Defenseman Patrick Wey was 16 when he left home in Mt. Lebanon to move to Waterloo, Iowa, and play in the junior United States Hockey League. That doesn’t mean he thinks all Western Pennsylvania hockey players need to go away to develop into NHL talent.
“It worked for me,” Wey, 22, said Tuesday after being called up from Hershey of the American Hockey League by the Washington Capitals.
He missed a chance to play in his fourth NHL game and first in his hometown when he was scratched against the Penguins at Consol Energy Center.
“I know the hockey community is definitely growing here,” he said. “It was just a personal decision for me to go to play in the USHL. There are plenty of ways to get where you want to go. This is the route I took.”
Wey got into hockey by emulating his older brother, Chris. Before his two seasons in the USHL, Wey played youth hockey for the Pittsburgh Hornets, where one of his coaches was Dave Hanson of the “Slap Shot” Hanson brothers. Hanson now is executive director of the RMU Island Sports Center on Neville Island.
After Waterloo, Wey played at Boston College, where he majored in information systems and minored in philosophy. His teammates included winger Brian Gibbons, now with the Penguins, and Penguins prospects Philip Samuelsson and Brian Dumoulin, both defensemen.
This season, his first as a pro, Wey started in Reading in the ECHL, moved up to the AHL and made his NHL debut Dec. 7.
He has two assists in three games with Washington.
“I think it was in the same month I went from the [ECHL] all the way up to the NHL,” Wey said. “It’s been pretty rapid. That’s kind of the way it is, though. You get used to moving around.”
He has been described as a puck-moving defenseman, but qualified that by saying: “Nothing flashy, just a pretty simple puck-moving defenseman. I try to skate well and keep good gaps. But mostly defensive. I don’t have that much offensive prowess.”
The Penguins had lost 391 man-games to injury and illness before Tuesday, some of them long-term absences. They have not — to this point — sent any players to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL for conditioning stints before they return to the NHL lineup.
“This year, our injury situation is such that whether we liked it or not, we had to get people back in the lineup,” coach Dan Bylsma said. “We didn’t have numbers.
“There have been multiple situations this year that could have led to a conditioning stint.”
Bylsma said that includes goaltender Tomas Vokoun, who is practicing but hasn’t played this season because of a blood-clot situation dating to training camp.
Other possibilities, Bylsma said, have included injured wingers Beau Bennett and Chris Conner.
Something else that can interfere with sending a player to Wilkes-Barre is the conditioning stint still counts against the NHL roster limit and salary cap.
“Sometimes, those come into play,” Bylsma said.
Bylsma said defenseman Kris Letang, recovering from a stroke, worked out and skated in Pittsburgh while the Penguins were on their recent road trip. He also skated Tuesday. … Gibbons and defenseman Robert Bortuzzo returned from injuries to play Tuesday for the Penguins, who scratched forward Joe Vitale and defenseman Deryk Engelland. … Washington center Brooks Laich, who had a goal Monday against the Penguins, was scratched for the rematch because of a groin issue. … Tristan Jarry, a Penguins second-round draft pick last year, was named Western Hockey League goaltender of the month for February. He went 7-1-2-0 with one shutout, a 1.77 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage for the Edmonton Oil Kings.
Shelly Anderson: email@example.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.