Despite having just one AHL game on his resume, defenseman Dylan Zink felt pretty comfortable alongside Lukas Bengtsson on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s first power play unit during Tuesday’s practice.
That’s because Zink was a standout on the power play during the last three seasons at UMass-Lowell. Assuming that same spot in the pros, even if it was just a practice, had Zink feeling right at home.
“I’ve always been a power play guy throughout my career,” Zink said. “It’s somewhere I’m comfortable playing.”
During his last three years at the college level, Zink topped 10 goals or more every season. Last year he registered 36 points in 41 games as a senior — a vast improvement from his first year of college that resulted in one point in 26 games.
Zink said his game reflects the numbers he put up later in his college career and not that first season.
“My first year I went into it just happy to be in the lineup. That was kind of a mistake,” Zink said. “I wasn’t really playing my game.”
But as teammates moved on to other levels or graduated, spots on the blueline opened up, and Zink stepped into a top-four role, complete with power play time.
After that, his college career flourished.
While the undrafted 25-year old only has one pro game under his belt, Zink has already noticed a difference on the power play between the college and pro ranks.
In the pros, he said, the penalty-killers are a lot smarter and players on both sides are highly skilled.
“I don’t feel pressure. If the puck gets to me, I just try to get it to the net and create an opportunity,” Zink said.
Following Zach Trotman’s injury and Tuesday’s recall of Chris Summers to Pittsburgh, Zink is part of a trio with Kevin Spinozzi and Ethan Prow hoping to get a chance to fill the void in the defense corps.
The Penguins have their first weekend of three games in three days coming up, so it’s likely Zink will have an opportunity to step into the lineup.
Head coach Clark Donatelli wouldn’t say which of the three players would get a shot this weekend, but he did speak highly of Zink, singling out his performance during a game in Hershey in the preseason.
“He played really well there. He’s got a really good shot and he makes good decisions with the puck,” Donatelli said. “We’re very comfortable with him.”
• After allowing two shorthanded goals during Saturday’s 5-2 loss in the season opener, Donatelli said he isn’t compelled to put two defensemen at the top during the power play. On the first power play unit, Lukas Bengtsson served as the only defenseman, skating with forwards Tom Kostopoulos, Daniel Sprong, Zach Aston-Reese and Jean-Sebastien Dea. Kevin Czuczman was the lone defenseman on the second unit.
“We’re comfortable with four forwards,” Donatelli said. “If you don’t manage the puck or they get a bounce, (shorthanded goals) can happen.”