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As a former AHL coach, Bylsma understands what player development is all about. In fact, some of the players he coached in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton are now working with him in Western Pennsylvania.
The Penguins roster as it currently stands has seven players who played for Bylsma in the minors: Nick Johnson, Dustin Jeffrey, Tyler Kennedy, Mark Letestu, Deryk Engelland, Kris Letang and Ben Lovejoy.
Bylsma got to know the potential these players had and was able to get production from them in the minor leagues. Now, they are producing on an NHL level. There are many success stories among these players, and here’s a quick look:
-Engelland, who had never played in the NHL prior to signing with the Penguins, surprised everyone by making the Pittsburgh roster out of training camp last year. He earned a contract extension and has become a key physical player, fighting heavyweights such as Toronto’s Colton Orr.
-Letestu, who was undrafted, worked his way up from the ECHL and was among rookie leaders in scoring in the early part of the season. Although he was derailed by a knee injury, his performance also prompted Shero to extend his contract.
-Kennedy posted a career high in points this year and developed a reputation as a player who could come through in the clutch.
Maybe these players would have still been successful had it not been for Bylsma, but there’s no way of knowing that. Until we find a way to figure that out, Bylsma should be partially credited with helping these players become NHL contributors.