Iced Up Youngsters: Mark Letestu


Oh, great, the Pittsburg Penguin have another good center to worry about. It’s early in the season, but Mark Letestu is starting to make a name for himself.

Career Stats: Games – Goals – Assists

  • 2009-2010: 10 – 1 – 0
  • 2010-2011: 9 – 4 – 3

Ok, the sample size is small and it’s a bit early to judge his progress. But 2 of his goals this season are game winners, and he’s in the early lead as rookie scoring leader.

Profile: Unwanted, undrafted, unknown. Well, if he keeps this up, he’ll make the Penguins even scarier than they already are. What if the guy playing behind Crosby and Malkin also registers over 60 points, which is what he’s on pace to do? In the AJHL, Letestu won the MVP in ’05-’06 after posting 105 points in 58 games to lead the league in scoring. After a 4 year career there, he went to Western Michigan and spent a season in the CCHA. After 46 points in 37 games, he signed as a free agent with Pittsburgh. Was he just going to another guy who scored in the early ranks but never made it anywhere? It sure seemed like that was the path for him. He spent the next 5 years in the minors, mostly in Wilkes Barre/Scranton in the AHL, and a 6 game stint with Wheeling in the ECHL. He put up decent numbers, but nothing that stood out. Finally, prior to this season, he earned a spot on the big club after a strong training camp. And he’s played a crucial part in helping the Pens jump out to an early lead in the division.

What makes him special?: I haven’t seen a lot, so it’s hard to judge. I browsed as many highlight clips as I could find, and there just weren’t many. But I did notice a pattern when it came to the goals he scored. It’s always close range, around the net. Nothing fancy, nothing flashy, just picking open spots and getting his stick on the ice. He gets tap ins, deflections, and short one timers. When he’s the one carrying the puck, it looks like he’s got some pretty good aim. Unless it’s a breakaway, he doesn’t dangle or waste time, he just picks a spot and puts the puck there. It’s easy to say that if you stand around the net, you’re bound to get some goals. In reality, it’s not that easy. You have to know when to just screen the goalie, and you have to know how to move away from the net and give your teammates a passing option. There are a lot of nuances to being a successful and consistent goal scorer who makes his living but playing right in front of the net. So far, Letestu has given the Pens a solid offensive weapon that opposing teams having picked up on, yet.

Jersey Worthy: I’m not sure if you’ll find one yet.  He’s already 25, kind of late to make it into the NHL and become an established superstar. He’ll probably be a good mid-range player, always overshadowed by the bigger names. Maybe he’ll develop into a fan favorite over time, but for now, I don’t think it’s worth getting unless you’re related to him.

Hate Factor:  Probably low.  I found a clip of him fighting, but it sure doesn’t seem like that’s his usual role. Again, it’s early in the season, so he might turn out to be a pest, but so far it doesn’t seem like it.

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