View Full Version : Penguins to Hold Prospect Development Camp July 12th to 17th
07-06-2010, 03:20 PM
Penguins to Hold Development Camp
Tuesday, 07.06.2010 / 10:00 AM
The Pittsburgh Penguins will hold a prospect development camp July 12-17. Among those players scheduled to attend are Eric Tangradi and recent NHL Entry Draft first-round selections Simon Despres (2009) and Beau Bennett (2010).
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, WBS assistant coach John Hynes, Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald, Penguins goaltending coach Gilles Meloche and Penguins strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar.
Tangradi, 21, a former second-round draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks who was acquired with Chris Kunitz in February 2008, completed his first season in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last year. The 6-foot-4, 221-pound left winger finished with 17 goals, 39 points and eight power-play goals in 65 games. The Philadelphia, Pa. native finished eighth in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) with 88 points (38G-50A) in 55 games for Belleville in 2008-09. Tangradi added eight goals and 21 points in 16 playoff games for the Bulls.
Despres, 19, the 30th-overall selection in 2009 by Pittsburgh, completed his third season with Saint John of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) by setting career highs across the board in goals (9), assists (38), points (47), plus-minus rating (plus-26), power-play goals (4) and game-winning goals (4). He followed the regular-season campaign with an impressive postseason, recording 19 points (2G-17A) and a plus-14 rating in 21 contests.
Bennett, 18, who was the Penguins’ first-round pick (20th overall) in this year’s NHL Entry Draft, will attend his first Penguins development camp. Bennett, who will play at the University of Denver this season, led the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) in scoring with 120 points (41G-79A) in 56 games for the Penticton Vees. The Gardenia, California native, who is also the highest drafted California-born player in NHL history, chipped in five goals and 14 points in 15 playoff games.
Other prospects in the Penguins’ system scheduled to be in Pittsburgh are forwards Kenneth Agostino, Andy Bathgate, Joey Haddad, Ben Hanowski, Dustin Jeffrey, Tom Kuehnhackl, Nick Petersen, Casey Pierro-Zabotel, Zack Sill and Keven Veilleux; defensemen Robert Bortuzzo, Nicholas D’Agostino, Viktor Ekbom, Alex Grant, Reid McNeill, Joe Rogalski, Carl Sneep, Brian Strait and Alex Velischek; and goaltenders Patrick Killeen, Mattias Modig and Brad Thiessen.
07-12-2010, 01:44 PM
Development Camp Practices Used As A Teaching Tool
Monday, 07.12.2010 / 8:00 AM
By Jason Seidling
Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma had the following message for his players when he stood in front of them for the first time on Feb. 15, 2010:
“We will leave an impression on everybody. The pen is in our hand. They are going to write something about us, so what kind of impression are people going to leave the rink thinking of the Pittsburgh Penguins?”
An 18-3-4 regular-season finish and a Stanley Cup championship later, I think we all remember the lasting impression the Penguins left following Bylsma’s arrival.
Leaving a positive impression will be a key theme for the Penguins once again during the upcoming week as the team hosts its annual development camp featuring many of the top prospects and recent draft picks from within the farm system.
For many of the players invited, especially those just selected last month in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, development camp serves as the first chance to showcase their skills to the hockey operations and coaching staffs in Pittsburgh.
“The one thing I learned in my career was first impressions are always lasting impressions,” said Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald, who is one of the instructors who will help run the camp. “You have one chance to make a first impression. This is a first impression for all of these kids.
“I will have an impression of all of them on Monday night. I will say that 99 percent of them will be great first impressions.”
The on-ice portion of those impressions will begin on Tuesday when the players hit the ice at Southpointe for the first of four practices which are all open to the public. (Click here to see the camp schedule)
While all of the players will be evaluated by Bylsma, general manager Ray Shero and assistant coach Tony Granato, among others, the main function of the camp is not to necessarily grade the players on their individual performance, but rather to teach the kids about the daily structure of the Pittsburgh Penguins organization.
“On the ice, we try to give the guys a look at what both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins do to prepare for games,” said Fitzgerald, whose previous job description saw his working extensively with the Penguins’ prospects. “It gives us a chance to inject all of these kids on what we are teaching Brooks Orpik, what we are teaching Sidney Crosby and what we are teaching Evgeni Malkin. What we are doing with these young kids is no different than what we are doing with our team. That is what we are trying to accomplish here.”
To help in that regard, Fitzgerald will be assisted at the camp by WBS head coach Todd Reirden and WBS assistant coach John Hynes. In addition, Penguins goaltending coach Gilles Meloche will be on hand to work with the three young netminders scheduled to appear.
Throughout the course of the week, Fitzgerald and his staff will run the team through a variety of practice sessions designed to mirror a Penguins weekly schedule.
Among the themes of these practices will be a flow day where the emphasis is on skating drills, a systems practice where the players focus on learning the varying nuances of the team’s overall system and a “work day” where the players will skate hard for about 50 minutes to an hour.
“One of the days we will have a flow practice where there isn’t much battle drills but rather a lot of flow where goalies see a lot of pucks,” Fitzgerald said. “We will also work on system drills which show them how we like to break the puck out, what we like to do in the neutral zone and what we like to do on the forecheck.
“Finally, we show them a work day. Those are days where you better put your work boots and hard hat on because you will be going to work out there on the ice. When we have those days your legs will feel it within 50 minutes to an hour. We give them what we try to teach our guy.”
Besides teaching the players what an NHL practice structure looks like, another benefit Fitzgerald finds with development camp is it also allows the Penguins a chance to show their prospects the specific tendencies the coaches teach.
“We can teach guys like Alex Grant how we defend a one-on-one,” Fitzgerald said. “Do we cross over or do we defend them stick on puck? Up front, it might be something different. It could be how we cycle the puck.”
Fitzgeral believes development camps such as these, which weren’t around when he was breaking into the league, are invaluable to a player’s progression. Having this chance to come in for a week and take valuable learning tools back to their junior or college teams will allow the players to progress at a quicker rate and become more ready to contribute at the NHL level once they turn pro.
“We have to inject these guys into our lineup because we can’t just go out and sign a bunch of free agents,” Fitzgerald said. “We have to develop from within and be able to inject some of these young kids into our lineup without skipping a beat and still be a contender year in and year out.”
07-12-2010, 01:45 PM
Development Camp Benefits Prospects In A Variety of Ways
Sunday, 07.11.2010 / 4:30 PM
By Jason Seidling
The calendar says early July as temperatures in the Pittsburgh region hover well into the upper 90s, and that can only mean one thing – it’s time for a hockey.
No, it’s not time for training camp to begin quite yet, but the Penguins will get a jump start on the 2010-11 regular season as they hold the team’s annual development camp July 12-17 at Mellon Arena and the Iceoplex at Southpointe.
This year’s camp will be run by Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald, goaltending coach Gilles Meloche, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach Todd Reirden and WBS assistant coach John Hynes.
Unlike training camp, when players are battling for roster spots and getting prepared for the upcoming season, development camp is a chance for the top prospects and recent draft picks within the organization to spend a week in Pittsburgh learning all of the on- and off-ice aspects that come with being a professional in a more relaxed setting.
“The whole idea of setting this camp up is to develop the habits and the mindset of a pro hockey player and what is expected from a pro hockey player in our organization,” Fitzgerald said. “We also get to see our draft picks with the Pittsburgh Penguins uniform on. It gives them that sense of family.
“This allows us to look at these guys together. We also get to show them what the city of Pittsburgh is all about. And finally, we get to educate these guys on what is expected by having media training, a nutritionist, a sports psychologist and NHL security.”
While the players will spend four of the days on the ice at Southpointe partaking in practices which are open to the public, Fitzgerald believes all of the various training seminars and team-bonding experiences the players will participate in off the ice will be the most beneficial.
“When 20- or 21-year-old kids enter the league they know how to play hockey,” Fitzgerald said. “The hockey aspect takes care of itself. It’s the other stuff that we put a lot of value on. A big part of hockey is the mental side – that’s why we have professionals who come in, work with these guys and give them answers to things that might come up.”
Fitzgerald said camps such as these weren’t available to players back when guys like he, Reirden and Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma were preparing to make the jump from amateur to professional hockey. While Fitzgerald said he eventually learned what it took to become a professional, he said taking this week to educate young players before they turn pro is simply taking advantage of the invaluable resources that are available today and better sets the players up for long-term success.
“That is such a huge element that goes into being a professional,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s something that Todd, Dan and I were taught through experience. Maybe by saying something we shouldn’t have said to the media without someone saying you can’t say that. That was our experience, but we said let’s try to educate these kids prior. You learn by your experiences, but if you can give them a heads up on certain things maybe they won’t make those same kinds of mistakes.”
Another important aspect of development camp is the chance it gives players who will one day be calling each other teammates to get together for a week, learn a little bit about each other and experience the culture which has made the Penguins one of the league’s most-successful franchises over the last five years. This is done through off-ice dinners and activities such as bowling and paintball throughout the week.
“We show these guys the way that we build our foundation,” Fitzgerald said. “With that foundation come expectations for everybody within the organization. You set your goals and your expectations high. Winners have higher expectations – winning Stanley Cups. We have done that and we want to continue to do that.”
Forward Dustin Jeffrey, who will be attending his fourth development camp, says getting to meet the other young players within the organization is the best part of the camp.
“I think that’s the biggest thing about these camps – it builds that family-type attitude,” Jeffrey said. “You get to be introduced to everybody in the organization. It’s more of an introductory camp that let’s everybody get together and learn about each other.”
Finally, development camp gives Penguins management a chance to evaluate where all of the prospects are from a physical standpoint thanks to fitness tests they will undergo at the UMPC Sports Performance Complex on the South Side. Those who meet expectation levels are commended, while those who don’t are given a program to follow so they can be ready when the main camp begins in September.
“When we have our physical testing we can see who is serious and has put the time in the gym from the end of the season to testing day on July 13,” Fitzgerald said. “As far as the junior kids who will be back for rookie camp in September, this is where you are at. If you are where we think you need to be – that’s great. If you are not, you have two months to get going.”
07-12-2010, 01:50 PM
Anyone plan to head over to Southpointe at 3:00 on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, or Saturday this week? Want to provide any scouting reports about how some of the youngsters look out on the ice?
Penguins 2010 Development Camp Opens Tuesday
Friday, 07.09.2010 / 11:30 AM
The Pittsburgh Penguins 2010 prospect development camp kicks off Tuesday, July 13th and runs through Saturday, July 17th.
The group of rookies and prospects will arrive Monday, July 12th in Pittsburgh to take part in the development camp, which consists of on-ice practice and scrimmage sessions at Southpointe, medical and fitness testing at the UPMC Sports Medicine Complex on the South Side and workouts, meetings and seminars at Mellon Arena.
All on-ice sessions at Southpointe will be open to the public.
The instructors will be Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach Todd Reirden, WBS assistant coach John Hynes, Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald, Penguins goaltending coach Gilles Meloche and Penguins strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar.
Monday, July 12
Players arrive (Team meeting)
Tuesday, July 13
Medical/Fitness Testing (UPMC South Side)
Practice (Southpointe, 3 p.m.)
Wednesday, July 14
Workouts (Mellon Arena)
Practice (Southpointe, 3 p.m.)
Thursday, July 15
Team building day
Friday, July 16
Workouts (Mellon Arena)
Practice (Southpointe, 3 p.m.)
Saturday, July 17
Workouts (Mellon Arena)
Practice (Southpointe, 3 p.m.)
07-13-2010, 04:12 PM
Development Camp First Step To NHL Jobs for Tangradi, Jeffrey
Monday, 07.12.2010 / 3:00 PM
Features By Jason Seidling
The Penguins made quite a splash when free agency opened on July 1, inking top-tier unrestricted free agent blueliners Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin to five-year deals within hours of the offseason derby’s opening.
While general manager Ray Shero’s moves last week no doubt served notice to the rest of the Eastern Conference that the Penguins plan on maintaining their perch at the top of the standings, what the Penguins did in terms of acquiring personnel also sent a message to some of the younger players within the organization.
Because Shero spent most of the Penguins’ available salary cap space upgrading the backline, there will be a tremendous opportunity available at training camp for some of the team’s young forwards – Eric Tangradi, Dustin Jeffrey, Nick Johnson and Mark Letestu – to earn top-line minutes out of the gate.
“There’s a time when we have to give these guys an opportunity,” said Shero at a media conference on July 1 not long after signing Michalek and Martin. “We have guys like Tangradi that should be pushing for a spot. Letestu proved he can do a good job last year. We have Dustin Jeffrey, Nick Johnson. These guys are deserving of some looks.”
Tangradi and Jeffrey begin the process of staking their claim to those coveted openings on Monday when they join several of the team’s top prospects for a weeklong development camp. Both players realize that regular-season roster spots won’t be won or lost in the upcoming week, but they do know they can use this extra ice time to showcase the areas of their game they have worked all summer to improve in hopes of earning a regular National Hockey League shift.
“For a few guys that are coming into this rookie camp I think first impressions are huge,” Tangradi said. “I think every step along the way is going to be a huge factor in who makes the club. You can’t put too much pressure on yourself, but I think you need to work extremely hard and make the organization happy with how your summer has gone.”
“I really think you can make a good impression,” Jeffrey said. “For guys like myself and Tangradi who have played a year or two in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, we have also helped make our impressions during the season. This is a good chance to come in for a week and do some testing and show everybody where we are at.”
Jeffrey, 22, has watched his game improve in many different facets following each of the four camps he has attended.
Last season the 6-foot-3, 199-pound Jeffrey made the successful transition from his natural center position to the wing. The result was an offensive outburst which saw Jeffrey finish the season ranked 11th (tied) in the AHL scoring race with 71 points (24G-47A) as he took on more of a scoring role for the Baby Penguins.
“I think these camps are a huge help in having success during the season because they run it like they do the main camp and they treat you like a professional,” Jeffrey said. “The way they run the practices allows you to see if you are up to the challenge of meeting that tempo. If you aren’t, it shows you where you need to be when the main camp rolls around in September.”
Because Jeffrey has been to several of these camps before, this year he will once again be asked to serve as one of the unofficial leaders for the younger players who might be nervous attending for the first time. It’s a role Jeffrey, who addressed all of the campers early in the week last year, eagerly welcomes.
“Having been through two full seasons in WBS and four development camps, I think for sure I am going to be among the guys they are going to look for to push the younger players,” Jeffrey said. “There are a lot of guys who haven’t been around the organization before and sometimes it’s easier to ask a peer than a trainer or coach.”
Tangradi will be making his second consecutive appearance at development camp. He credits last year’s camp, which was his first organized team activity with the Penguins organization following his February 2009 acquisition from Anaheim, as one of the key factors in his having a good offensive season this past season with the Penguins’ top minor-league affiliate in WBS.
The 21-year-old Tangradi, who projects as a power forward at the NHL level thanks to an impressive 6-foot-4, 221-pound frame, is coming off of a rookie campaign which saw him improve dramatically throughout the course of a season where he put up 17 goals and 39 points 65 games with WBS.
“Coming to camp last year helped me because it showed me how they practice in Pittsburgh and in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton,” Tangradi said. “It’s nice because you get to meet your teammates and they also have expectations waiting for you right off the bat. It’s a great learning experience before you officially become a part of the organization.”
Tangradi, who scored five goals over his final 10 games and made his NHL debut in the Penguins’ season finale against the New York Islanders, believes the off-ice training and seminars that are a significant part of development camp helped prepare him for the grind of his first professional season.
“The team sets you up with as many off-ice resources as they can and I think that is important, especially for the young kids coming in because they haven’t experienced the media and the full effect of the mental aspect of the game,” Tangradi said. “I think those things open some eyes and give you a sense of what the NHL is really like.”
07-13-2010, 04:20 PM
Bennett Looks Forward To First Development Camp
Tuesday, 07.13.2010 / 7:00 AM
Features By Jason Seidling
It’s not often that you can find an 18-year-old lifelong California resident who can say that he has made the cross-country flight to Pittsburgh before – let alone doing it twice.
Then again, it’s not too often that you find an 18-year-old California native who calls hockey his favorite sport, either.
But Beau Bennett is not like most 18-year-olds who call the Golden State home.
While other kids spent their youth on the baseball diamond hitting balls over the fence or along the shoreline riding wakeboards, Bennett instead focused on hockey. He picked up the sport by following in his brother’s footsteps as a roller hockey player before switching over to ice hockey.
Bennett’s on-ice success is what led to the Southern California native twice making the cross-country journey to Pittsburgh for major hockey tournaments.
Bennett first visited Pittsburgh for a national “AAA” tournament as a peewee player. He most recently visited the Steel City two years ago to play in the Under-18 AAA nationals at the RMU Island Sports Center when he was a member of the Los Angeles Junior Kings.
“We had a great time in Pittsburgh on both occasions,” Bennett said. “I noticed that it was really a hockey town. There seemed to be a lot of support at the rink. That really gets me excited for this development camp.”
Bennett, who hails from Gardena, California, is making his third trip to Pittsburgh this week as he and many of the Penguins’ top prospects and recent draft picks visit for the team’s annual prospect development camp to be held at Mellon Arena and Iceoplex at Southpointe.
The 6-foot-1, 173-pound forward is eager for this visit as he will meet many of his future teammates and coaches for the first time.
“I am feeling pretty good,” Bennett said. “I am definitely a little nervous to be meeting all the players and coaches, but I’m not nervous about getting on the ice. That’s why you play the game of hockey. When I get on the ice, all nerves will get out of the way.
“I think with this being my first development camp I just want to take it all in. I also just want to see the city of Pittsburgh and get a feel for it. I want to see how everything works so that in the long run I’ll be able to come play in Pittsburgh.”
Because of the high profile that comes with being a first-round pick, Bennett knows that he will be one of the focal points of the media’s attention. Bennett, who called himself shy by nature in large media gatherings, is excited for that challenge thanks to a little practice last month at the draft.
“The draft was my first real taste of interviews,” Bennett said. “I had never really gone through that. I was a little nervous because I get nervous talking in front of a large group of people. What I think will help with that is when I get on the ice because then all nerves will go away. I think being on the ice will allow me to be a lot more comfortable talking to the media and all the guys.”
In addition to having to hold court in interview sessions, Bennett is also looking forward to the training seminars which are a big part of development camp. The University of Denver recruit has his pencil and notebook packed in anticipation of gaining important information concerning nutrition, psychology and off-ice training which he can take with him to college when he enrolls next month.
“I think hearing from the different professionals they are bringing in is going to be a great asset,” Bennett said. “You have to take everything they say in because it all will help you progress and be a better hockey player.”
As far as some of the off-ice activities scheduled for the players throughout the week, Bennett advised the other campers that they shouldn’t be too worried about him showing them up.
“I have never been paintballing, so I am excited to go for the first time,” he said. “I can knock down the pins when I bowl, but my talents don’t go much farther than that.”
Besides, he’s going to be too busy enjoying his time in the ‘Burgh after the business approach his teams took on his previous trips to the city.
“The last two times I was there it was all business,” Bennett said. “We just stuck to eating pasta dinners and really didn’t get to go out that much. I am excited to get to see the whole city and try some things out in the area to get used to Pittsburgh a little bit.”
07-13-2010, 04:25 PM
Penguins' Jeffrey worth watching
By Rob Rossi, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
A left wing is the prospect to watch this week at the Penguins annual developmental camp.
His name is Dustin Jeffrey, not Eric Tangradi — the forward widely presumed to one day make the most impact in the NHL.
Tangradi, 21, likely will play for the Penguins at some point this season. Jeffrey, 22, could beat him to Pittsburgh. They are among 29 prospects that arrived Monday and will depart Saturday after a series of practices at Southpointe, meetings at Mellon Arena and team-bonding activities.
The Penguins' plan to try playing either center Evgeni Malkin or Jordan Staal at wing — the latter is six months younger than Jeffrey — has created competition for a roster spot among their most NHL-ready forwards.
Jeffrey, a former center, is near the top of that group after scoring 24 goals and recording 71 points in 77 AHL games last season. He is one of 10 wingers among 15 forwards slated for the prospect camp.
Tangradi is the winger at camp widely considered to possess the greatest high-end skill. He is independently viewed as the club's best forward prospect.
However, right wing Tyler Kennedy and defenseman Kris Letang (each in 2007) are examples of touted prospects the Penguins placed in the AHL for about a month after training camp before becoming NHL regulars.
The eyes of general manager Ray Shero will be on Tangradi and Jeffrey during drills runs by a group that notably includes assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach Todd Reirden.
Three other prospects to watch closely:
• Mattias Modig, goalie, 23: The Penguins acquired him May 28 in a trade with Anaheim. He recorded a 2.46 goals-against average and .900 save percentage in 34 games with the Sweden Elite League last season. There is no set No. 3 goalie (AHL starter) for next season and no future No. 2 to Marc-Andre Fleury. Modig has a chance to fill those roles; what he must display this week in an aptitude for instruction from goalie coach Gilles Meloche.
• Simon Despres, defense, 18: No prospect in the system garnered more praise from opposing scouts at the 2010 entry draft. Despres is held in higher regard by the Penguins now than when they selected him 30th overall in 2009. His offensive instincts will be obvious to even an untrained eye; what he should show this week is an improved first stride and overall smoother skating.
• Beau Bennett, right wing, 18: From the first-round frying pan into the fryer — well, not quite, but 2010 first-round pick Bennett can expect an eye-opening week. His California-youth training regimen will seem like a warm-up to what strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar has in store. His play-making skill impressed scouts; what he could show this week is deft touch on his passes and sure work along the boards.
07-14-2010, 04:42 PM
Reirden Talks Camp and Competition
Tuesday, 07.13.2010 / 6:58 PM
Features By Sam Kasan
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach Todd Reirden will be heading up the Penguins 2010 Prospect Development Camp. Here are a few points of interested that Reirden shared with the media during Day 1’s fitness and conditioning tests at UPMC Sports Medicine Complex on the South Side on Tuesday.
As all American Hockey League coaches know, it’s a bitter-sweet feeling when your players get snatch by the parent club.
On the positive, you know that your job is to make them NHL ready and if they are getting called up, then you are doing your job. On the other hand, as a coach you are losing your best players and that makes winning much more difficult.
“That’s my goal and my job,” Reirden said. “I love every part of that. Certainly last year 13 guys came up from Wilkes-Barre and were able to come up here and be a part of the Pittsburgh Penguins. That’s what we do. One of my favorite parts of the job is telling them that they’re coming up to play in the National Hockey League. In some of the cases last year with Mark Letestu, Deryk Engelland and those types of guys, it was their first National Hockey League game. That’s the fun part of my job. It’s certainly what I love doing.
“It certainly comes with my job description. I love that part. That’s my favorite thing to do in coaching in the American Hockey League – moving guys on to what they’ve been working toward and sacrificing for to get this opportunity. I’m glad that I can play a role in helping them to accomplish their dreams and their goals. For me, it’s something that I really enjoy. It makes coaching in the American Hockey League challenging, because your lineup is constantly changing on a daily basis, and you’re not just losing your bottom-end guy. You’re losing your top player, which will always stay consistent with your top player in Wilkes-Barre. At the time when they need a call up, he’s the guy who comes up. More often than not, I lose the best player. Sometimes it’s two hours before the game, and you have to re-structure things. But I think that it has really helped in my growth as a coach – to prepare me for the National Hockey League and get me ready for situations that are difficult like dealing through injuries and lineup adjustments. I think that, as a young coach, it’s something that I see as a challenge but also really embrace and enjoy.”
The Pittsburgh Penguins have five spots locked in on the defensive side of the ice. That means there will be a lot of competition among the defensive prospects in the Penguins’ system for the final two spots.
Reirden gave his insight on which prospects to keep an eye on along the blue line.
“I think that if you talk about Brian Strait, he is a guy who has led our team in Wilkes-Barre in plus-minus. Robert Bortuzzo is a guy who brings – obviously as a man of his stature in size at 6-foot-4 – he brings a little bit of a physical element with 11 fighting majors last year. He is a guy who brings something a little bit different than what we have right now in the organization outside of Deryk Engelland. I think that those guys will definitely be people to watch this week. I’m really interested to watch Simon Despres. He certainly had a career year last year in the Quebec league, and he looks like he is in great shape.
Another possibility on the backend is defenseman Ben Lovejoy, who re-signed to a three-year contract this summer.
“This development camp really serves as a kick-off point for our prospects and even guys who we have added as free agents,” Reirden said. “Certainly Ben Lovejoy is kind of the poster child of what we’re talking about here. He’s a guy who came to us from another organization. He grew through the development camp and went through a couple of years of that and learned our systems and learned what we’re all about here. He spent some time in Wilkes-Barre and had some outstanding seasons there as an AHL All-Star.
“Certainly he turned into a leader for me down in Wilkes-Barre this past year. I’m very proud of how he came up and handled himself. He has put himself in a great position to earn a full-time role. When I was working in Wilkes-Barre – Dan (Bylsma) was the head coach, and I was the assistant coach – I was working with the defensemen, so I spent a lot of time with Ben and Deryk Engelland and developing those guys. When I became the head coach, I certainly still stay on top of those guys who are continuing with their development. It’s great to see the whole process come to fruition and having the final outcome and the final goal of playing in the National Hockey League becoming more of a realization for them. It will be interesting to see those guys come into camp this year.”
The defense is not the only spot in the Penguins’ lineup where there are jobs available. A few openings exist up front along the wing and a few prospects are jockeying to become the front-runners for those opportunities, particularly Eric Tangradi and Dustin Jeffrey.
“I think that Eric’s growth throughout the season was outstanding,” Reirden said. “I think that he really understood what it took to play a game on a night-in, night-out basis as a power forward who uses his body and uses his frame. You were all able to see the success that he had in the game against the Islanders. He didn’t look out of place at all. Certainly those are big things to expect from him down the road.
“Dustin Jeffrey is a guy who had 71 points in the American Hockey League last year. He almost doubled his point total, and I moved him to a different position. I’m always looking for more versatile players who can play in different spots. Certainly Dustin is back for his fourth development camp, and we’re looking for some leadership from his during this week for sure.”
Reirden acknowledged that the prospect development camp wasn’t only a huge benefit to the young professional players in the organization, but also gives an advantage to the coaches and staff – who have an opportunity to see the players up close.
“I have heard a lot about our most recent draft picks – Beau Bennett, Ken Agostino and all of the guys who we drafted. I have never seen them play, so this is my first chance to get my hands on them and do some work with them in drills that we’re going to do in Wilkes-Barre and that they do in Pittsburgh. They’re getting a real good indoctrination of what we’re all about here and what we expect. I think that it’s also great for me to start to develop relationships with these guys, especially young players, and make sure that they understand where our care factor is and that our ultimate goal is to try to turn them into future Pittsburgh Penguins.”
07-26-2010, 10:14 AM
Diary: Bennett Reflects on Start of Development Camp
Wednesday, 07.14.2010 / 2:22 PM /
Pittsburgh’s 2010 first-round draft-pick Beau Bennett is in the Steel City taking part in the team’s development camp. The 18-year-old California native shared some of his thoughts on the start of his first professional camp with http://www.pittsburghpenguins.com.
The first day was tough to get going. We had a fitness test right off the bat with a 6 a.m. wake-up call, a pretty early morning. I maxed out on a couple of exercises where you’re supposed to stop at a certain point. I’m pretty excited about that. There were other drills that I was average on. I have to keep getting better, keep getting stronger and hopefully at Denver University, it will be a successful learning year and I’ll keep getting stronger.
Then we had a real tough practice at Southpointe. It’s unreal playing with guys who’ve been there before, played NHL games like Tangradi and Jeffrey. I’m playing with Jeffrey right now. I’m just trying to take it all in, watch what he’s doing a little bit, learn from him and keep getting better as the week goes on. It was a rusty day for a lot of us with the new gear and it was the first time on the ice for me in a month. I definitely had to get out some of the cobwebs. As the week goes on, we’ll hit full form by then.
We finished the day with a bowling competition. Our team was pretty good. The first game I was definitely the worst player on my team. I bowled like a 70. I had 19 pins through five frames. It’s not a good start. I got better as the games went on. I was the weak link in the first game and then scored second highest in the second game. I had a quick learning curve. I got the ball straight down the middle more times than not in the second game. Our team - Brian Strait, Reid McNeil, Tom Fitzgerald, Casey Pierro-Zabotel and Keven Vellieux; it was a pretty solid team - pulled it through so we all get a point for the competition. It was definitely a good thing. It came down to the wire at the end and luckily we pulled it out.
I’m glad they do stuff like that. It’s nice to get away from the hockey rink for a bit, have fun and hang out with some of the guys, learn about them. Competitions always make it fun. It was a good, fun activity to end the day with.
All the guys have been really cool. We’re all here for the same reason, to push each other. It was a really successful few days. Coming in this morning our team had a workout. That was great. We worked hard and put our time in. Now we’re getting ready for another good practice.
07-26-2010, 10:18 AM
Wednesday, 07.14.2010 / 3:54 PM
Features By Sam Kasan
> Despres is attending his second development camp
> Despres is fighting for a roster spot at the Penguins’ upcoming training camp
> Despres has improved physically since last year
> Despres has worked on his shot and set career highs offensively last year with Saint John
> Despres was the Penguins’ 2009 first-round draft pick
Penguins defenseman Simon Despres is only one year removed from being drafted by Pittsburgh in the first round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. However, his progress and improvement are evident for all those around him to see at the Penguins 2010 development camp.
Since last year Despres has added on to his already impressive stature. He measured in last year at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, and it’s clear that he has spent much of the offseason bulking up his frame.
“Like any young kid, one year makes a huge difference with confidence, maturity and just the way that he looks,” Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald said. “He understands nutrition. He understands conditioning. You can see the transformation in his body in one year. When you try to forecast in five years what that big body is going to look like, that’s pretty exciting to think about.”
Despres has also improved considerably on the ice. The 18-year-old was a stalwart on the blue line for Saint John of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, setting career highs across the board in goals (9), assists (38), points (47), plus-minus (plus-26), power-play goals (4) and game-winning goals (4). He chipped in an eye-popping 19 points (2G-17A) in just 21 postseason contests for the Sea Dogs.
“I was more confident on the ice, and confidence for me was a big issue,” Despres said. “It’s always fun to be on the winning team, so the atmosphere in our room was good. It was fun to go to the rink this year.
“We had a great team overall. It was a fun atmosphere in the room. It was fun to go to the rink. It reflected on my play. I got better as the season went on. I played with great players. We had a great team. It reflected on my numbers.”
Another reason Despres’ numbers improved was the work he did during the year on his offensive game, particularly with his shot.
“I’ve been working on my shot this summer by shooting on goalies, and it has gotten better,” he said. “As a defenseman, I shoot a lot from the blue line, but give me a shot from the slot and I’ll bury it.”
Despres, who has another year of eligibility in juniors, is hoping to make his mark at the upcoming training camp, and add his name to the list of candidates for a position in Pittsburgh this year.
Although Despres’ chances of making the Penguins were impacted by the phenomenal work of general manager Ray Shero and his recent blockbuster signings of Zbynek Michalek and Paul Martin, Despres is not discouraged, and welcomes the challenge.
“I didn’t really have a reaction,” Despres said of the signings. “I didn’t know what to expect. It gives me a little bit more motivation to work harder and try to earn my spot than if they didn’t sign them. … The things they do in the offseason are out of my control.”
Despres, the 30th-overall selection in the 2009 draft, is attending his second development camp with the Penguins. He entered his first camp as a fresh, young novice, a little nervous in the new environment.
But this year Despres looks like a seasoned veteran, and can be seen helping and coaching the younger players.
“It’s my second year here,” Despres said. “I knew what to expect. I came in with more confidence. I’m more comfortable in the room. I know the guys who were here last year, so it’s good. … I’ll try to be dominant and be a leader and show what I can do.”
“It’s growth from one year to the next,” Fitzgerald said. “You talk about Simon Despres, you saw him come in last year as a 17-year-old. He’s not much older than Beau Bennett this year. You’ll see a major difference in the body transformation. They’re at ease and come in, and when you’re more relaxed, you’re more comfortable, and you can do what you’re supposed to do on the ice.
“You watch Simon on the ice compared to some of the younger guys, and you can see that he’s just relaxed. He’s at ease with who he is and his surroundings. That makes for him to be more comfortable and more productive as a player.”
The Penguins will continue to monitor Despres’ development as he steps closer and closer to becoming an NHL player. But to fulfill his dream, Despres knows there is a long road ahead.
“That’s what I have been dreaming of for all of my life,” he said. “I’ve been working for it. You have to keep working to get there.
“Every aspect of my game needs a lot of tweaking. There’s a lot of work to be done and I’ll keep working on that. I’ll try to give the best impression I can and let them decide my fate.”
07-26-2010, 10:24 AM
Fitzgerald Talks Camp and Conditioning
Wednesday, 07.14.2010 / 10:18 PM
Features By Sam Kasan
Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald is one of the team’s instructors at the 2010 Prospect Development Camp. Here are a few points of interested that Fitzgerald shared with the media during Day 2 of camp. ?
Power forward prospect Keven Veilleux, the Penguins’ second-round pick (51st overall) in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, has been an early bright spot of the development camp.
Veilleux, who stands at 6-foot-5, 218 pounds, played in only nine games this past year with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton due to a shoulder injury. However, the 21-year-old has fought his way back to health, and has looked strong in the early part of camp.
“Keven’s situation – in the past, decisions concerning his bad shoulder and how he came into camp conditioning-wise and who he was working out with – we feel like we have that under control,” Fitzgerald said. “The one thing is that you can educate these kids on nutrition and conditioning and stay in touch with who they’re working out with, but the bottom line is that they have to do it with conviction. They have to believe in it. We can’t want them to be hockey players more than they do, because it won’t work. It just won’t work."
Veilleux has put in the work in the offseason to rehab his shoulder, and made quite an impression on the Penguins' brass.
“Keven, for us, our first impression was that he came in, and you can tell that he has worked out this summer," Fitzgerald said. "He has worked hard. That’s the growth and development of all these kids from one year to the next. You’ll see it the more that you are around these kids year in and year out. They go from being basically babies to young men to being in the prime of their careers. Keven hopefully by now has figured out everything that we have tried to teach these kids over the past few years. He’s starting to figure out that he wants to be a hockey player.”
Fitzgerald brought up a good point about a few unsigned players that were invited to the development camp. Although it may appear on the surface that the unsigned players that attended the camp are here on a tryout, the opposite is true. Fitzgerald pointed out that it is the Penguins who are trying out and recruiting the players for when they become eligible free agents.
“I was just talking to one of the gentlemen from Boston College, Brian Gibbons,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s not a tryout for these guys. They were invited to our camp for a reason, because whether it was myself or scouts or (assistant general manager) Jason Botterill or pro scouts – whoever it was, they noticed these guys during the winter and said, ‘Hey, if there’s an opportunity to get this guy into our camp, let’s do it.’"
And once the player accepts the invitation to camp, it’s then the Penguins' job to sell the player on what the organization is all about.
“Like I just told Brian, he’s not here on a tryout,” Fitzgerald said. “He’s here for a reason. He’s here, because he earned the right to be asked, and he accepted this opportunity. Basically, we’re trying out for him, because a year from now when he’s a free agent and graduates from college, he will know what we’re all about as an organization, and then he can make that decision knowing firsthand, because he is here – on what we do and how we treat our players.”
NO SURE THING
Fitzgerald was pretty frank when asked about how the current development camp affects a player’s chances for making a roster spot with Pittsburgh.
“It affects it very little,” he said. “This isn’t a tryout for guys. It’s an opportunity to come in and grow as a group. There will be first impressions. Every time that you see somebody you have a first impression on a kid.
“You come in as a draft pick. You’re nervous in the first year, and you’re not sure what to do. But you try to instill the leadership part on the older guys to let some of these younger guys lean on them with questions to make them feel more at home and more comfortable so that they can just go out and do what they do. As far as going into September, the camp makes very little difference, because this is July, and it’s basically a classroom type of environment where we’re trying to instill some things off the ice and try to control what we can do on the ice.”
One of the keys to the development camp is teaching the players how to take care of their bodies – meaning what to eat, drink and supplements to take, as well as the proper workout and conditioning programs.
While the camp only lasts a week, the Penguins organization stays on top of all their prospects throughout the year to make sure they are sticking with the program and getting into the best possible shape. ??
“That’s one thing that we do as an organization. We are on top of their off-ice conditioning and whom they work out with,” Fitzgerald said. “Myself, Mike Kadar – the strength coach here – and Joe Lawrence – the strength coach in Wilkes-Barre – we stay on top of these guys through e-mails and through their conditioning coaches. We know exactly where they’re at. When we bring them in on July 12, we can see them firsthand.
“I can’t be in Montreal or Minnesota or Boston. I can’t be in all of these places. The trust factor that you have used to educate these kids pretty well means that they go home and it clicks and they get it. They know what is needed and what they need to do as pro hockey players – not just saying they want to be pro hockey players but doing. Saying and doing are two different things.”
The Penguins staff gets their first firsthand look at the prospects conditioning during their fitness and medical evaluations at UPMC Sports Medicine Complex on the South Side. The testing was conducted early Tuesday morning, and even Fitzgerald acknowledged that it is the most difficult portion of the camp.
“Definitely the hardest,” he said. “They’re at the rink here at about 6:30-6:45 a.m. They’re off on the bus. The anxiety is built up, because testing is hard. You put your body through an exhausting morning of full-out (exercise) until you almost drop.
“You talk about first impressions, and that is the initial first impression. What kind of shape are these kids in? What kind of shape are our second- and third-year guys in? The anxiety level – I know it well. I still remember it like it was yesterday with a short five years ago at my last camp. You get nervous. I’m an 18-year veteran, and I’m still nervous about how to test. What you do is what they see and what they think of you, because it’s a first impression.”
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