Last updated: March 17. 2013 2:52AM - 369 Views
By - tvenesky@timesleader.com

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During Wednesday's game against the Binghamton Senators, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguin center Jayson Megna raced into the offensive zone with Beau Bennett on his wing.

The Senators were bearing down on the duo, and just as the window was closing for Megna to take a shot, he dished a perfect pass across the slot to Bennett. If a Senators' defenseman hadn't gotten his stick on the puck, it would've been a perfect slam-dunk play.

Still, the play was evidence that Megna is growing into the style of play in the AHL, although he is only 20 games into his first pro season.

I'm starting to feel more comfortable with the puck to try and make those plays now, Megna said.

The Penguins hoped the rookie forward would be comfortable shouldering a bigger portion of the Penguins offense that will lose some key contributors to Pittsburgh's training camp. But now, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has found out that Megna is one of those key contributors heading to Pittsburgh for NHL camp.

Bennett is heading to Pittsburgh with talk of a top-six forwards spot. Former Wyoming Seminary forward Eric Tangradi is looking for a role after playing 24 games with Pittsburgh last season.

Defensemen Robert Bortuzzo (six games with Pittsburgh), Simon Despres (18 games) and Brian Strait (nine games) will all be at Pittsburgh's camp, likely fighting for one opening on the NHL roster.

Megna, though, is a wild card – a player whose game has improved as he has gained experience. He's not included on TSN's depth chart of Pittsburgh's top-18 forwards. But going to camp means more experience, this time with the NHL club, and a chance to make an impression.

This is something all of us have been working for all year. You can see that everyone in the room is excited to have this opportunity (for a call-up) again, Megna said.

If he does not stick with Pittsburgh after its abbreviated training camp, he can come back to Wilkes-Barre, where he'd be counted on to fill a larger role with the Penguins here.

It's a position that Megna has been in before.

Last year, in his only season with the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Megna was third on the team with 13 goals and 31 points in 38 games. The year before in juniors, he led his Cedar Rapids team with 30 goals to go along with 58 points.

Now, with the attrition of some top forwards to Pittsburgh, the Penguins may just find that shouldering the offensive load is something that comes naturally for Megna.

He wants to win, score and be a difference-maker, said head coach John Hynes. That's good to see.

And it's been a long-time coming.

After an impressive training camp Megna injured his ankle during a practice three days before the start of the season. He was shelved for 14 of the team's first 15 games, and when he did return Megna didn't score a goal for his first seven games back.

When you get into this league everyone's so much faster. You have to settle in, he said. With the speed here, you have to learn to make decisions – the right ones, quicker. You can't hesitate.

Heading into this weekend Megna has three goals and six points in 18 games. While he's been held without a point for the last five games, there are signs that Megna's offense is on the verge of breaking through.

Against Binghamton on Wednesday he was tied for the team lead with five shots, for example.

I probably should've had seven or eight, Megna said.

That would be fine with Hynes, who is just glad to see Megna get comfortable in the AHL after a rocky start.

He's now playing back-to-back games and practicing every day, so he's getting into a rhythm of what it's like to play at this level, Hynes said. You're seeing a real competitiveness come out now.

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