Jeff Penner, D
April 13, 1987
Signed by Boston as a free agent; March, 2008
Signing status: Signed through 2011
Physical: Did someone say undersized defenseman? Blazing skater whose mobility is his best attribute. Explosive first few steps and excellent four-way directional speed. Jumps up into the play; a very good puck mover at the AHL level. Makes the quick first pass and can transition from defense to the attack quickly. A key element of the Providence power play over the past two seasons for his ability to move well along the blue line, shoot the puck from the point and distribute effectively into the more open spaces on the ice. Still learning how to play the position in terms of locating himself and does not play a very physical or rugged game, which stands in contrast to Andrew Bodnarchuk. Suffered a major back injury during his bantam year which prevented his being drafted into the WHL; since then he's worked himself gradually to the NHL by playing Jr. B and going all the way to Fairbanks, Alaska to get his shot, playing two scoreless games for Boston last season after injuries to the defense corps gave him his chance.
Intangibles: Hard working, character player who has stuck with hockey instead of giving up when facing some tough adversity. His defensive hockey sense is suspect; doesn't seem to play instinctively and gets caught out of position. A riverboat gambler who will go for the score, but has a lot to learn yet about playing defense.
Boston Bruins 2010 Development Camp assessment
Did not attend
Third-pairing defenseman and power play or penalty killer is about the best Penner can hope for at the NHL level. He's a skilled player, but because he's so similar to the glut of what the Bruins already have, Penner appears to be on the outside looking in unless injuries open the door for him this year. He has the look of one of those career 'tweener AHL players: he'll spend most of his time at that level and play pretty well, but will not likely be able to translate that success into a regular stint in the big show.
The Final Word
As an undrafted free agent, Penner was not a bad signing and has progressed in the two full years since becoming a part of the Boston organization. However, he lacks the size and grit that other small prospects like David Warsofsky, Andrew Bodnarchuk and even Steve Kampfer possess. I hesitate to use the word 'soft' but there has to be a certain on-ice tenacity that I have found lacking in Penner when viewing him. His skills are right behind Warsofsky, but the toughness quotient is going to be his biggest stumbling block to making a lasting impact in Boston. That said, he played well enough to get his cup of coffee last year and may get another look, even if the odds are stacked against him.