Penguins prospect Farnham can be a pest for opponents



He is pretty much fearless, this Bobby Farnham.

That's evident every time he goads a larger opponent -- a fair description of most of the guys against whom he plays -- into taking a swing at him. Or a needless penalty. Or both.

Every time he charges in on a forecheck at warp speed, prepared to sacrifice his body to force a turnover or bad decision.

And every time his risks his well-being to help save the life of someone caught in a wicked riptide.

OK, so Farnham, one of 55 players participating in the Penguins' training camp, has been in a position to do that only once, but his success rate is sensational.

It seems that in late August 2011, shortly after Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene had battered the East Coast, Farnham and five teammates from Brown University decided to spend a day at South Shore Beach in Little Compton, R.I.

"It was before school started," he said. "We'd all stayed in Providence for the summer, a bunch of us."

Details of what followed are a bit blurred now, but reports from the time say that the players noticed two girls caught in a riptide not far from land, and some of Farnham's buddies went to their rescue.

"There was a huge rip current, really bad," Farnham said. "[The girls were] caught closer in, but there was one guy who was farther out."

The rest of the group, including Farnham, rushed out to him, armed with a surfboard and a boogie board.

"We put him on the surfboard and brought him back in," Farnham said. "He had been flat on his back and had kind of given up.

"He had pretty much conceded. He'd been swimming against it for a while."

Once ashore, the rescued parties were taken to a local hospital, examined and released.

The players' actions earned them a nomination for the NCAA Award of Valor, which goes to a coach, administrator or athlete who "when confronted with a situation involving personal danger, averted or minimized potential disaster by courageous action or noteworthy bravery."

Pretty heady stuff, but not everything said about Farnham these days is so flattering. Especially if it's coming from opposing players.

They will tell you that Farnham is 70 inches and 180 pounds of incessant irritation, as enjoyable to have around as a pebble in the skate. Which is pretty much exactly what Farnham has in mind.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach John Hynes said Thursday that "I'd say 90 percent of his game" revolves around being an agitator and, if anything, that estimate might be a bit low.

"It's always been part of how I've played," Farnham said. "I've always been a guy to get under the skin of guys on the other team."

And make no mistake, he's an equal-opportunity annoyer.

Doesn't matter how big or tough or mean the other guy might be. If Farnham believes he can get him off his game -- be it with words or elbows or whatever -- he will try.

"Size doesn't bother me," Farnham said. "I'm not necessarily trying to fight all of those guys, but, if your job is [to be] an agitator, it doesn't matter who it is."

Farnham, 24, has studied under the contemporary masters of the art of agitation, picking up pointers from the likes of Matt Cooke and Cal Clutterbuck, Zac Rinaldo and Sean Avery, and come away with a nicely diversified repertoire.

"There's a lot of things you can do," he said. "It would take a while to explain all of those.

"Some of it's verbal, some of it's stickwork and things like that. Sometimes, you don't even say anything.

"You go and stand in front of the goalie, stare right at the goalie and everyone just doesn't like it. That's the fun part about it. There are so many ways to get under the other team's skin, and I really enjoy doing that."

He'll enjoy doing it even more if he can parlay his game into a place in the NHL at some point.

He has played nine games in the ECHL and 71 in the American Hockey League -- 65 of those with the Baby Penguins in 2012-13 -- since leaving Brown with a degree in business, and has shown enough that the Penguins gave him a two-way contract this spring.

Farnham figures to get a look over their six-game exhibition season, although he is very much a long shot to be on the opening-night roster. Still, he can try to convince management that he merits an opportunity to compete in the NHL this season, even if it's as a call-up.

"I'd like to think that it is possible," Farnham said. "You're selling yourself short if you don't think that."

penguins

Dave Molinari: Dmolinari@Post-Gazette.com and Twitter @MolinariPG. First Published September 13, 2013 4:00 AM


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