Only a month ago, Penguins forward Maxime Talbot played the role every young hockey player dreams about. Scoring the game-winning goal in Game Seven of the Stanley Cup Finals.

A couple days later, A&L Motors' superstar stood before the entire city of Pittsburgh and told everyone that "it was the best day of my life."

Only a few days ago, however, Talbot went through surgery at UPMC on his left shoulder. An injury that well set him back several months, forcing him to miss the first couple months of the 2009-10 regular season.

If nobody else noticed, that leaves a glaring hole on Evgeni Malkin's right side. Talbot had also done very well for himself during the playoffs, playing alongside Malkin and Ukrainian winger Ruslan Fedotenko.

Who can replace a Stanley Cup Game Seven hero?

If you text that question to 242242, or otherwise known as "ChaCha, the Mobile Answering Service," it would take them a few seconds to send back the appropriate response.

Finnish winger Janne Pesonen.

In the summer of 2008, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced a one-year, two-way contract with Pesonen, a winger from Oulun Karpat of the SM-liiga.

General Manager Ray Shero felt Pesonen had Top-Six forward potential, but was unsure of how large his learning curve would be. Adjusting to North American hockey from the Finnish Elite League is normally a difficult challenge.

After training camp, the 26-year-old Finn was understandably re-assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. But it would not be long before he received the call-up of a lifetime.

He played seven games from November to December, registering zero points in a shade over seven minutes of ice time per game.

He was clearly out of his comfort zone, playing on a fourth line in the NHL.

But upon his return to the Baby Penguins, Pesonen put on his angry eyes and became a fire-breathing offensive force. While not even playing the entire season, he torched defenses 32 times while tallying 82 points—the most in AHL history by a Finn.

That mark also eradicated the previous scoring record for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, as he surpassed Toby Peterson from 2001.

Pesonen can play.

He has proven that at any level of professional hockey he plays, he will find ways to put the puck in the net. That makes two years in a row that he has lead his team in scoring.

But Pesonen, now 27, is an unrestricted free agent. He also never received a call-up to be a reserve during the Stanley Cup playoffs, despite Shero insisting that the Finn was certainly in the Penguins' future plans.

If he wasn't in the plans before, he sure should be now.

Or at least, he deserves the chance to prove that he can be a scoring winger in the NHL. It's not like Shero would have to raid Fort Knox to pay the man. Having some healthy competition between Pesonen and 2007 fourth-round pick Luca Caputi could only be a good thing as well.

I just can't imagine that Pesonen's speed, skating ability and scoring touch wouldn't translate in Disco Dan's system. Especially when he has the opportunity to play alongside a one-man wrecking crew who feeds him multiple juicy passes a game.

Wear the No. 20 sweater with pride, Janne.