Peters, 29, has had a lengthy career, playing nine seasons of professional hockey. He’s played in 96 NHL games and over 500 career AHL games. He’s also participated in 53 AHL postseason contests, and was a part of back-to-back Calder Cup Final runs with the Texas Stars (2009-10) and Houston Aeros (2010-11).
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That experience is one of many reasons why the Penguins signed Peters to a one-year, two-way contract on the opening day of unrestricted free agency.
The WBS Penguins have a high number of rookies and younger players on their roster. Adding someone with Peters’ experience and leadership capabilities made for a perfect match.
“I can lend some experience to guys that haven’t spent time in this league,” Peters said. “Hopefully, help them out and give them some pointers. I want to be somebody that has been through it for someone who hasn’t and help them along, whether it be off the ice, on the ice, dealing with the schedule, dealing with the intensity of jumping to pro for a rookie.”
But the Penguins didn’t sign Peters for the sole purpose of being a mentor. They signed him because he can play hockey.
“He’s an excellent two-way player,” WBS head coach John Hynes said. “He’s had to earn his way the hard way to get to the National Hockey League. So he understands the little things in the game, how you have to practice the things you need to do to win hockey games and the things you have to do as a young player to be able to differentiate yourself going from the American Hockey League to the National Hockey League.”
Peters may not fill up the scoresheet, but his play certainly has an impact. The Saskatoon native excels at doing all the little details that help win hockey games.
“I play a rugged, physical game,” Peters said. “My game is built on character, blocking shots, killing penalties, taking faceoffs, playing in the hard areas. It’s not really flashy. It won’t be highlight-reel stuff, but I hope that at the end of the day it’s effective.”
And Peters’ success speaks for itself. He chipped in eight points (4G-4A) and 56 penalty minutes in 23 playoff games to get Texas into the Calder Cup Final in ’09-10. The following season his 12 points (4G-8A) and 16 penalty minutes in 24 postseason contests lifted Houston to the Final. Though his teams came up short both years, that back-to-back run is something Peters will never forget.
“The roll that you get on is phenomenal,” Peters said of the experience. “Both places I was at, Texas and Houston, the bonds created with those guys is not something you’ll ever forget. The relationships and adversity you had to go through to get to that point is big. Only a tight-knit group can survive. I can’t say enough about the guys I played with on those teams. I have a lot of respect for them, the coaching staffs and organizations. It all builds into a run like that.”
Peters played the past two seasons in Minnesota’s organization. Peters learned under the Wild system, implemented by Minnesota head coach and former Penguins assistant coach Mike Yeo. Peters appeared in 58 games for the Wild and posted 54 penalty minutes, both career highs.
“I have nothing but respect for management and (the Wild) organization,” Peters said. “I got a tremendous opportunity through them. I had ample opportunity to display myself as a player and grow. I played more NHL games than I’ve ever played in that organization. I can’t thank them enough for that.”
Yeo runs a system in Minnesota that is very similar to the one engineered in Pittsburgh. Peters’ familiarity with the system has certainly helped with his transition to his new organization.
“Sitting down in the first meeting, the systems are almost identical,” Peters said. “We had our first practice and it was all drills I had done with Mike (Yeo) on numerous occasions.
“It takes some thinking out of the game. You can just play and play at a high speed. Usually when you go to an organization you spend two, three weeks trying to break the game down. Sometimes you overthink it and get caught in quicksand. I felt from Day 1 that I could go at top speed and didn’t feel like I was out of position.”
It’s a good thing he was able to hit the ground running, because the Penguins plan on utilizing his play quite a bit this year.
“He’s a great faceoff guy, gritty and competitive,” Hynes said. “He’s a guy that we’re going to look to use in important situations.”
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