When you’re 5-foot-10, 191 pounds and playing defense in pro hockey, your size is always going to be a cause for question marks about your potential.

Jeff Penner is slowly but surely quieting those who criticize him as too small.

Of course, it’s always a work in progress when you’re trying to overcome a size disadvantage and learn how to play along the blue line at the pro level after signing as an undrafted free agents. Penner has shown a knack for the offensive side of the game, and the defensive side is still catching up.

In two pro seasons, he has posted point totals of 28 and 35, and been a staple of the Providence (AHL) power play. However, he was also a minus-7 this season and only received his first NHL cup of coffee (two games) because of Boston’s rash of injuries and the lack of meaning in the team’s regular-season finale.

Penner is going to have to continue to improve his positioning to supplement his stronger frame, and also avoid getting discouraged when/if he fails to crack Boston’s loaded top six- or seven-man defense corps for a third straight year. Beyond this upcoming season, the Bruins’ back end might be a little in flux. And Penner (a restricted free agent next summer) might have a better opportunity for at least a third-pair job.

Bruins Prospect Rankings