View Full Version : Penguins Week-Long Prospect Conditioning Camp Starts Today
07-20-2009, 09:36 AM
Pens To Hold Prospect Conditioning Camp
Jul 13, 2009, 9:56 AM EDT
The Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins will hold a prospect conditioning camp July 20-26 at Mellon Arena and the Iceoplex at Southpointe. Among those players scheduled to attend are Eric Tangradi and the Penguins’ first-round selection in the recent NHL Entry Draft, Simon Despres.
The group of rookies and prospects will be in Pittsburgh taking part in on-ice practice and scrimmage sessions at Southpointe, undergoing medical and fitness testing at the UPMC Sports Medicine complex on the South Side, and attending meetings and seminars at Mellon Arena. The instructors will be Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach Todd Reirden, Penguins assistant to the GM Tom Fitzgerald, Robert Morris University head coach Derek Schooley and Penguins strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar.
Tangradi, a former second-round draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks, was acquired in the trade that also brought Chris Kunitz from Anaheim. The left winger finished eighth in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with 38 goals and 88 points in 55 games for Belleville Bulls in 2008-09. He added eight goals and 21 points in 16 playoff games before being sidelined with a hand injury.
Depres, a defenseman who was the Penguins’ first round pick (30th overall), leads the members of the 2009 draft class who are scheduled to attend. Also at the camp will be Ben Hanowski (Round 3, 63rd overall), Nicholas Petersen (Round 4, 121st overall), Alex Velischek (Round 5, 123rd overall) and Andy Bathgate (Round 5, 151st overall).
Other prospects in the Penguins’ system scheduled to be in Pittsburgh include; forwards Luca Caputi, Joey Haddad, Dustin Jeffrey, Nick Johnson, Nathan Longpre, Nathan Moon, Casey Pierro-Zabotel, Zack Sill, Keven Veilleux and Joe Vitale; defensemen Robert Bortuzzo, Lane Caffaro, Nicholas D’Agostino, Jonathan D’Aversa, Alex Grant, Carl Sneep, Brian Strait and Denny Urban; and goaltenders Patrick Killeen and Brad Thiessen.
A complete camp schedule will be released in the near future.
07-22-2009, 09:20 AM
Tangradi Expects to be Ready for Training Camp
Jul 21, 2009, 5:32 PM EDT
Tangradi Penguins prospect Eric Tangradi skated for just the third time this summer on Tuesday at Southpointe during the first practice session of the Penguins’ prospect camp. Tangradi, one of the top prospects within the organization, had been sidelined due to a hand injury.
“It was a scary moment,” Tangradi said of the injury. “I was going down on a two-on-one and the backchecker took my legs out. The goalie butterfly-ed right into my left hand. I looked down and there was blood everywhere.
“It was definitely a scary injury. I learned from it. It was the first injury and surgery of my career. It’s something that you have to get physically and mentally stronger from.”
Tangradi has fully recovered from initial surgery. He will have a follow-up procedure to help with the flexibility of his hand but the forward expects to be ready for the start of training camp in September.
“I’m having a little trouble bending the joint in my thumb,” Tangradi said. “A small procedure will loosen the scar tissue up and give me a full range of motion which would help me with my shot. My thumb is really stiff. Hopefully, the surgery will loosen things up and I’ll be able to start shooting pucks. Right now my shot is not where I’d like it to be but a lot of hard work in August and I’ll be ready for training camp.”
“I’m encouraged to watch how he comes through his injury,” Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach Todd Reirden said. “He is highly regarded as our top prospect. We’re excited to have him around for the week and get him involved in all the activities and team building exercises. We won’t see him at 100 percent this week but we want to get him in the fold with us. We want him to understand what we expect once things get going.”
Tangradi, who was acquired from Anaheim along with Chris Kunitz in Februray, finished eighth in the Ontario Hockey League with 88 points (38 goals, 50 assists) in 55 games for the Belleville Bulls in 2008-09. He added eight goals and 21 points in 16 playoff games before suffering the hand injury.
At the Penguins prospect camp, Tangradi is working to improve on other aspects of his game.
“My foot work has really developed over the past few years but in the NHL you’re playing against men and it’s a new level,” he said. “I need to get my explosion and quickness better.”
Tangradi also wants to improve his strength. The 6-foot-4, 221-pound forward looks more like a professional wrestler than a hockey player. Tangradi uses his impressive build to play a gritty and physical brand of hockey.
“I just want to get bigger, stronger, faster and elevate every part of my game,” he said. “I play physical and try to spark myself off of that and try to score a gritty goal here and there. Hitting is a huge part of my game and it sparks everyone around. I want to get bigger, get stronger and do my best come September.”
“Eric is a man of stature with the size that he plays the game at,” Reirden said.
Tangradi’s ultimate goal would be to make the Penguins’ roster out of training camp. Although if that happened, he would have to give up his long-sported No. 25, which is worn by Stanley Cup Final Game 7 hero Max Talbot. Not that Tangradi would mind.
“Just to be able to put the sweater on, they can put any number on the back of my jersey and I’ll be smiling,” Tangradi said.
In the meantime, Tangradi is just pleased to be a part of the Penguins organization and to be back on the ice.
“I feel pretty good on the ice right now,” he said. “I’m looking forward to a full week of skating. Just to get on the ice for seven days will help me this summer.”
07-22-2009, 09:24 AM
Penguins prospects dream of big shot
By Joe Starkey, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
One of these years, the Penguins are bound to look inward for some wingers to play next to Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
The four spots next to those guys have been manned largely by veterans, many of the quick-fix, free-agent variety. That likely will be the case again next season.
But, one of these years ...
"It's my dream to play with guys like that — Crosby or Malkin," said 20-year-old forward Keven Veilleux, who was among 26 the players to begin Penguins prospects camp Tuesday.
A second-round pick from 2007, Veilleux speaks limited English. His eyes spoke for him at the mention of Crosby and Malkin; they lit up like a scoreboard.
Veilleux wasn't alone, as the question went around the locker room at Mellon Arena: Ever think about playing next to "Geno" or Sid?
"That's what I'm hoping for, down the road," said 20-year-old forward Casey Pierro-Zabotel, a third-round pick from 2007.
"That's motivation in itself," said 20-year-old Eric Tangradi, the strapping left winger acquired with Chris Kunitz from Anaheim.
"That's my goal," said another 20-year-old left winger, Luca Caputi, a fourth-round pick from '07. "(The Penguins) have to develop within because of the salary cap. They've drafted well, and they have a lot of money invested in the core, so they have to have draft picks and prospects step in."
Jay Heinbuck, the Penguins' director of amateur scouting, was asked to identify the leading candidates, among those present yesterday, to someday play alongside Crosby and Malkin.
"Oh, geez, you can't put me on the spot like that," Heinbuck said, laughing. "These guys are gonna read that!"
He relented, somewhat.
"We have a lot of guys," he said. "It's funny, because it's an interesting mix. You have guys like Tangradi, with skill and power to his game, and Caputi, who has a lot of grit and determination and a good amount of skill. Then you have Veilleux, who is naturally a centerman. Does he shift over and play wing because he's so big and skilled?"
Pierro-Zabotel, who led the Western Hockey League in scoring, also is a natural center but is 6-foot-2, 210 pounds and could be converted. Heinbuck cautioned that any such conversions could be years away.
Meanwhile, Tangradi and Caputi might get their shot sooner, though Tangradi still is recovering from a gruesome injury sustained in an Ontario Hockey League playoff game. A tendon was severed in his left wrist when he collided with a goaltender.
Tangradi is scheduled for additional surgery next week to loosen scar tissue in his thumb. He expects clearance to practice full-tilt shortly after that.
"They said a small procedure would loosen the scar tissue and give me full range of motion with my shot," Tangradi said. "I probably won't have feeling back in my thumb for a while, (because of) nerve damage, but like I've said, who needs to feel their thumb, right?"
Tangradi had 38 goals and 88 points in 55 games with the OHL's Belleville Bulls.
Caputi, who had 18 goals and 45 points in 66 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, said he has added 10 pounds of muscle. He learned during his brief NHL audition last season that he wasn't strong enough.
"When I was 192 pounds going to the corner with (then-Montreal Canadiens defenseman) Mike Komisarek, it was like, 'This guy's going to throw me through the boards,' " Caputi said.
Nobody has to tell Heinbuck that many of the team's prospects have a similar dream.
"There are some guys looking at themselves and saying, 'If I perform well and work hard, hey, that's my ticket, if I could ever get up to play with (Crosby or Malkin),' " Heinbuck said. "And Jordan Staal would be a nice guy to play next to, too."
07-22-2009, 01:54 PM
Day 1 of Penguins Prospect Camp is in the books as the Penguins prospects went through conditioning tests in the morning, met the media in the afternoon, and just concluded their first skating session.
The players went through an hour on-ice session this afternoon in what was their first of what will be four skating sessions this week.
Twenty five of the twenty six prospects invited to the camp skated this afternoon as Joey Haddad (Cape Brenton (QMJHL) was the only prospect who did not skate.
The players went through an up-tempo practice with a strong emphasis on the players moving their feet at all times.
The session started out with skilled drills to warm up the goalies and then went into drills 3-on-0’s, 5-on-5/fore-check drills.
2007 4th round pick Luca Caputi was very effective on the fore-check but for the most part had a first day of mixed results.
Among the top performers during 5-on-5/fore-check drills was Nathan Moon (2008 4th round pick), Dustin Jeffrey (2007, 6th round pick) Nick Johnson (2004, 3rd round pick) and Kevin Veilleux (2007, 2nd round pick)
Following the 5-on-5 drills, the players went through one-on-one drills.
Nick Johnson was among the standout players in the one-on-one drills using his size, speed to beat defenders wide.
Brian Strait struggled for the most part getting beat wide by Eric Tangradi (2007, 2nd round pick) and Nick Peterson (2009, 4th round pick) to open the drills 0-for-2.
A shootout ended the session as it went four rounds.
Kevin Veilleux, Nick Johnson, Robert Bortuzzo, Zack Sill, Carl Sneep, Nathan Longpre, Alex Velischek, all advanced to the second round and Kevin Veilleux and Nick Johnson were the final two as each player scored three times.
Veilleux won the shootout beating goaltender Patrick Killeen 5-hole in the 4th round, notching his 4th goal of the shootout.
* The Players will be attending the Pirates game tonight and will return to the ice tomorrow afternoon.
Full Scouting Reports on the players from Day 1, more to be posted soon
07-22-2009, 01:56 PM
Penguins' 2007 draft class trying to make impression
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
By Shelly Anderson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
At the first full day of the Penguins' rookie and prospects conditioning camp yesterday, some players were learning names and finding their way around the Mellon Arena and Southpointe facilities.
Then there were the club's six 2007 draft picks.
In the fluky world of NHL talent evaluation, a lot of teams' draft classes suffer from attrition in the first few years after they are selected, but the Penguins' group from 2007 not only is fairly intact but also seems to include several viable prospects.
"I was thinking about that the other day, that we had such a good draft year and a lot of guys got signed," said winger Casey Pierro-Zabotel, who was taken in the third round in 2007 and is coming off a monster season in juniors with 115 points for Vancouver of the Western Hockey League.
Missing from the original group of eight draftees that year are forward Angelo Esposito, a first-rounder who was shipped to Atlanta in the blockbuster Marian Hossa trade in February 2008, and Jake Muzzin, a fifth-round pick who was not signed.
The other six are signed to NHL entry-level contracts and are participating in the camp this week. In addition to Pierro-Zabotel, they are forwards Keven Veilleux (second round), Luca Caputi (fourth round) and Dustin Jeffrey (sixth round) and defensemen Robert Bortuzzo (third round) and Alex Grant (fourth round).
Jeffrey and Caputi stand out because they made their NHL debuts last season, Jeffrey getting a goal and two assists in 14 games with the Penguins and Caputi getting a goal in five games. Those two also seem the most likely to earn a spot with the team out of training camp, especially with Max Talbot out until November or December after shoulder surgery.
"There is an opportunity there with Max being out for a little bit," said Jeffrey, who was part of the Penguins' reserve squad during much of their playoff run to the Stanley Cup in the spring.
The other four remaining from the class of 2007 are hoping to graduate from junior hockey and have a productive first season as pros.
"I'm looking forward to making that next leap to the AHL or even the NHL," said Bortuzzo, a 6-foot-4 right-handed shooter who had a goal and 16 assists in 23 games for Kitchener of the Ontario Hockey League but likes another statistic -- one that shows that 17 players who got into at least one game with the Penguins last season spent at least some time in their career with the club's Wilkes-Barre/Scranton American Hockey League team.
"They've done a good job with developing their prospects," Bortuzzo said. "They've had this camp three years in a row, which we've all [from the 2007 draft] attended. The proof is in the pudding: A lot of guys are getting their shot in the NHL."
The Penguins built their championship squad heavily through the drafts of this decade. They took defenseman Brooks Orpik in 2000, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in 2003, center Evgeni Malkin, defenseman Alex Goligoski and winger Tyler Kennedy in 2004, center Sidney Crosby and defenseman Kris Letang in 2005 and center Jordan Staal in 2006.
"It's a pretty good draft in '07. It's good competition. I like competition," said Veilleux, a hulking 6-5 center who had 15 goals, 48 points in 29 games for Rimouski of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season.
The 2007 draft came at the end of general manager Ray Shero's first full season. While there don't appear to be stars in the group in the mold of Crosby, Malkin, Staal or Fleury, it seems highly plausible that each of the six still in the organization will get a shot at the NHL.
"I think it's testimony to the way they do things here -- the scouting staff and from a hockey development standpoint," Caputi said.
Caputi and Jeffrey were teammates in junior hockey at Mississauga of the OHL, but all six Penguins prospects from the 2007 draft have become familiar with one another.
"You kind of have a bond with the guys and check on them throughout the year to see how they're doing," Pierro-Zabotel said.
They won't have to look as far this season. Many will share the same bench.
"We're all going to end up playing together in Wilkes-Barre, or even here, so it's about forming a bond with them so that when we do play together it's an easier transition," Caputi said.
NOTE -- The NHL moved a Penguins-Carolina game at RBC Center from Oct. 15 to Oct. 14 to avoid a conflict with the North Carolina State Fair. The move also shortens a Penguins four-game road trip by a day.
Shelly Anderson can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1721.
First published on July 22, 2009 at 12:00 am
Penguins prospect Casey Pierro-Zabotel practices at the Icoplex at Southpointe yesterday.
07-23-2009, 01:49 PM
Penguins' Strait ready for next level
Thursday, July 23, 2009
By Shelly Anderson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
As he got late into last hockey season, defenseman Brian Strait decided a championship probably would be enough to convince him he was ready for a career-changing move. Then there he was, on the ice with his teammates grinning and celebrating as they posed with their trophy.
That was four days before the Penguins opened play in the postseason on their way to the Stanley Cup title.
Strait, a third-round draft pick by the Penguins in 2006, helped Boston University cap off a 35-6-4 season with an NCAA championship in April and decided the NHL club was right: It was time to turn pro.
"It was a difficult one," Strait, who is participating this week in the Penguins rookie and prospects camp, said of the decision to forgo his senior season. If he had not signed an entry-level NHL contract, he would have become a free agent.
"[The Penguins] came to my agent around January. At the time, it's midseason, we're having this unbelievable season. I can't think about it because I'm concentrating on the season."
Strait, 21, a solidly built defensive defenseman whose accent nails him as a Boston native, eventually settled on turning pro after the Terriers' Frozen Four success.
By the time he arrived here for his third Penguins prospects camp -- the first he didn't have to pay his own way to attend now that he's out from under the NCAA rules -- Strait wondered why he had agonized so much over turning pro.
"You're getting pressure from both sides -- and they're good at talking," he said. "They can really sway your opinion. That's why it made it harder than it actually should have been."
That is, until he was able to clear his head and look at things a little more objectively. Then he realized he liked his earlier conclusion, that winning college hockey's national championship would be the perfect way to end his amateur career.
In 38 games, Strait had two goals, seven assists and a plus-minus rating of plus-10 as Boston University won every tournament it entered through the season, ending with the Frozen Four.
"That's the pinnacle," Strait said. "I was thinking, 'How could it get any better than this?' Next year was just going to be a disappointment to me.
"On top of it all, the No. 1 reason is I want to play in the NHL. When I weighed the options with my parents, it just seemed like a no-brainer to me. I really wanted to be in Pittsburgh. I didn't want to go through being a free agent."
So the Penguins won the tug of war.
"Our feeling was that another year of college would not have done him that much good developmentally," said Penguins director of amateur scouting Jay Heinbuck. "He needed to make that next step and get to another caliber of hockey."
Strait's role didn't change through his three college seasons, but the 6-foot-1, 200-pound left-handed shot got better at it.
"From freshman year to junior year, I have really come into my role," he said. "I am a defensive defenseman, but I can jump up once in a while, move the puck. Freshman year, you're physically OK to be there, but you're not physically ready to dominate. Last year, I felt it was a lot easier to be there. Mistakes came minimally to me."
For anyone who likes comparisons, Strait could be seen as a younger version of Rob Scuderi, the shutdown defenseman and elite penalty-killer who helped the Penguins win the Cup before moving on to Los Angeles earlier this month through free agency.
"He's always been really solid defensively and with the first pass, not an offensive, point-producing guy," Heinbuck said of Strait. "He's got a ways to go to become Rob Scuderi, but we looked at him in that sort of mold."
Strait is likely to begin the season at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League.
It will be a lot different from filling his weekdays with practice and studying and playing on weekends, as it was in college.
"I've played some pretty good hockey. The AHL is obviously not the NHL level, but guys I've talked to say it's not that much of a jump as it would be from juniors to the AHL," Strait said. "But they say the schedule is a grind. It's going to be a lot different. I'm sure after a couple months, I'll adjust to it. I'm more excited to try something new."
This prospects camp isn't so new for Strait. Two years ago, he was one of the wide-eyed newbies, as the 2009 draftees are this week.
"When I came here, 19 years old, I was nervous. I'm at an NHL camp," Strait said. "This year's a lot more relaxed. You know people already and you get to know more people. I'm still a little nervous just because I'm starting my pro career, but I'm more familiar with everybody, and it makes it a lot easier to enjoy it."
Shelly Anderson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1721.
First published on July 23, 2009 at 12:00 am
Penguins prospect Brian Strait on his decision to turn pro, "I really wanted to be in Pittsburgh."
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