WBS alums gearing up for Olympics

by Brian Coe || AHL On The Beat Archive 

The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics get underway this week, and the excitement around the hockey world is at a fever pitch, with National Hockey League stars ditching their team colors to suit up for their national teams.

And fans in Northeastern Pennsylvania will have several reasons to pay close attention to the battle for the gold, as no fewer than seven former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are scheduled to play in the two-week tournament.

Here’s a look at the former flightless birds who will now be front and center on the world stage.

Konstantin Koltsov (Belarus): A former first round draft pick (18th overall in 1999) by Pittsburgh, Konstantin Koltsov played parts of three seasons (2002-2004, 2005-06) with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, posting 46 points (16+30) in 86 regular season games.

He was a key member of the club that advanced to the 2004 Calder Cup Finals, recording 17 points (6+11) in 24 playoff games, including a thrilling overtime winner in Game 7 of the Penguins’ first-round series against the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

The speedy winger from Minsk also appeared in 144 games with Pittsburgh in parts of three seasons, posting 38 points (12+26). Koltsov has spent the past four seasons suiting up for Ufa Salavat Yulaev in Russia, and helped that club to the best regular season record in the Kontinental Hockey League last season.

Koltsov previously played for Belarus in the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City, helping the country to a fourth place finish.

Marc-Andre Fleury (Canada): The first overall pick in the 2003 NHL draft, Marc-Andre Fleury is among the most accomplished Wilkes-Barre/Scranton graduates, having backstopped Pittsburgh to the Stanley Cup last season and recording 139 regular-season wins through February 8 of this season.

After debuting during Wilkes-Barre’s run to the 2004 Calder Cup Finals, Fleury appeared in 71 games for the AHL Penguins during parts of four seasons (2003-06, 2007-08), posting 39 wins and five shutouts during that time. He holds the team record for shutouts in a season, with five during the 2004-05 campaign, and ranks second in career victories.

Fleury has previously represented Canada twice at the World Junior Championships (2002-03, 2003-04) helping his country to a pair of silver medals.

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Patrick Thoresen (Norway): Patrick Thoresen, then property of the Edmonton Oilers, didn’t spend much time in Wilkes-Barre, suiting up for five games with the Penguins during the 2006-07 season. He was impressive in his short stays, though, recording six points (1+5) in two trips to the AHL, including a three point outburst (1+2) in his first game with the club.

Thoresen played in 106 games with the Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers between 2006 and 2008, posting 24 points (6+18) and 66 penalty minutes. He moved back to Europe last season, leading Lugano and finishing third in the Swiss league with 63 points (22+41) in 48 games).

This season he has teamed up with Koltsov at Ufa Salavat Yulayev in the KHL, and ranked third on the team with 52 points (21+31) through the club’s first 53 games this season.

Miroslav Satan (Slovakia): Another player who spent just a brief spell in Northeast Pennsylvania, Miroslav Satan led the way with four points (1+3) in his debut with the club on March 16 of last season in Albany, and finished with nine points (3+6) in 10 games with the team.

A former NHL All-Star, Satan helped Pittsburgh to its third Stanley Cup last season, chipping in with 36 points (17+19) in 65 regular season games.

Satan, who joined the Boston Bruins last month, has appeared in more than 1,000 NHL games with the Buffalo, Edmonton, the New York Islanders, Pittsbrugh and Boston, combining for 727 career points (357 goals, 370 assists). He also suited up for Slovakia in the 1994 Lillehammer Olympics, helping the team to a sixth place finish.

Ryan Malone (United States): The shortest of the short-term Pens, Ryan Malone made his professional debut with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after concluding his college career at St. Cloud State in the spring of 2003, recording one assist in three games.

It was on to the NHL after that, where Malone has posted 134 goals and 122 assists in 428 games with Pittsburgh and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

His best campaign came in 2007-08 with his hometown Penguins, when he recorded career highs in goals (27), assists (24), points (51) and penalty minutes (103).

Malone has previously represented the United States at the 2004 and 2006 World Championships.

Brooks Orpik (United States): The 18th overall pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, Brooks Orpik appeared in 152 regular-season games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton between 2001 and 2004, recording 38 points (6+32) and 206 penalty minutes.

A rugged defenseman known for throwing big hits, Orpik has been a mainstay on the Pittsburgh blueline for the past six seasons, appearing in 427 games with the club and racking up 511 penalty minutes in the process.

Orpik previously represented his country at the 2007 World Championships.

Ryan Whitney (United States): The fifth overall pick in the 2002 NHL draft, Whitney made his professional debut with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton during the 2004 run to the Calder Cup Finals, recording 10 points (1+9) in 20 games after leaving Boston University at the conclusion of his junior season.

Whitney spent one full season in Wilkes-Barre (2004-05) and made brief stops in town during the 2005-06 and 2008-09 campaigns. Overall, the big blueliner combined for 56 points (11+45) in 90 regular season games with the team.

The Boston native swapped teams at the trade deadline last season, and has combined for 185 points (38+147) in 331 games with the Penguins and Anaheim Ducks during the past five seasons.

Whitney twice represented America at the World Junior Championships (2001-02, 2002-03), and also suited up for the U.S. Developmental Team during the 2001-02 season.

Honorable Mention:
Richard Lintner (Slovakia): Richard Lintner was selected to play for Slovakia in the 2010 Games, but will miss the tournament due to injury. He appeared in six games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton during the 2002-03 season, recording five points (1+4). He also recorded five points (3+2) in 19 games with Pittsburgh during that same campaign.

All told, 135 American Hockey League alumni were named to the initial rosters for the 12 participating countries for the 2010 men’s Olympic hockey tournament in Vancouver. For more information on the Games, visit www.vancouver2010.com/olympic-hockey.