Penguins rising forward prospect Jayson Megna impresses front office, coaches

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There was detectable admiration in Bill Guerin's voice this week when he talked about the rapid ascension of Penguins prospect Jayson Megna.

Guerin, the team's development coach, pointed out that Megna, who wasn't drafted, spent 2010-11 in the United States Hockey League, moved to the University of Nebraska-Omaha the next season for his only college year, then turned pro and spent last season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins' American Hockey League affiliate.

Three years, three big rungs.

Megna, 23, had injuries that limited him to 56 games last season but got the full effect of being a professional hockey player.

"There's a confidence boost that you're so close to recognizing your lifelong dream," he said Saturday. "Also, it's kind of an eye-opener in the same way. You see guys who are going up to the NHL."

Megna, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound center, scored two goals plus a shootout goal Saturday in a scrimmage at Consol Energy Center that marked the close of this year's prospect development camp.

In a camp defined by at least a half-dozen strong defensive prospects, Megna's name kept coming up when coaches and management were asked about the forwards.

He's someone for Penguins fans to watch, but probably from a distance for at least awhile longer.

"Sometimes you've got to remember that he's still green," assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald said. "There's a lot to learn.

"You honestly could look at this year as being a first-year pro because of what he went through last year with the lack of experience."

Megna attended last year's development camp with his college eligibility intact, but after that experience, he was wooed by the Penguins, decided to turn pro and signed with them shortly afterward.

He had an equally good experience at this year's camp.

"They told me to come in here and have kind of a leadership role," Megna said. "The skill level here is very high. A lot of good prospects, good college free agents.

"It's a great skate."

The NHL lockout wiped out Megna's shot at attending Penguins training camp last fall, but, "he had an exceptional American League camp," Wilkes-Barre coach John Hynes said.

Injuries hindered Megna, but Hynes said he got healthy and came on strong late in the season in the AHL playoffs. Megna had two goals, five points in 12 playoff games after registering five goals, 12 points in the regular season.

Megna has a scoring touch in his background. In 2010-11, his second season with the USHL Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, he had 30 goals in 60 games and was named a league all-star.

In his lone season at Nebraska-Omaha, Megna had 13 goals, 31 points in 38 games, leading all freshmen in scoring and ranking third overall, and was named to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association all-rookie team.

He also got some good genes and sound advice from his father, Jay, who played two years in the NFL with New Orleans and Miami before a career-ending injury.

"He loves to provide input," Jayson said of his father. "I listen to him because he's been there before. It's all about competing and working hard every day. That's the kind of attitude that's rubbed off on me."

Even if father and son opted for different sports.

"It doesn't matter," Jayson said. "Work ethic is the same in every sport."

Opportunities are not the same from team to team, though.

Megna is a center prospect with a club where Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, two of the brightest stars in the NHL, man the top two center positions and Brandon Sutter, who is just a year older than Megna, is the third-line center.

He is not projecting himself to surpass Crosby and Malkin, certainly, but is not deterred in terms of making it to the NHL somehow, some way.

"I've got to believe I can bust through the ceiling, or else I guess I wouldn't have the drive to work as hard," Megna said. "You've got to reach for the stars, I guess."

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