Mark Letestu Making an Impact on the Pittsburgh Penguins, NHL
Without looking at NHL.com, see if you can figure out which player leads the NHL in scoring among rookies.
Do you give up?
This is the first year Letestu has started the season with the NHL Penguins. Prior to this year, he played four years with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League and six games with the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL in the 2007-2008 season.
Last season, Letestu was called upon to make his NHL debut in Pittsburgh. He played 10 games and scored his first NHL goal in a February matchup with the Buffalo Sabres.
This season, Letestu made the team out of training camp. However, there was a lot of hype surrounding fellow prospect and winger Eric Tangradi, who many thought would stick with the team the whole year and that Letestu would be sent down when Jordan Staal and Arron Asham returned from injuries.
Asham is closer to returning to the lineup than Staal, but regardless, it would be very difficult to send Letestu down. He has played key roles already this year, including tallying a power play goal against the New Jersey Devils on October 11 and having a two point night in Monday night’s win over the Ottawa Senators.
Letestu also has a plus-two rating in seven games. He is averaging 15 minutes of ice time per game, so this shows he has already earned the confidence of head coach Dan Bylsma. Letestu worked with both Bylsma and Penguins assistant coach Todd Reirden during his time in Wilkes-Barre, so they already know his abilities and are more likely to reward him with ice time.
I always felt Letestu was an underrated prospect. He was voted Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s most improved player in the 2008-2009 season when he tallied 61 points after posting just 18 points in the 2007-2009 season. Last year, he had 55 points.
He also makes limited mistakes in his game and has yet to have more than 28 penalty minutes over a season. While he may not get the hype some other forwards get, he keeps his game simple and does not try to be too creative.
I also appreciate that Letestu has worked his way up after going undrafted. He came to Wilkes-Barre determined to improve his game and asked his first professional head coach, Todd Richards, what he had to do to become a better player.
Whatever advice Richards, now the head coach of the Minnesota Wild, gave him, he has clearly taken it to heart.
Although this doesn’t relate to his on-ice performance, Letestu is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. He always has a smile on his face and is upbeat. But when he scores, you can’t help but feel his excitement with him. He is overcome with pure joy with every goal, and he immediately warms to the media when being interviewed.
On a half-joking note, the fact that Letestu has figured out how to score on the power play should be enough to keep him in Pittsburgh.
Whether you are a fan of the Penguins or support a team that is facing them, you do not want to overlook Letestu. I feel he is poised for a big year, and at 25-years-old, he is just getting started.
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