View Full Version : Tangradi, 3 1st Round Picks Highlight Pens' Development Camp
07-05-2011, 06:06 PM
Tangradi, Three First-Round Selections Highlight Penguins' 2011 Development Camp Roster
July 16th scrimmage at CONSOL Energy Center will be open to the public
Tuesday, 07.05.2011 / 1:44 PM
The Pittsburgh Penguins will host a prospect development camp July 11-16 at CONSOL Energy Center, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Ray Shero.
Highlighting the camp roster is forward Eric Tangradi, who played 15 regular-season games with Pittsburgh in 2010-11, and the team’s previous three first-round draft picks: defenseman Simon Despres (2009, 30th overall); forward Beau Bennett (2010, 20th); and defenseman Joseph Morrow (2011, 23rd).
This is the first year the Penguins have held prospect development camp at CONSOL Energy Center. Saturday afternoon’s concluding scrimmage on July 16 will begin at 3 p.m. and will be open to the public.
The group of rookies and prospects will be in Pittsburgh taking part in on-ice practice and scrimmage sessions, undergoing medical and fitness testing and attending meetings and seminars.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes, WBS assistant coach Alain Nasreddine, Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald, Penguins goaltending coach Gilles Meloche, Penguins player development coach Bill Guerin, Penguins strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar and WBS strength and conditioning coach Joe Lorincz will serve as camp instructors.
Tangradi, 22, saw the first extended NHL action of his career this season, making the Penguins’ opening-night roster and contributing three points (1G-2A) in 15 regular-season games. He also made his NHL postseason debut when he dressed for Game 4 vs. Tampa Bay. Tangradi also spent time this season with WBS, scoring 18 goals and 33 points in 42 games.
Despres, 19, finished a strong season with Saint John of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) by helping to lead the Sea Dogs to a Memorial Cup championship. Individually, Despres earned the Emile Bouchard Trophy as the QMJHL’s best defenseman after collecting 41 points (13G-28A) and posting a plus-29 rating in 47 games. Despres was a member of Team Canada’s silver-medalist squad at the 2011 World Junior Championships in Buffalo, N.Y.
Bennett, 19, recently completed his first collegiate season at the University of Denver. In 37 games with the Pioneers, Bennett tallied nine goals, 16 assists and 25 points. A native of Gardena, Calif., Bennett was the highest-drafted California-born player in NHL history when the Penguins chose him 20th overall last June.
Morrow, 18, was the highest-scoring blueliner for the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League (WHL) this past season, notching 49 points (9G-40A) and six power-play goals in 60 games. During the postseason, he placed second among all WHL blueliners with 20 points (6G-14A) in 21 games while helping the Winterhawks reach the WHL final.
Other prospects in the Penguins’ system scheduled to attend camp are forwards Josh Archibald, Brian Gibbons, Tom Kuhnhackl, Nick Petersen, Bryan Rust, Zack Sill, Paul Thompson, Dominik Uher, Keven Veilleux and Scott Wilson; defensemen Nicholas D’Agostino, Alex Grant, Scott Harrington, Reid McNeill, Joe Rogalski, Philip Samuelsson and Alex Velischek; and goaltender Patrick Killeen.
07-12-2011, 12:17 PM
Penguins 2011 Development Camp Begins Tuesday at CONSOL Energy Center
Free Scrimmage on July 16 Open to the Public
Sunday, 07.10.2011 / 10:00 AM
The Pittsburgh Penguins 2011 prospect development camp will begin with on-ice practices at CONSOL Energy Center this Tuesday, July 12 and will run through Saturday, July 16.
This year’s camp, which is the first to be held at CONSOL Energy Center, will feature a free scrimmage open to the public on Saturday, July 16 beginning at 3 p.m.
Fans wishing to attend the scrimmage can enjoy free parking available in all CONSOL Energy Center lots. All fans should enter the arena through the Trib Total Media Gate, which will open at 2:30 p.m. Several concession stands, as well as PensGear – the Penguins’ official team store – will be open.
In addition to the on-ice portion of camp, the group of rookies and prospects participating in development camp will take part in medical and fitness testing, workouts, meetings and seminars at CONSOL Energy Center.
Serving as instructors this year are Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes, WBS assistant coach Alain Nasreddine, Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald, Penguins goaltending coach Gilles Meloche, Penguins player development coach Bill Guerin, Penguins strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar and WBS strength and conditioning coach Joe Lorincz.
The first on-ice practice will be held Tuesday, July 12 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at CONSOL Energy Center. All players and coaches will be available to the media inside the Penguins locker room beginning at 1 p.m.
2010-11 PROSPECT DEVELOPMENT CAMP ROSTER
Player # Pos. Shoots HT WT DOB (Age) 2010-11 Club Status How Acquired
Andrew Blazek 10 D L 6-2 185 08/07/88 (22) Robert Morris (AHA) UFA
Simon Despres 2 D L 6-4 205 07/27/91 (19) Saint John (QMJHL) NHL Rd. 1 (30th overall) 2009 Draft
Nicholas D'Agostino 6 D L 6-1 177 06/24/90 (21) Cornell (ECAC) UDC Rd. 7 (210th overall) 2008 Draft
Alex Grant 9 D R 6-3 185 01/20/89 (22) Wheeling (ECHL) NHL Rd. 4 (118th overall) 2007 Draft WBS (AHL)
Scott Harrington 8 D L 6-0 200 03/10/93 (18) London (OHL) UDC Rd. 2 (54th overall) 2011 Draft
Reid McNeill 3 D L 6-3 191 04/29/92 (19) London (OHL) UDC Rd. 6 (170th overall) 2010 Draft
Joe Morrow 7 D L 6-0 197 12/09/92 (18) Portland (WHL) UDC Rd. 1 (23rd overall) 2011 Draft
Joe Rogalski 4 D R 6-1 195 11/29/91 (19) Sarnia (OHL) UDC Rd. 6 (152nd overall) 2010 Draft
Philip Samuelsson 5 D L 6-2 198 07/26/91 (19) Boston College (H-E) NHL Rd. 2 (61st overall) 2009 Draft
Josh Archibald 15 RW R 5-9 161 10/06/92 (18) Brainerd (HS) UDC Rd. 6 (174th overall) 2011 Draft
Jessey Astles 27 RW L 6-1 192 06/04/93 (18) Kelowna (WHL) UFA
Beau Bennett 19 RW R 6-1 173 11/27/91 (19) Denver (WCHA) UDC Rd. 1 (20th overall) 2010 Draft
Stefan Fournier 22 RW R 6-2 200 04/30/92 (19) Lewiston (QMJHL) UFA
Brian Gibbons 17 C L 5-8 160 02/26/88 (23) Boston College (H-E) NHL Signed as free agent 4/20/11
Jared Gomes 23 C L 6-1 190 10/20/88 (22) UPEI (AUS) UFA
Tom Kuhnhackl 14 RW L 6-2 172 01/21/92 (19) Windsor (OHL) UDC Rd. 4 (110th overall) 2010 Draft
Nick Petersen 20 RW R 6-2 186 05/27/89 (22) Wheeling (ECHL) NHL Rd. 4 (121st overall) 2009 Draft WBS (AHL)
Bryan Rust 12 RW R 6-0 191 05/11/92 (19) Notre Dame (CCHA) UDC Rd. 3 (80th overall) 2010 Draft
Zach Sill 11 C L 6-0 200 05/04/88 (23) WBS (AHL) NHL
Eric Tangradi 26 LW L 6-0 221 02/10/89 (22) Pittsburgh (NHL) NHL Trade with Anaheim 2/26/09 WBS (AHL)
Paul Thompson 16 RW R 6-1 205 11/30/88 (22) WBS (AHL) NHL Signed as free agent 3/20/11 New Hampshire (H-E)
Dominik Uher 28 C L 6-0 195 12/31/92 (18) Spokane (WHL) UDC Rd. 5 (144th overall) 2011 Draft
Keven Veilleux 24 RW R 6-5 218 06/27/89 (22) WBS (AHL) NHL Rd. 2 (51st overall) 2007 Draft
Scott Wilson 25 C L 5-10 166 04/24/92 (19) Georgetown (OJHL) UDC Rd. 7 (209th overall) 2011 Draft
Scott Zurevinski 18 F L 6-2 190 06/04/88 (23) Quinnipiac (ECAC) UFA
Patrick Kileen 1 G L 6-1 204 04/15/90 (21) WBS (AHL) NHL Rd. 6 (180th overall) 2008 Draft Wheeling (ECHL)
Maxime Lagace 31 G L 6-2 177 01/12/93 (18) PEI (QMJHL) UFA
Rob Madore 29 G L 5-10 179 05/28/88 (23) Vermont (H-E) UFA
UDC - Unsigned Draft Choice
UFA - Unrestricted Free Agent
NHL - NHL Contract
AHL - AHL Contract
PTO - Professional Tryout
07-12-2011, 12:19 PM
Two Pittsburgh Players to Attend Penguins' Development Camp This Week at CONSOL Energy Center
Monday, 07.11.2011 / 11:59 AM
Two Pittsburgh area players will be on the ice at the Pittsburgh Penguins’ annual Development Camp starting Tuesday at CONSOL Energy Center.
Rob Madore, a goaltender from Peters Township who plays at the University of Vermont, and Andrew Blazek, a defenseman from Upper St. Clair who plays at Robert Morris University, are among 28 young players scheduled to attend the camp.
Madore and Blazek will join such NHL prospects as Eric Tangradi and recent No. 1 draft picks Simon Despres, Beau Bennett and Joe Morrow at the development camp, which runs from Tuesday through Saturday.
NHL teams are allowed to invite undrafted college players to these camps, providing the college players pay their own expenses.
Both Madore and Blazek played high school hockey in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Hockey League (PIHL) and skated for the Pittsburgh Hornets amateur program
Madore, who is entering his senior season at Vermont, won two Penguins Cup high school championships at Mellon Arena while playing for Peters Township. He has a career goals-against average of 2.68 at Vermont.
Blazek, a junior at Robert Morris, started his career as a winger before switching to defense. He played two years of high school hockey at Upper St. Clair and two years of U.S. junior hockey before enrolling at RMU.
07-12-2011, 12:24 PM
Tuesday, 07.12.2011 / 7:00 AM
Features By Michelle Crechiolo
Making the jump from amateur to professional hockey is about so much more than on-ice ability.
That means the 28 young men in attendance at the Penguins’ annual prospect development camp, which kicks off bright and early Tuesday morning at CONSOL Energy Center, better get their pencils and notebooks ready – because they’re about to learn what it means to be a Pittsburgh Penguin in every sense of the word.
“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,” said Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald, one of the camp’s instructors.
“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.”
The prospects in attendance have quite an eventful week ahead of them at camp, which goes through Saturday and will be run by Fitzgerald, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes, WBS assistant coach Alain Nasreddine, Penguins goaltending coach Gilles Meloche, Penguins player development coach Bill Guerin, Penguins strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar and WBS strength and conditioning coach Joe Lorincz.
In addition to on-ice practices, off-ice workouts, a Saturday scrimmage and team-bonding experiences like a bowling tournament and group dinners, they’ll be receiving education in media training, NHL security, nutrition and sports psychology.
They’ll even be taking a cooking class to give them options outside of dialing the number of the nearest pizza delivery place when they no longer live with Mom and Dad.
“When 20- or 21-year-old kids enter the league they know how to play hockey,” Fitzgerald explained. “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.”
Prospect development camps are standard practice in the National Hockey League these days, but it wasn’t always that way.
When guys like Fitzgerald, head coach Dan Bylsma and assistant coach Todd Reirden were preparing to make the jump to professional hockey, camps like these weren’t available to them. Instead, they had to figure it out on their own.
And while they eventually learned what it took to make it at this level, there’s so many invaluable resources currently available to set these young men up for long-term success that it would be silly not to take advantage of them.
In fact, Fitzgerald believes that the various training seminars and team-bonding experiences the players will participate in off the ice this week will be the most beneficial to them.
“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.”
It may seem like a whole lot of information crammed into a six-day period, and well, that’s because it is. But no one ever said it was easy.
“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.”
07-14-2011, 01:17 PM
Happy to be Here
Wednesday, 07.13.2011 / 6:22 PM
Features By Michelle Crechiolo
When asked what it felt like to be selected by the Penguins in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, big smiles crept onto both Dominik Uher’s and Josh Archibald’s faces.
“It was pretty amazing,” said Uher.
Added Archibald: “I was just shocked.”
Uher, a 6-foot, 195-pound forward who spent last season with Spokane of the Western Hockey League (WHL), was sitting at his computer at home in the Czech Republic, feverishly checking the Internet as the draft unfolded.
When his name finally appeared as the Penguins’ fifth-round choice (144th overall), Uher couldn’t believe it.
“It’s a great organization and I’m so happy to be here,” he said.
He came into his own last season with the Chiefs, finishing with 21 goals and 60 points through 65 games – a monumental increase from the four goals and 16 points he posted through 53 games in 2009-10.
“It was very hard for me when I first got there,” he admitted, citing the transition from European-style hockey to North American as the reason for his initial struggles. It also didn’t help Uher knew no English, an area he’s also improved drastically in thanks to the help of his teachers and roommates in Spokane.
But despite his drastic improvement, Uher’s coaches in Spokane weren’t sure about where he would be drafted.
“I knew (being drafted) might happen,” Uher said. “So I was kind of nervous, but when I saw my name under the Penguins I was pretty happy.”
Uher classifies himself as a hardworking player similar to a power forward, who thrives on the physical aspect of the game – something he loves about the North American style of play.
“Now I’m used to playing American hockey and I like it more than the European style,” he said, adding with a grin, “so right now I enjoy hitting.”
Archibald played last season with Brainerd High School in Brainerd, MN, posting 73 points (27G-46A) in 25 games. The 18-year-old was named a finalist for the state’s prestigious Mr. Hockey award while serving as team captain.
Archibald, the son of former NHL player Jim Archibald, was born and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan. The family moved to Minnesota prior to Archibald starting the ninth grade.
Once in the state, Archibald began attending hockey camps run by Penguins scout Chuck Grillo.
And that’s who gave Archibald a call when the Penguins selected him in the sixth round (174th overall).
“While the draft was going on I got a call from one of the Pittsburgh staff, Chuck Grillo,” he said. “I know him pretty well, he lives up in Minnesota and I go to his camp a lot. He called me and asked me if I’d like to be a Penguin. I was just shocked. I didn't know what to say. He said that they had just drafted me. It is just an unreal experience to be able to come down here and experience all of this.”
Archibald said he had talked to Pittsburgh throughout the season, so it wasn’t a complete surprise that the organization drafted him.
But standing in the Penguins locker room dressed in official team workout gear, he noted how surreal the experience has been so far for him.
“It honestly hasn’t sunk in yet,” he said. “But ever since I got here it’s kind of setting in and I’m realizing what everything is about.”
The 5-foot-10, 161-pound forward sees himself as an “aggressive player.”
“I’m a good skater, but I also see the ice really well so I can pass the puck and just do whatever I need to,” he added.
Archibald, who will be attending the University of Nebraska-Omaha in the fall, has no immediate timeline for his future plans.
“I’m just taking it one year at a time,” he said. “I’m going in there looking to get the experience, get bigger, hopefully become NHL ready soon.
07-14-2011, 01:25 PM
Dreams From My Father
Philip Samuelsson Following the Career of his Father
Wednesday, 07.13.2011 / 5:04 PM
Features By Sam Kasan
Inside the Penguins locker room hangs a black jersey. On the front is the crest of the Penguins logo. On the back reads the name SAMUELSSON with a No. 5 below it.
Though the jersey is hanging inside the locker room at CONSOL Energy Center, a similar image took place 20 years ago across the street at Civic Arena.
It’s like déjà vu all over again.
Defenseman Philip Samuelsson, the son of former Penguin and fan favorite blueliner Ulf, is in Pittsburgh to take part in the team’s 2011 development camp.
And his visage isn’t the only part of him that bares a resemblance to his father, who is a member of the Penguins All-Time Team. Philip's play on the ice has reminded several NHL scouts of his dad.
“We both are shutdown-style defensemen,” said the younger Samuelsson, Pittsburgh’s 61st-overall pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. “I like to play aggressive and hit within in the rules. He was much more aggressive in hitting because the rules allowed for it. Now the game has changed so much that you have to be smarter with how you are. We’re basically the same, I think.”
That isn’t surprising considering that they both share the same genes and bloodline. Not to mention that Ulf, who is currently the head coach of Modo of the Swedish Elite League, has taught and trained his son from his youth.
“It’s amazing how much work he’s put into my development,” Philip said. “He looks at a lot of my game tapes and we go over that after the game on what he thinks I can tweak here and there shooting-wise, gap-wise, hitting-wise. It’s something that’s helped me out a lot.”
Another aspect helping Samuelsson develop is the Penguins organization. Samuelsson is attending his first-ever development camp in which team prospects learn the team’s system, the team’s terminology and other fitness and conditioning tips to help them get to the NHL level.
“I’m very exciting to be here in Pittsburgh,” Philip said. “I’m ready to soak in all the information I can and learn everything from the coaching staff and physical training staff.
“It will be a benefit for me in the fall to have a base knowledge of how everything works here, and get more comfortable with the city that I hopefully will one day be playing in.”
Samuelsson spent the last two seasons playing at Boston College. He won the NCAA national title as a freshman, but has opted to start his professional career now and leave college, singing with the Penguins.
“It was a tough decision for me,” he noted. “I have nothing but great things to say about Boston College. It’s a historic program and a great school. For me, I wanted to be a hockey player. I wanted to focus all my attention on hockey and not school. That was my main decision there.”
And in the future the No. 5 Samuelsson jersey could be hanging regularly in the CONSOL Energy Center locker room. Just as Philip remembered seeing it as a boy.
“I remember being a little pup, running around the rinks all the time. I remember being at the old Igloo, being in the locker room,” he said. “I thought I was part of the team then. That’s my earliest memory, being a little rink rat and running around.”
And Samuelsson is well aware of the mutual love between his father and the city where he won two Stanley Cup championships.
“I know from talking to him that he loved the city and the fan base that they had here,” Philip said. “He’s either a hero or a villain depending on where he is. He had that style that was in your face, but it worked for him.”
Ulf, who played 277 games for the Penguins from 1991-95, was also the hero in Game 6 of the 1991 Stanley Cup Final against Minnesota, scoring the game-deciding, Cup-clinching goal in an 8-0 win for Pittsburgh. While many Penguins fans may forget about Ulf’s winning tally, it is not forgotten in the Samuelsson household.
“He won’t let you forget that,” Philip joked. “He loves saying that he won the Stanley Cup.”
Maybe one done his son will make the same claim.
07-14-2011, 01:32 PM
Talking Shop with John Hynes
Wednesday, 07.13.2011 / 4:59 PM
Features By Michelle Crechiolo
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes is heading up the Penguins 2011 prospect development camp at CONSOL Energy Center, which runs from July 11-16. Here are a few points of interest that Hynes has shared with the media over Days 1 and 2 on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Before the first practice of the week began on Tuesday, Hynes outlined the mindset of the Penguins staff members running the camp.
“One of the things we like to do is really educate the younger players on what it takes to be a Pittsburgh Penguin and really what our culture is as an organization,” he said. “It’s really a holistic approach to the camp. There’s not as many competitive situations as far as daily scrimmages – it’s more about educating them on how we want to practice, the types of drills that we run and things that we want to implement systematically. So when the players come back for rookie camp or training camp, they’re on the same page and they know what to expect.
“Their workouts throughout the week will really mirror what they would do if they were in Pittsburgh or in WBS. Off the ice, the team building and team camaraderie exercises are all things we want to be able to challenge them with. With competitions and having them work together and getting them outside of their comfort zone. It’s a great situation for the guys to really get a feel for how we do things as an organization, and really, what to expect in the coming months, whether they’re going to go back to their college programs or to junior programs. They’ll know what we expect and the things we want to see from them in the future.”
Last summer marked Hynes’ first Penguins prospect development camp, as he had just finished his first season with the organization as WBS assistant coach.
Hynes is now WBS head coach, meaning he’s the man in charge this week at CONSOL Energy Center, and he appreciates how his role in last year’s camp helped him prepare for this one.
“The whole transition is enjoyable,” he said. “It was nice that I was able to come into the organization and really go through everything for one year just to see the philosophy of how things get done and get to know people a little bit better.
“This year’s been great. We’ve taken a lot of the ideas that we’ve had from last year and just kind of continued to build on them. There’s really a model that’s been put in place, so we kind of just follow that up and we kind of tweak things here or there.”
Hynes couldn’t say enough about the impact that Bill Guerin, the Penguins’ new player development coach, is already having on the organization in his new role.
“He’s got an excellent personality with the players,” Hynes said of Guerin. “He’s an outgoing, funny guy. He’s really got a good relationship with the players. It’s not just his reputation.”
Hynes noted that Guerin, who retired on Dec. 6, 2010 as a Pittsburgh Penguin with 18 NHL seasons under his belt, had already began working with him and his staff in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at the end of the regular season and through the playoffs,
“He was a great resource to the coaching staff, because the great thing is that he just got done playing,” Hynes said. “He really understands what the players are going through.
“The thing I’ve been the most impressed with is his willingness to work. He’s so approachable to the players and to the staff that he’s going to be a great asset for everybody because of his knowledge and personality.”
After quelling the initial nervousness of the first day of camp and gaining some familiarity with each other, Wednesday’s practice flowed much more smoothly than Tuesday’s.
“It was the second day, so they felt a little bit better,” Hynes said. “They know each other a little bit more. We had a bowling tournament last night where they loosened up a little bit there, and we had a good time with that.”
Wednesday’s practice concluded with a lively, intense 3-on-3 scrimmage played on one end of the ice. While this week is all about development, Hynes explained that the Penguins have incorporated an element of competition into most of the activities, as one of the organization’s most prized values is compete level.
“One of the things we have done at the camp is we have a running competition,” he said. “So when the players get here, we split them into two teams and we have an individual champion at the end of the week. They had a nutrition lecture Tuesday, so at the end of the lecture they get questions. And if the guys get questions right, they get a point. We have it on the standings board in the locker room.
“Every day on the ice – Tuesday was the shootout and today was a 3-on-3 scrimmage – the winning team gets points. That's why today’s scrimmage really became competitive. … That is part of the camp. We talk to them about how we want to have guys that can compete and enjoy that process. We do develop throughout the week with a lot of activities, but everything almost has a competitive element to it.”
The purpose of this prospect development camp is to teach the attendees what it takes to be a Pittsburgh Penguin and what the organization’s culture is.
But for those prospects that aren’t making the jump to the professional ranks just yet, how do they balance what the Penguins are trying to teach them with the demands of their junior or college clubs?
Well, Hynes and the rest of the staff are certainly teaching them the details that make the Penguins’ systems and philosophies unique. But they believe the messages the Penguins prospects take back with them to their respective teams can translate into any system.
“When they go back to their teams, it’s more taking back the identity of how we want to play,” Hynes said. “We want guys who have great work ethics. We want guys that are going to play physical, are going to be aggressive and are going to play fast. Those are things they can take in any system that they play.
“One of the things we do is give them a foundation of what our systematic structure is, and over the course of 1-3 years – by the time they either turn pro or are going to be in Wilkes-Barre or Pittsburgh – they have a really good idea of how we want to play all of our systems. But when they leave and go back to separate teams, it’s more about the attributes of how we want to have our players play, which is relentless, fast and physical, playing both sides of the puck equally hard. Those are things we would expect them to do whether they’re in our organization playing with us or if they’re in juniors or college.”
07-14-2011, 01:36 PM
Foundation of Strength
Wednesday, 07.13.2011 / 9:30 AM
Features By Michelle Crechiolo
Walk into the Penguins locker room after a game, and you’re bound to see the players trading their equipment gear for workout gear and beelining to the exercise bikes, treadmills and weights.
It doesn’t matter that the players just grinded out three intense periods of hard-hitting, fast-skating hockey – finding success at the NHL level means putting in an extraordinary amount of work off the ice.
And this week, Pittsburgh strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar will try to instill such habits into the Penguins prospects at the team’s annual development camp.
“I think the biggest thing is how to become a professional hockey player and how to do the proper things correctly,” Kadar said. “That all stems from how we lift, how we present ourselves and how you come in and test. All of those things are going to play a part, as will the on-ice activities where they’re learning the systems and learning the Penguin way.
“It’s all kind of a combination on becoming a professional athlete and a professional hockey player.”
The prospects in attendance at camp are no slouches. They’ve all put in incredible efforts to be successful at elite levels of hockey, whether that be juniors, college or the American Hockey League.
But Kadar says the biggest difference from amateur hockey to professional hockey is the requisite work ethic, and that’s what he and the rest of the staff will communicate this week.
“We always put together a sheet after testing for our young guys that has the NHL standard for every test and where they fall in,” he said. “It’s all segmented and color-coded in terms of whether the prospect is above-average, average or below the NHL standards. That gives them a good idea on where they need to get to. It’s a little notch higher than where the kids are typically at right now.”
That testing took place bright and early Tuesday morning, as the players had to be ready to go by 7:30 a.m. The players’ performances give Kadar and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton strength and conditioning coach Joe Lorincz a baseline they can work with for the foreseeable future.
Their expectations for players who have been through camp before are obviously very high.
“They already know how we train,” Kadar said. “They already know how we eat. They already know how to act and how to be a Pittsburgh Penguin. So there are high expectations, especially on the second, third and fourth-year kids.”
Now that the testing is finished, the 28 prospects will be split into two workout groups each day for the remainder of camp.
Those smaller groups will then be split in half – one will do lifts with conditioning, while the second will partake in skill development sessions of stickhandling and shooting in the Penguins’ shooting room.
When the camp ends, Kadar will give each prospect a fitness program that covers all realms of fitness. He believes that if they follow it, they’ll be in great shape by the time they arrive in Pittsburgh.
But Kadar knows he can’t constantly monitor the prospects, so he encourages them to use any available resources at their disposal to make them the best they can be.
“These players are from all over the world,” he said. “You can’t keep track of whether they’re using your program or not. To me, it doesn't really matter as long as I’m in communication with their strength coach or they’re doing things properly. I encourage players to go and get their own strength and conditioning coach, just so they have someone to work with so they are in good shape by the time they get here instead of trying to do it on their own.”
Kadar knows his role in this camp is part of the whole arsenal given to these players in hopes of helping them find success in Pittsburgh.
“We’re trying to get them better in every aspect of hockey,” he said. “All the realms of fitness and nutrition and on-ice systems and how to become an athlete, be an athlete and how to become a Penguin.”
07-14-2011, 01:38 PM
Tuesday, 07.12.2011 / 8:53 PM
Features By Michelle Crechiolo
The members of the Pittsburgh media were given photo rosters for this week’s Penguins prospect development camp so they could familiarize themselves with the players they hadn’t met yet.
Although he probably wouldn’t admit it, such a roster might have been a useful tool for Joseph Morrow – the organization’s first-round pick (23rd overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft – who is attending his first-ever Penguins camp.
“I’m still trying to learn everybody’s name,” Morrow admitted with a smile. “It’s hard. There’s a lot of guys here and with the organization and everything else, too. It’s pretty crazy. You don’t want to forget people’s names.”
Morrow, who grew up in Sherwood Park, Alberta and who plays for Portland of the Western Hockey League (WHL), flew into Pittsburgh Monday night for the introduction meeting – a little over two weeks after becoming a member of the Penguins organization.
“I’ve been looking forward to this for a long time, ever since the draft,” he said. “I was real excited to finally come to Pittsburgh, and so far, so good. Hopefully it stays that way. “
Morrow had never been to the Steel City before this week, and the 18-year-old defenseman is thoroughly impressed by his new surroundings.
“It’s phenomenal,” he said of his first impressions of both Pittsburgh and CONSOL Energy Center. “The whole city and everything is overwhelming, especially with this brand-new rink. The dressing room is fantastic. It’s like a little palace.”
Since it’s Morrow’s first-ever professional camp, he isn’t entirely sure what to expect.
Morrow – who projects as a top-4 defenseman at the NHL level thanks to his wicked shot, good size (6-foot, 197 pounds) and powerful skating – just plans on absorbing all of the information he can that will help him find long-term success as a Pittsburgh Penguin.
Not to mention that he plans on enjoying the other aspects that come with the camp, like team-bonding activities, group dinners and just getting to know his fellow prospects.
“Just to develop,” he said of what he hopes to get out of this week. “It’s a development camp for a reason. I’m here to improve every aspect of my game and I’m here to have a good time. They treat you phenomenally here. You can’t get much better than this."
07-14-2011, 01:43 PM
Tuesday, 07.12.2011 / 6:21 PM
Features By Michelle Crechiolo
Eric Tangradi may be just 22 years old. But this week, he’s an old soul.
That’s because Tangradi is currently attending his third Penguins prospect development camp (and the fifth of his career, as he participated in two similar camps with Anaheim in 2007 and 2008), which began today and runs through Saturday at CONSOL Energy Center.
With a smorgasbord of familiarity with situations like these, the young winger is relishing the role of experienced veteran.
“There’s a lot of new young faces, and with this being my third year here, I think it’s my job and my role to be a leader,” he said. “I’m just trying to make them comfortable and make them feel good about the whole situation.”
It’s been a few years since Tangradi attended his first camp, but he vividly remembers the anxiety that came along with it – after all, being invited to a camp run by an NHL organization is a huge step in most players’ careers.
There’s plenty of pressure that comes with being unwaveringly watched and evaluated by those within the Penguins organization while simultaneously adjusting to unfamiliar people and surroundings and processing a whole lot of information on how to be a professional hockey player.
“I know how I felt when I first came in,” Tangradi said. “I didn't know anybody. You’re nervous and you’re worried. So you just try to calm the kids down and just let them know that this isn’t a tryout, it’s just kind of like an orientation.”
Last season, Tangradi made Pittsburgh’s roster out of training camp and played the first eight games of the season with the Penguins before being sent back to WBS.
He later earned another opportunity to join the parent club in February, and although he was sidelined for 16 games with a concussion shortly after, Tangradi remained in Pittsburgh for the remainder of the regular season and the playoffs.
He spent that entire time watching how his teammates in Pittsburgh conducted themselves both on and off the ice. Now Tangradi will get the chance to take all of that accumulated knowledge and experience and use it to mentor his fellow Penguins prospects, like camp roommate Josh Archibald, the organization's sixth-round pick (174th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes, one of the instructors at this year’s camp, emphasized how beneficial it is for young players like Tangradi to undertake such prominent roles at camps like these.
“We like that those guys are going to be leaders,” Hynes said of Tangradi and the other experienced camp attendees. “It’s a different role for them, because if they’re younger guys that come up to Pittsburgh, they have the experience of learning from (Sidney) Crosby, (Brooks) Orpik, (Evgeni) Malkin, (Kris) Letang and all of those types of players on what their work ethic is like, how they practice, how they approach the game and how we play.
“This is a good opportunity for a guy like Eric Tangradi, who has been through the camps and understands how we want to do things and what type of systems we want to play. But more importantly, (he understands) the attributes we want to have in our players. It’s a good situation for him to take on that leadership role and be able to lead by example on and off the ice.”
So although he's been through all of this numerous times, Tangradi certainly isn't snoozing through any of the seminars. He knows the Penguins have high expectations for him and he wants to fulfill them to the best of his ability.
“I have to be front row with my eyes wide open and a big smile,” he joked. “So no sleeping for me. A lot of the information is repetitive, but when you pay attention and show that you’re interested – which I am – I think the other kids start to appreciate that it is a value of being a professional athlete.
“Any time you put the sweater on, you’re representing the organization and yourself. I think today went very well. I had my testing, and I think that’s an indicator of how much I want to be here. As far as the skates go, as long as I progress throughout the week I think I’ll be happy and I think they’ll be as well.”
But when it’s all said and done, what’s Tangradi’s main message to the other prospects?
“That everyone in this organization is not going to be satisfied unless you play in the NHL,” he said. “I mean, every single guy from (assistant to the general manager) Tom Fitzgerald to (general manager) Ray Shero – they picked you (to be here) for a reason. You’re here for a reason, and that’s to play for the Pittsburgh Penguins. So it’s nice to know that there are people around you whose ultimate goal is to get you in the NHL.”
07-15-2011, 12:17 PM
Morrow Learning the Ropes
Thursday, 07.14.2011 / 9:13 PM
Features By Sam Kasan
Defenseman Joseph Morrow was given the same introduction to the city of Pittsburgh that is received by every first-time visitor to the city.
Driving toward downtown from the airport, Morrow rode through the Liberty Tunnels and the entire city emerged on the other side, opening up a bright future and new world in front of him.
“It’s an outstanding city so far from what I’ve seen,” said Morrow, the Penguins’ 2011 first-round draft pick. “You come through that tunnel from the airport, it goes from a little bit of a jungle to a huge city. That’s a really cool bridge to be on. I’ve never been on anything like that. I really like it.”
Morrow, 18, is one of 28 Penguins prospects in town for the weeklong development camp at CONSOL Energy Center. As part of the camp, Morrow is learning the Penguins system, terminology and philosophy, as well as bonding with fellow prospects.
“It’s extremely important,” Morrow said of the camp. “You get to know all the names and important people around here. Everyone treats you fantastic. I’ve never been treated like this in my life. It’s kind of like I’m royalty. Personally, I don’t think I’m that special of a person. It’s been fantastic. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.”
Watching Morrow on ice, it is easy to see why the Penguins brass are excited about his future. The Sherwood Park, Alberta native is a strong skater and gifted two-way defenseman with a big shot. His skating has always been one of his strengths, something he claims is a “natural God given talent handed down to me. I have to use that to my advantage.”
But just being born with a gift isn’t enough to satisfy Morrow. He’s know accomplishing anything takes some effort and sweat.
“My skating is good, but it can be better. My shot is pretty good, but it can be better,” he said. “It took a day or two to get used to this faster pace. I’m starting to get the hang of it a little bit.
“I’ve always been kind of the stronger kid growing up. You come out here and I’m not the stronger kid anymore at all. There are some big guys out here. … I’m going to get stronger, get faster, shoot harder, pass harder.”
Morrow played junior hockey at Portland of the Western Hockey League over the past three-plus seasons. The Winterhawks play an aggressive style in which their defensemen join the attack. Not only does that style mirror that of the Penguins system, it also best suits Morrow’s offensive abilities and overall game.
“From what I’ve seen, even the first couple days of camp, (the styles are) extremely similar,” Morrow said. “From me getting yelled at for not jumping into the play and being lazy back there. That’s what the Winterhawks like, too. Work your can off to get into the play and create that extra man. So far that’s what I like to hear. I’m going to use that every chance I can get. It’s pretty comforting that they like that style of play.”
But what Morrow is taking most from camp is a taste of the NHL and the motivation to get there: a taste of working with Penguins coaches and staff, running through the team’s drills, dressing in the team’s locker room, working out in the Penguins weight room and skating on the ice surface at CONSOL Energy Center.
And a little motivation for him to keep working and progressing so that one day he will join players like Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury in the lineup.
“Being in their dressing room, using their equipment, their stuff, to walk out of their dressing room, down their tunnel in their rink, it’s something special,” he said. “I don’t know what it would be like to step onto that ice with 18,000 people in the building. I’m looking forward to it whenever it comes.”
Morrow at a Glance
Thursday, 07.14.2011 / 9:38 PM
Features By Sam Kasan
The Penguins selected Portland defenseman Joseph Morrow in the first round (23rd overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minnesota. Here are some quick quotes from Morrow on speaking his mind, possibly playing World Juniors for Team Canada and more…
ON REPRESENTING TEAM CANADA AT WORLD JUNIORS
That would be something really special to make that Canadian World Junior team. I’ve watched that ever since I was little. At Christmas time you sit down, have some good food and look forward to watching World Juniors. To do that in your hometown, having a lot of family and friends support you sitting in the stands would be great for my confidence. It would boost you up a little bit. I can’t even imagine playing for your country. Playing for your province is a little different. Playing for a team in the States is a little different. But playing for an entire country is out of the ordinary.
ON SPEAKING HIS MIND
I say what’s on my mind. I’ve never been too scared to hold back what I’m thinking in my head. Maybe I’ll censor a couple things, which is smart. I’ll speak what I want to say, but I’ll say it smartly.
ON HIS HOBBIES
I spend a lot of time outside. I’m not really an inside type guy, watch TV and sit around all day. I live out on a farm in Alberta. I like to do a lot quading, spending time outside, typical country boy stuff.
ON PLAYING SIMILAR TO BRENT SEABROOK
I’ve been told by some people that I play like Brent Seabrook, so it got stuck in my head. I watched him after that quite a bit. I really respect the way he plays. He’s an extremely smart hockey player. Some guys have a lot of skill and talent and work really hard, but don’t think the game as well as they should, which would turn them into an All-Star. Seabrook has pretty much everything. He’s got the whole package. You can’t beat that.
ON THE SUCCESS OF PORTLAND
I’ve been there for three years now. The first year was a nightmare. It turned around faster than I’ve ever seen any organization flip a switch from off to on. It’s been exciting. You play with some of the best players that I’ve seen in a long time, fourth- and fifth-overall draft picks. We had eight drafted guys. It probably helped me get to where I am today, practicing with those guys, playing with them. You try and make everyone better that’s a round you and they do the same for you. I really appreciated playing in Portland.
Penguins Morrow Comes from Hockey Lineage
Thursday, 07.14.2011 / 9:39 PM
Features By Sam Kasan
Penguins defensive prospect Joseph Morrow plays hockey for a pretty simple reason: it’s in his blood.
Morrow, Pittsburgh’s 2011 first-round draft pick (23rd overall), comes from a family that has produced two (three counting Joseph) NHL draft picks.
Dave Morrow, Joseph’s father, was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks 56th overall in the 1977 NHL Draft. Joseph’s older brother, Josh, was drafted in the seventh round (203rd overall) of the 2002 NHL Draft by Nashville (when Penguins general manager Ray Shero was serving as assistant GM for the Predators).
“My brother and my dad supported me through everything I did,” Joseph said. “They’ve helped me from skating to shooting to passing. They’ve helped me be a smart hockey player, thinking the game before you do something.”
In fact, the reason Morrow chose to play along the blue line is because both his father and brother were defensemen.
“My dad’s a defenseman, my brother’s a defenseman, so it’s natural to hop into a defenseman’s boots and play like that,” he said. “I thought it was smart to do that, get the best advice from both of them. They’ve been through it all. Being a forward it would have been a little more difficult.”
It’s also not surprising to learn that Morrow followed in his older brother’s footsteps considering that of all the players in the NHL, it was Josh that Joseph idolized the most as a youth.
“Growing up (my idol) was my brother,” Morrow said of Josh, whose playing career was ended prematurely due to a shoulder injury and subsequent surgery. “I watched my brother play. He was a tough guy. He was a pretty big, scary dude. I respected everything he did. He was my idol for sure. He brought me into the dressing rooms as a kid. It’s pretty heart warming to know that he really cared about me.”
Of course, the love is mutual between the two brothers.
“On draft day he was a little bit teary eyed to see me get drafted and go high,” Joseph said. “To be selected in the first round is like a dream come true. His heart was right where mine was.”
And just to illustrate Morrow’s priorities, after getting selected by the Penguins at the draft, he has used the past few weeks to spend quality time with the most important people in his life.
“I spent a lot of time at home and with family, enjoyed the moment as much as I could,” Morrow said. “There’s not a lot of chance to spent time with my brother, sister and parents all together. They’re very important to me and I try to keep them as close as possible.”
Joseph Morrow (left) and his older brother Josh (right)
07-16-2011, 12:26 PM
Penguins "Try Out" for Prospects
Friday, 07.15.2011 / 7:19 PM
Features By Michelle Crechiolo
Paul Thompson and Brian Gibbons, both incredibly talented but undrafted college hockey players, attended Pittsburgh’s prospect development last summer as free-agent invitees.
This year, they’re both back at camp. But this time, they’re no longer free agents, as both players signed two-year entry level deals with the Penguins at the end of their senior seasons.
On the surface, it may appear that Thompson (University of New Hampshire) and Gibbons (Boston College) were at last summer’s camp on tryouts.
But Tom Fitzgerald, Penguins assistant to the general manager, emphasized that the opposite was true. The Penguins were the ones trying to leave a good impression on those two players in hopes that they would consider signing with the team when they were eligible.
“The college free agents that come to our camp and are invited are scouted thoroughly,” Fitzgerald said. “We know them well. This is an opportunity for us to try out for them. That’s what we did last year for those two particular players.”
And with the talent possessed by both Thompson, 22, and Gibbons, 23 – two of the top-three scorers in their league, Hockey East – it’s no wonder the Penguins wanted to make a good impression on them.
Thompson, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound forward, capped off a four-year career at New Hampshire by being named the Hockey East Player of the Year for the 2010-11 season after scoring a league-leading (tied) 52 points in 39 games.
Gibbons, a 5-foot-8, 165-pound forward, won two NCAA national championships (2008, 2010) in his four-year career at Boston College. He finished his senior campaign with 18 goals and 51 points through 39 games, the second-highest point total in the league.
Both players had a number of offers from NHL clubs once their prestigious college careers ended, but both Thompson and Gibbons chose Pittsburgh thanks to the comfort levels they built with the organization starting last year's camp.
“I had a few offers,” Thompson said. “But I was really comfortable with the whole Pittsburgh organization. Just being here last year and getting to know the team and the management and some of the younger guys, I felt really comfortable and it felt like a really good place to be.”
Gibbons agreed, saying: “I had interest from a couple teams, but the Penguins kind of had a leg up on everyone else because I’ve been here and I experienced it. I felt comfortable here. I got to know a lot of guys in the organization. You just kind of get gut feelings sometimes, and this one seemed like the right fit.”
Establishing that comfort and familiarity that both players referenced is something the Penguins really try to do with these players when they arrive in town for camp.
“We’ve had other free agents come in here, but those two came in and saw what we had to offer and what we are, which is that we’re very up front, black or white, this is it,” Fitzgerald said. “There’s no gray with what we are. And it worked. It was an attraction for them, probably because of being comfortable – whether it was with me or other staff members that saw them play this year. They had other offers to go other places, and we’re real fortunate that they chose us.”
Not only did Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes work with both players at last year’s camp, but he also coached them for a brief period during his team’s playoff run. He’s excited for the opportunity to work more closely with both young men during the upcoming season.
“They’re really exciting players,” he said. “The reason we signed them is because they have great speed and they’re on the upward swings of their careers. Having seen them, I know what they’re like as kids. They have a lot of character. They’re very competitive guys.
“I think they’re going to be good impact players. … They’re both very competitive players that can play a very fast game. That’s what we’re looking for with those players.”
This year, the Penguins are trying out for free-agent forward Scott Zurevinski, who is entering his senior season at Quinnipiac.
Seeing fellow college players like Gibbons and Thompson sign contracts with the team is a motivating factor for Zurevinski, who scored 14 goals and 25 points through 39 games last season as a junior.
“You see that they like guys out of the college level,” he said. “That’s great for myself to see. That shows that they’re giving those types of guys opportunities.”
While Zurevinski knows it’s important for him to put forth his best effort this week, Fitzgerald can say the same for the organization.
“Zurevinski is going into his senior year,” Fitzgerald said. “There’s no more development camp for him next year. He’s going to pick a team to sign with, and hopefully his last impression is what the Pittsburgh Penguins can offer him and what we do to develop players.”
07-16-2011, 12:45 PM
Bennett "Strengthens" His Game
Friday, 07.15.2011 / 9:06 PM
Features By Sam Kasan
What a difference a year makes.
At the Penguins 2011 development camp, prospect Beau Bennett, the Penguins’ first-round pick (20th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, looks like a completely different player from the same camp one year ago.
First of all, he simply looks stronger. That is due to the 23 pounds of muscle that he has bulked onto his 6-foot-1 frame, bringing him to up to a solid 196 pounds.
“This is a year and a half of work that I’ve put in,” said Bennett, who recently completed his freshman season at Denver University. “I feel a lot more confident with my body. I gained a little weight in college. That’s really where my confidence is coming from. Working in the gym five days a week with (Pioneers strength) coach (Mike) Bridges has been great.”
“He’s a more mature player,” said Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes, who runs the development camp. “He’s definitely stronger on the puck. … You can see that he feels more comfortable playing against bigger, stronger guys. Last year, you could see the thought process that he wanted to do certain things, but he didn’t have the strength. This year you can see that he can do physically what his mind is telling him to do.”
Second, Bennett’s on-ice play has taken huge steps forward. During the week he’s flashed the occasional brilliance and skill set that made him so attractive to the Penguins brass.
“One of the things we liked about him when we drafted him was his hockey sense, his hands and his ability to make offensive plays,” Hynes said. “I think in this camp you can see in the regular skill drills, he does a good job releasing the puck. He’s got excellent hands. He can look off a pass, do no look passes. Then when you put him in more competitive situations later in practice, he has an impact in traffic.”
Bennett, 19, is using his second Penguins development camp as an opportunity to test his skill set and hockey sense.
“I thought it would be great to gage where I’m at this year compared to last year,” Bennett said. “It’s important to realize you’re not making the team out of this camp. You’re here to learn from the older guys and the coaches. Just take it as a learning experience and have fun with it.”
Bennett will be entering his sophomore season with Denver. He originally had contemplated making the transition to pro from college after two years at the university, although that timeline was never set in stone.
“I want to put in as much time and effort and see where I’m at after two years,” he said. “If it doesn’t work out I’ll always have Denver to go back to. It’s a great place, great fans there and a great school. I put the timeframe on myself so I’m not complacent, adding a little pressure to get in the gym and working as hard as I can.”
The Penguins certainly aren’t rushing Bennett’s development.
“With the college kids, we have four years,” assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald said. “I’d like to think and believe that when it comes to these kids after their freshman year, it becomes a year-to-year thing. What’s best for Beau's development? Would it be to come into the organization and play the 82-game schedule? Or would it be better for Beau to play 30 games and still concentrate on the things that you need to concentrate on, which is strength and conditioning, getting bigger, adding weight? Then we’ll re-visit it the next year and see where it goes.”
And as Fitzgerald has pointed out, for Bennett to develop into a NHL player he needs to mature physically.
“You see the difference in him body-wise, and you will continue to see the progression with thickness,” Fitzgerald said. “Every player has warts. His are his lack of strength, and that’s what he’s working on. That’s where the college game really benefits kids like that, because of the emphasis on the off-ice conditioning.”
“Strength,” Bennett reiterated as the area he would most like to improve. “I never want to get complacent with it. I don’t want to be satisfied with it. This year I want to work on my leg strength, get my legs stronger. Then hopefully, that correlates to getting a little faster.”
And if Bennett’s has improved that much in just one year, imagine how much one more year will help in his maturation.
Bennett at a Glance
Friday, 07.15.2011 / 9:03 PM
Features By Sam Kasan
The Penguins selected Cali-native Beau Bennett in the first round (20th overall) of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles, California. Here are some quick quotes from Bennett on Bill Guerin, music, roller hockey and more…
ON HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH BILL GUERIN
It’s great having him around the rink. One thing you notice form him is that he enjoys being around the guys, being around the rink. He really has fun with it. That’s what I try to bring to the rink everyday. A guy like that, you just want to take everything he says with you next year and really pay attention to him. He’s staying hard on me to make sure that I have a little pressure. He also wants to keep it fun and make sure I keep my head up and don’t get down on myself.
ON HITTING GUERIN WITH A PUCK
I really hit him. It went off the crossbar and hit the side of his head. He geared up with a helmet the next day. I apologized like 10 times. I felt so bad.
ON RECOVERING FROM A KNEE INJURY LAST YEAR
It was a long process for me because I never really hurt my knees before. That happened on a fluky play. I fell and looked really dumb doing it. Once I figured out what the diagnosis was, we didn’t waste any time. We started rehabbing. I got back a couple weeks before I thought I was going to be back. Everything is great. I feel pretty strong.
ON SPENDING HIS TIME IN CALIFORNIA
I’ve been training mornings and sometimes nights. I’ve been (going to the) beach a lot, beach volleyball, paddle boarding, fun stuff you can do in California anytime.
ON PLAYING PIANO
I try to. A lot drops off when you stop taking lessons and practicing every day. My parents told me that if I wanted to play hockey I had to play an instrument for five years. I made it 8 to 13. I can still play some songs from back then and learn some songs if I need to. I learned enough while I was doing it.
ON HIS MUSICAL TASTES
I listen to everything. I never really liked country. I went up to Canada and that’s all they listen to so I started listening to it a little bit. I went to a Kid Rock concert recently. That was pretty awesome. It was a good experience.
ON PLAYING ROLLER HOCKEY
It helps with your hockey sense. It’s more of a strategic game. There is no icing, no hitting, so you really have to think and take your rushes when they come. That’s something I’ve always learned from roller hockey, you have to be patient with the puck and survey the play.
ON HIS COOKING SKILLS
My skills are very bad, very poor. I kept it simple with sandwiches (in college). On the go and getting to classes I’d get that extra sleep. I’ll keep that going forward into next year and hopefully make the meals once in a while.
ON FRESHMAN YEAR AT DENVER UNIVERSITY
It was great. Learning the schedule and where to be, how to get to classes and stuff is a learning experience right off the bat. We don’t start the season until October, so we had a little time to figure it all out. We had a great year, great group of guys, great coaching staff. It was a really fun year, that’s for sure. (College players are) a lot stronger and quicker in the corners. That’s one thing that took me time to figure out is finding my space and being able to make plays at a higher rate. Once I did, I started playing better.
ON ONE DAY PLAYING AT CONSOL ENERGY CENTER
It’d be unbelievable. That’s every kids dream growing up playing hockey. You want to make it as far as you can go. I didn’t realize that dream until the draft happened. Being here this week and skating around the facility makes you respect where you are. Hopefully, one day I can get here.
Bill Guerin wearing a helmet after Bennett hit him with a puck (photo courtesy of Scott Stuccio)
Penguins seeing room for growth in Bennett
By Annie Maroon, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Saturday, July 16, 2011
In a locker room full of New Englanders, Canadians and even Pittsburghers who grew up in intense hockey cultures, Beau Bennett stands out.
Being from southern California will do that in hockey circles.
Born and raised near Los Angeles, Bennett, 19, still is adjusting to skating in climates where it's cold enough to play pond hockey in the winter. That hasn't slowed him down, but the rigors of the Penguins' development camp this week have shown Bennett the level of commitment needed to play in the NHL.
"Growing up in California, there's not much pressure put on you as a hockey player," Bennett said. "You just kind of come to the rink and do your thing, and just seeing how the pro guys work (in Pittsburgh), you definitely get a feel and a respect for the work ethic you need."
Work ethic wasn't a problem for Bennett through his first year at the University of Denver. He's added about 10 pounds of muscle since the Penguins drafted him 20th overall last year, and he said further improving his conditioning is a goal for this season.
"I think my legs have gotten a lot stronger," Bennett said. "I shaved a couple seconds off the skating test — that's always good — and got stronger upper-body and gained a little weight. So I have another year in Denver to develop, and I'm looking forward to it."
Bennett is listed at 6-foot-1, 180 pounds. Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald said there's still room for him to grow.
"You see the difference in him body-wise, and you will continue to see the progression with thickness, but the thing that separates him is his skill set and his hockey sense," Fitzgerald said. "He puck-protects very well. Every player has warts, and his (is) his lack of strength, and that's what he's working on. That's where the college game really benefits kids like that because of the emphasis on the off-ice conditioning."
In his second turn at camp, Bennett also has progressed mentally, shedding the rookie nerves that accompanied him last summer.
"I see a lot of (2011 first-round pick) Joe Morrow in the way Beau was last year, really wide-eyed and looking around and trying to take everything in," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "Now, I see a kid who's a little more confident. ... You see that now in the guy on the ice and off the ice, and the size he is on the ice versus the tall, slender kid he was."
Bennett will return to Denver for the 2011-12 season. After that, he'll have a decision to make.
"I want to have a great year with all the boys down there and hopefully win as many games as possible, and at the end of the season re-evaluate where I'm at and then either make the jump (to the pros) or go back for another year," Bennett said. "My goal has been two years (at college) from the start, and that's what I'm working toward."
TV tweaks Pens' schedule
The Penguins made a minor change to their recently released schedule.
A home game against Winnipeg scheduled for Friday, Feb. 10 instead will be played the next day. The Penguins will host the Jets at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11.
The change was made so CBC could televise the game nationally in Canada.
07-18-2011, 03:12 PM
Harrington displays touch at Penguins' camp
By Annie Maroon, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Scott Harrington wasn't the biggest name on the ice Saturday at the Penguins' prospect camp scrimmage, but he made one of the biggest impressions.
Harrington scored a goal and three assists for the White squad, which won two four-on-four games, 4-2 and 4-3.
Harrington, an 18-year-old defenseman who played with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League last year, was the Penguins' second-round pick (54th overall) in the 2011 draft.
Defenseman Simon Despres didn't score, but he also jumped into his share of offensive plays for the Black team.
Center Scott Wilson, the Penguins' seventh-round pick this year, scored two goals. Keven Veilleux, a 6-foot-5 right wing who was taken in the second round in 2007, also had two goals and spent much of his time on the ice in front of opposing goalie Patrick Killeen.
Right wing Beau Bennett scored one goal for the Black team — a breakaway on Killeen — and had one assist. Left wing Eric Tangradi, the prospect most likely to open the season with the Penguins, was kept relatively quiet for the White team. He scored two assists.
Whitney's brother gets invite
Sean Whitney, the younger brother of former Penguin Ryan Whitney, played for the Black team in yesterday's scrimmage. He had been attending the camp as a nonskating participant and was invited to skate for the first time for the scrimmage as an undrafted free agent.
Whitney is a 21-year-old senior defenseman at Cornell, six years younger than his brother who now plays for the Edmonton Oilers .
After the second scrimmage ended, the prospects took part in a shootout that saw Veilleux and Whitney as the last two men standing.
Each scored on three straight attempts, then misfired on the fourth. Veilleux beat Killeen and Whitney was stopped by goalie Rob Madore to give Veilleux the win.
Veilleux's most memorable goal of the shootout was his first. He juggled the puck on his stick starting at the blue line, then let it drop to the ice near the goal and flipped a low shot past Killeen.
07-18-2011, 03:19 PM
Prospects conforming to 'the Penguins way'
By Josh Yohe, PITTSBURGH TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Sunday, July 17, 2011
Europeans, Americans and Canadians in Penguins uniforms worked feverishly at Penguins rookie camp last week at Consol Energy Center while general manager Ray Shero, wearing a Team USA shirt, proudly looked on.
Shero couldn't care less which nations his players hail from, so long as they play hockey the American way.
Or, make that the Penguins way.
Really, they are one and the same. Shero and coach Dan Bylsma passionately speak of what it means to "be a Penguin," and while it means something different to everyone, the roots of American hockey shine through.
"We will bypass certain players who might be rated higher in the draft just because we want to draft players and people who we think are Penguins," Shero said. "It's that important to us."
Herb Brooks' 1980 U.S. Olympic team will always be the modern day launching point for American hockey, and there are similarities with these Penguins. Brooks' team didn't have many superstars, and after Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were lost for the season with injuries, it was the Penguins who were forced to win games without star power.
And they did it, recording a remarkable 106 points without their stars.
Tom Fitzgerald, the assistant to Shero, is convinced that the Penguins' penchant for acquiring a certain type of player is precisely how they managed such a magical regular season.
"Look at what we did without Sidney and Geno," Fitzgerald said. "We competed every night and we played the right way. You can do that when you have the right kind of players. That's what being a Penguin is."
Shero added that the game has changed significantly in three decades, but that certain philosophies remain relevant to winning games. Give Shero and Bylsma a team with speed and competitors, and they believe they can win.
Certain physical attributes jump out at Shero and his staff. A fast player with a knack for delivering hits might impress the Penguins more than a skilled player with size.
Think Chris Kunitz.
"Oh yeah," Shero said with a smile. "Chris Kunitz is a Penguin."
The Penguins are littered with speedy, feisty players on the NHL level and throughout their system.
Being a Penguin, though, is far more than an array of physical gifts.
Competitive people, some of whom weren't even drafted, comprise Bylsma's lineup. Such players also made their presence felt at rookie camp. Kunitz and Mark Letestu are a couple of Penguins who weren't drafted, and yet they contribute.
"Look at Zack Sill," Shero said of the forward prospect. "Wasn't drafted, but just a total Penguin."
Bylsma seemed pleased with the players on hand at rookie camp, and noted that such a blueprint has been successful for the organization.
"Lots of Penguins out there," Bylsma said. "Lots of Pittsburgh Penguins."
He wasn't stating the obvious, of course.
The coach and general manager, both Americans, welcome players from all backgrounds. But that same work ethic, speed and tenacity that Brooks identified as the proper way to play hockey is quite evident.
"We like our team a certain way," Shero said. "I want fast and aggressive. That's what Dan wants. We believe it is a formula that can always work."
07-18-2011, 03:22 PM
Monday, 07.18.2011 / 9:30 AM
Features By Michelle Crechiolo
For five days in the middle of July, CONSOL Energy Center was brought back to life.
That’s because 28 prospects converged on Pittsburgh for the team’s annual prospect development camp, where they learned from those in the organization exactly what it means to be a Penguin and what it will take each of them to become a professional.
The Penguins know that in order to have long-term success and to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender year after year, they must have a strong foundation. And they understand that starts with these young men.
“These guys are the grass roots of our organization,” said Tom Fitzgerald, Penguins assistant to the general manager, who helped run this week’s prospect development camp. “Getting them off to a good head start to their pro career is real important.”
The prospects, who left the city on Sunday morning, are surely bone-tired, as they never stopped moving (both on and off the ice) during their time here.
Their week consisted of medical and fitness testing, off-ice workouts, on-ice sessions, a variety of seminars on topics such as nutrition, NHL security and sports psychology, team-bonding rituals like dinners and bowling – even a cooking class. The camp concluded with a scrimmage that was open to the public.
“The staff and everyone here has done an incredible job accomplishing everything we wanted to accomplish,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s the education part of being a pro hockey player, from the mental side to the nutrition side to the workout side. The truth is the on-ice component is the last thing that we’re looking at. It’s how we feel we can develop players, which are in turn assets.
“In this camp, what we try to do is instill the details and the habits that we like to play with so that when these guys leave here they know exactly how we approach every day and they know exactly what’s expected.”
The players truly took that to heart.
“The way you handle yourself on and off the ice is so important,” said forward Bryan Rust, the Penguins’ third-round pick (80th overall) in 2010. “Your character, your persona – it’s so much more important than some people think. The way you carry yourself and the way you act – it’s so important down the line.”
The week is certainly an eye-opener for the players attending their first camp, especially Pittsburgh’s five picks in the 2011 Entry Draft – all 17- and 18-year-old kids who still have a lot of growth and development ahead of them.
“I’ve always been kind of the stronger kid growing up,” defenseman Joseph Morrow said, the Penguins’ first-round pick (23rd overall) in June. “You come out here and I’m not the stronger kid anymore at all. There are some big guys out here. … I’m going to get stronger, get faster, shoot harder, pass harder.”
A good portion of the players were attending their second, third and even fourth camps. Many of them have signed professional contracts and have spent time with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League (AHL) or Wheeling (ECHL).
The camp is not a competition for a roster spot. But it is an opportunity for these players to show the Penguins brass that they’re receiving the message that is being disseminated to them.
Whether that is shown through leadership (being the first person in line during drills, mentoring the younger prospects) or simply coming in, testing well then working their tails off throughout the week, there’s plenty of opportunities to impress the Penguins staff.
“As long as you come and you’re prepared to work, an opportunity will be yours,” forward Eric Tangradi said. “All you can really do is work hard and everything else will take care of itself.”
When it’s all said and done, there’s one aspect of being a professional hockey player that stood out to the prospects this week – and one they’re taking to heart.
“Just work ethic,” forward Brian Gibbons said. “You see it all over the place here, it’s something they preach. You can tell in their practice habits and the way they do things here. They do things the right way.”
07-18-2011, 03:29 PM
Fans Flock to See Penguins Prospects
Saturday, 07.16.2011 / 6:51 PM
Features By Michelle Crechiolo
The beautiful weather on this Saturday afternoon – sunny and 85 degrees with a breeze – couldn’t deter a huge crowd of Penguins fans from heading indoors to watch some hockey in July.
“It couldn’t be any more beautiful out there than it is in here,” said Chooch Moody of Mars, decked out in a black Penguins jersey and cap. “No doubt about it.”
About 5,000 fans came to CONSOL Energy Center for the free scrimmage, which concluded the 2011 prospect development camp that took place this week that saw 28 players learn what it takes to become a Pittsburgh Penguin.
“It’s pretty exciting,” said Mike Stosko of South Park, who brought his wife and two children. “It’s nice watching the young guys flying up and down the ice.”
Most fans agreed that they wanted to get a look at defenseman Joseph Morrow, the Penguins’ first-round pick (23rd overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, and forward Eric Tangradi, who played 14 games with Pittsburgh last season.
“You read about (these players) on the Internet and now you get to see them,” Stosko said. “Hopefully we get to see them throughout the season.”
Ed and Lois Eiseman, transplanted Penguins fans who currently reside in Ohio, drove in from Cleveland to catch the action.
The Eisemans were pleased that the Penguins made it possible for them and the other fans in attendance to watch the organization’s prospects in action.
“As soon as we heard about it, we were like, OK, it’s a Saturday afternoon, we’re here in the ‘Burgh,” Ed said. “It’s free and open to the public. Some people don’t even get in here.”
While it may be surprising to see such a turnout on a gorgeous summer day in the middle of July, no one there was surprised.
“Penguins fans are there all the time,” said Lois. “The fan support is just phenomenal. “
Moody agreed, saying “There’s a good core of hockey fans here. I’m not surprised at all.”
And since the fans can’t wait for the upcoming 2011-12 Penguins season to begin, this helped some of them get their hockey fix during the long summer months.
“I get jonesin’ about this time, so I need some hockey,” Moody said.
07-21-2011, 03:58 PM
Rust Wants to Build Off Strong First Season at Notre Dame
Wednesday, 07.20.2011 / 3:11 PM
Features By Michelle Crechiolo
Entering last season, Bryan Rust was one of 12 freshmen hoping to earn playing time on a youthful Notre Dame squad.
With such a young team, many predicted this would be a rebuilding season for the Irish. But Rust and the rest of the first-year players proved otherwise, as they helped lead Notre Dame to its second Frozen Four in team history.
“That was huge and also unexpected from everyone outside of our locker room,” Rust, 19, said. “We knew that we could do it from the beginning, but being so young, people maybe didn't give us the chance we deserved. We were led by some great seniors, then some of our younger guys really stepped up big for us.”
What was also special for Rust was that his brother Matt, a senior forward at the University of Michigan, also advanced to the Frozen Four with the Wolverines.
While the brothers didn’t face off against each other in the championship game – as Bryan and the Irish fell to Minnesota-Duluth in the semifinals, who topped Matt and the Wolverines in the championship game – their family soaked in the moment as much as they could.
“My parents were pretty excited about it,” Rust laughed. “My mom was trying to wear just navy blue and my dad was trying to wear just navy blue so they could kind of go with both teams.”
The Penguins selected Rust in the third round (80th overall) of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft after the 6-foot, 191-pound forward had spent the previous two seasons with the U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP).
Rust’s coach with the USNTDP Under-17 team for the 2008-09 campaign was none other than Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes, who got reacquainted with Rust at last week’s prospect development camp in Pittsburgh.
“On the ice, he’s a strong player – a power forward type of guy,” Hynes said. “I saw him two years ago when he was a 17-year-old. Now I see a guy that’s developed his body well. He’s faster. You can tell that his puck skills have improved over the course of the last two years. He’s just got to continue to develop his body and work on his speed and explosiveness.”
Rust, who scored 19 points (6G-14A) through 40 games as a freshman, described himself as a “hard, two-way player.”
“I’ll play both ends of the ice,” he said. “I’ll sacrifice the body. I can put the puck in the net and make some plays. But I’m not going to sacrifice any defense for offense.”
Last week marked Rust’s first-ever Penguins prospect development camp, as the Novi, Mich., native couldn’t attend last summer because of summer classes.
He’s taken a lot with him back to South Bend, but the most important lesson he learned was how to be a consummate professional.
“The way you handle yourself on and off the ice is so important,” Rust said. “Your character, your persona – it’s so much more important than some people think.”
But according to Hynes, integrity has always been Rust’s strong suit.
“As far as a human being off the ice, he’s a really high-character kid,” Hynes remarked. “He’s got a strong work ethic. He’s got a lot of passion for the game.”
This August, Rust is one of 40 skaters invited to attend the 2011 USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., where he’ll see another familiar face in head coach Dan Bylsma – who will be an assistant at the camp.
Rust won a gold medal representing Team USA at the Under-18 World Championships in Belarus last summer, and hopes to get a chance to don the red, white and blue for his country at the World Junior Championships.
“The feeling that you get from winning a gold medal was absolutely unbelievable,” he said. “So to have the chance to make the team and potentially win something else – it’s an unbelievable feeling. I hope I can do it.”
Come fall, Rust hopes to undertake a larger role with the team now that he’s gotten used to the faster, more physical pace of the college game and has learned how to balance hockey with classes.
“I want to step up into a bigger role on the team,” Rust said. “Hopefully play special teams and produce a little bit more offensively, become more of a leader on and off the ice with my work ethic and a little bit vocally.”
07-22-2011, 10:12 AM
A Win-Win Situation
Friday, 07.22.2011 / 6:00 AM
Features By Michelle Crechiolo
When a Penguins prospect got injured shortly before the team’s 2011 prospect development camp, the staff had a hole to fill.
They found the perfect replacement in Upper St. Clair native Andrew Blazek, a junior defenseman at Robert Morris University.
“Blazek was a last-minute add because of an injury to one of our prospects,” said Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald on the last day of camp. “We wanted to have X amount of defensemen and figured, let’s dip into the local scene. He’s come in and has been really impressive. He skates really well, shoots the puck.”
Blazek, who came up through the Pittsburgh amateur hockey system playing for the SHAHA Panthers, the Pittsburgh Junior Amateur Penguins and the Pittsburgh Hornets, was more than willing to step in and help out.
“I got a call a couple days before camp saying they had a few injuries, and I was happy to fill in,” Blazek said. “I’m excited. I’m happy to be here now. It’s a great opportunity and I’ve learned a lot this week from it.”
The camp proved to be extremely opportune for Blazek, as he made the transition to defense just a year-and-a-half ago.
“This is great for him in the summer, especially with the ability for him to get some high-level competition and learn a little bit more,” said Colonials head coach Derek Schooley, who attended the open scrimmage on July 16 to see how Blazek stacked up.
“In Andrew’s situation, he’s only played defense for a year and a half. For him to have an actual week of tutelage in the summer from high-level coaching and playing against some good players is definitely going to help his development for our hockey team.”
Fitzgerald said that Blazek’s play gave no indication of the recent switch.
“I was told he just moved to defense a couple years ago so that’s even more impressive,” Fitzgerald said.
For Blazek, the opportunity to see firsthand how the Penguins operate has been quite the learning experience – one that he’ll take back to Robert Morris to help his own game and his teammates.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s everything I expected it would be. It’s just a high-class organization. Everything is the way it should be, on and off the ice. It’s a lot that I’m going to bring back to my Robert Morris team. I kind of feel like we’re going to be a better team because of what I learned here at this camp.”
07-22-2011, 10:16 AM
Madore's Local Ties Just An Added Bonus
Thursday, 07.21.2011 / 9:00 PM
Features By Michelle Crechiolo
Vermont senior goaltender Rob Madore grew up following the Penguins as a Peters Township resident. Needless to say, being extended a free-agent invite to Pittsburgh’s prospect development camp last week was a surreal experience for the 23-year-old.
So what was Madore’s ‘pinch me’ moment of the week?
No, it wasn’t the fact that he was using Marc-Andre Fleury's locker room stall, who is his favorite athlete. It had more to do with the designated locker room duty given to Brent Johnson.
“I guess when I got to run the music in the Pittsburgh Penguins locker room and I got made fun of for my tastes,” Madore joked, adding that playing pop star Britney Spears to a roomful of young men is “probably a no-go.”
Madore started playing the sport when his dad Rob Sr., who grew up in State College and was “always a football guy,” decided to give hockey a try.
“He always needed someone to shoot on, and I think hitting my mom with hockey pucks would probably be bad for their relationship,” Madore said with a smile. ”So instead, the duties fell to me. I was outfitted in the finest cereal boxes and pillow leg pads around.”
Madore eventually ditched his makeshift equipment for some authentic gear, playing for the SHAHA Panthers, the Pittsburgh Predators, the Pittsburgh Hornets and Peters Township High School (where he won two Penguins Cup championships at Mellon Arena).
He then left to play juniors in Chicago before suiting up for Vermont – the same school that produced Bruins goalie and 2011 Conn Smythe winner Tim Thomas.
“Now I’m here and I get the opportunity to put on a Pens jersey,” Madore said, who idolized Penguins goalies like Tom Barrasso and Frank Pietranglo as a youngster. “It’s not from a store – this is actually the real deal. It’s been absolutely a blast and just a lot of fun.”
But in all honesty, Madore’s local ties were just an added bonus in terms of earning an invite to development camp, as the Penguins have been monitoring the netminder for some time.
“They said they had been watching for a couple of years,” Madore said. “They wanted to get me into town, meet the guys and get a feel for the organization. It’s been a great experience so far. I’m really fortunate they thought of me. I’m very honored.”
Madore started his college career off with a bang, as he backstopped the Catamounts to the Frozen Four – where they fell to eventual champion Boston University – as a freshman in 2009. As a sophomore, he led Vermont to a second-straight NCAA tournament appearance as they advanced to the West Regional semifinals.
Last season, Madore shouldered a heavy workload as he played in all 36 games – finishing the season with a 2.98 goals against average and a .907 save percentage – and earned the team’s John C. Cunningham Most Valuable Player Award for his efforts.
“I’ve grown a lot,” Madore said. “As you get older – especially as a goalie, the thing that improves the most is your mental game. I’ve learned to deal with adversity a little better, as well as how to deal with a disappointing season and how you can get over that and work hard the next summer looking forward to the following one.
“I’ve seen a lot of different things, a lot of situations at Vermont and I think that’s only made me a stronger player and person.”
And though Madore’s on-ice talent is what initially caught the Penguins scouts’ attention, the friendly, likeable young goalie’s enthusiasm is what really stood out to the Penguins staff during his time in Pittsburgh.
“He walks over with the staff members at 6:30, 7 o’clock in the morning,” said Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald on the last day. “He doesn’t leave until 5, 5:30 p.m. He’s really enjoying it.
“It shows a lot about his work ethic, his character, how much he appreciates the invite. He’s going to do everything he can to take advantage of this opportunity. He’s going to be a senior at Vermont and we look forward to watching him play.”
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