View Full Version : Penguins 2012 Development Camp Taking Place in Pittsburgh This Week
07-11-2012, 01:49 PM
Defenseman Brian Dumoulin is attending his first Penguins development camp after being acquired by Pittsburgh, along with center Brandon Sutter and the eighth-overall pick (Derrick Pouliot), for Jordan Staal.
And the first thing you notice about the reigning two-time Hockey East Best Defensive Defenseman is his size. Towering (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) over the media assembled at his locker, Dumoulin discussed his decision to turn pro after three collegiate seasons with Boston College – two of which ended with an NCAA national title.
“To play in the NHL,” said Dumoulin, whose defensive play has been compared to former Stanley Cup-winning Penguin and BC alum Rob Scuderi. “Obviously that’s my goal. If I work as hard as I can, hopefully good things will happen for me. I just have to put myself in good positions. When the opportunity strikes, I have to take full advantage of it.”
One aspect that could help in Dumoulin’s conversion from the college level to the professional level is that BC and the Penguins play a similar defensive style.
Two seasons ago, Eagles head coach Jerry York implemented the Penguins’ method of defensive execution. York even showed BC players tape of Pittsburgh’s defensive zone puck retrievals, breakouts and neutral zone transition.
“I remember sitting in the BC locker room and watching tape of the Pittsburgh Penguins,” Dumoulin said. “Coach Jerry York said this is how we want to play. He knows Pittsburgh has had success and won a Stanley Cup. That’s translated into college and us winning national championships. Coach York has made the style of play like Pittsburgh’s. Hopefully, it will help my transition into the organization.”
Since Dumoulin joined Pittsburgh via the trade of Jordan Staal, a fan favorite, there is a natural belief that the blueliner may feel some added pressure to perform well, but the Penguins hope that is not the case.
“I’m sure he does, but he shouldn’t,” Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald. “Being traded is something that isn’t in your power as a player.
“He’s real excited. I had an opportunity to sit down and have lunch with him after the draft. He’s extremely excited to join our organization as we are for him to join. He’ll be a big part of our future.”
One Penguins defenseman that really made a strong impression at last season’s development camp and September’s training camp was 2011 first-round pick Joe Morrow.
In last season’s NHL camp, the 18-year-old youngster didn’t look out of place playing against veteran players. In fact, his solid performances were rewarded with more ice time and opportunities. Morrow was one of the final roster cuts heading into the 2011-12 regular season.
Morrow took that experience with him when he returned to Portland of the Western Hockey League, resulting in his best career junior season. The smooth-skating blueliner set career highs in goals (17), assists (47) and points (64).
“Going through the whole situation that I went through last year was a lot of fun,” Morrow said. “ Going back to the (Portland) was fun and we had a really good team this year. To be in back-to-back (WHL) Finals was something special. We had a lot of good players get drafted this year.
“I can’t lie to you and say that I didn’t wish I would have stayed (in Pittsburgh). It was probably for the best. I got to develop with really good coaches and had another good year in the league.”
Morrow’s play wasn’t the only thing that grew over the past year. He arrived at development camp with chin-length blonde hair.
“I was close last year so I had to change it up with something,” he joked.
Morrow added: “My mom and my sister bet me that I couldn’t grow my hair out all year. They thought I was a pretty boy and concerned about my appearance. I kind of let it grow out. I don’t know what to do with it anymore.”
With the departure of winger Steve Sullivan via free agency, the Penguins have a hole to fill among their top-6 forwards. One player that will be given an opportunity in training camp to play in that spot is 2010 first-round pick Beau Bennett.
“His hands and ability to create space, get a shot off is fairly evident,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “You envision that as a pro player and you see him as a guy in a top-6 role with that skill ability.”
Bennett signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Penguins in April, turning pro after two collegiate seasons with Denver. However, based on his develop, Bennett felt the time had come take his game to the pro level.
“I felt I was moving in the right direction,” he said. “I gained some weight. I felt it was time. That was the consensus around everyone that I was talking to. It was a decision my family and I made. I think it was the right one.”
Fitzgerald said the decision to leave college was Bennett’s to make, but the organization supported him either way.
“We are a college organization from top to bottom. We believe in the NCAA route as equally as the junior route,” Fitzgerald said. “With Beau it was about what do you want to do? Where do you see your career? What is the next step? When his decision was to leave the University of Denver, we said that’s great. We are open to that.”
Bennett played in only 10 games in 2011-12 with the Pioneers – collecting four goals and 13 points. A wrist injury sidelined him for the remainder of the campaign.
In anticipation for his transition to the pro game, Bennett has been working with professional sports trainer TR Goodman to add muscle and better prepare his body’s conditioning.
He’s hoping all his hard work over the summer will pay off with a leap into the National Hockey League.
“I’m going to ramp up,” he said. “(Goodman’s) training is really high intensity. It’s different than what I’m used to in the past. I’m following his lead.
“Going forward, I want to put myself in the best spot to have an opportunity and maybe take that big step.”
The Penguins made a run during free agency to acquire forward Zach Parise to play as one of the club’s top-6 forwards. Even though Parise opted to sign with Minnesota, the Penguins have plenty of options in filling the hole left by Sullivan’s departure.
“We like the players on our team. We like where our forward group is at,” Bylsma said. “If we have the opportunity to add a top-6 forward, we’ll look into doing that. We also know we have good players and like where we’re at in that forward group.”
Two players that the team could consider adding from outside the organization are Phoenix’s Shane Doan or Washington’s Alexander Semin.
“If you’re talking about adding a player, Shane Doan has attributes in a top-6 role, a big-bodied guy, strong power winger,” Bylsma said. “Alexander Semin has scored 40 goals in this league. He is a dangerous player. You know when he’s on the ice. He’s been dangerous on the Capitals’ power play. Where they fit and the possibilities are things Ray Shero is looking at, we’re looking at as a staff.”
But Bylsma said the team is comfortable with the group of players already in the organization that could fill that spot:
“You see the possibility of seeing younger players in the organization get a chance to play there as well, whether it’s Eric Tangradi in a top-6 role or Beau Bennett getting a chance to play there in exhibition and training camp or Tyler Kennedy. We feel good about the possibilities of guys like Kennedy supplementing that top-6 role.”
The progression and maturation of defenseman Simon Despres is similar to that of another Quebec-native blueliner drafted by the Penguins: Kris Letang.
In fact, coach Bylsma envisioned a scenario where the two players work alongside each other in the future.
“I can see (Despres) as a big-bodied guy that can defend. Putting him next to Kris, you see a formidable pair,” Bylsma said. “Both can defend, but also have the ability to make a pass and make a play. It’s an intriguing matchup. You see a young guy paired with a guy who was a young guy, who is now mature and at a different point in his game. They’ve had similar paths. Simon is a couple years behind Kris and can lean on that. You see that in the pairing.”
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes said that defensive prospects Robert Bortuzzo, Brian Strait and Despres are NHL ready in their development.
“As far as Robert Bortuzzo and Brian Strait, they’ve proven themselves at the American Hockey League level. They’ve been dominant in Wilkes-Barre. They’ve led our team and played against top players. They’ve played huge minutes. They’ve had good opportunities to get called up and play in Pittsburgh. They had good experiences last year and showed that they can play. Those guys are NHL ready. It depends on what they do with their opportunity and what the openings will be.
“Simon is a highly talented player. He got great experience last year, coming into rookie camp, in Wilkes-Barre and got to play in the playoffs at the National Hockey League level. Those guys are knocking right on the door. They’ve proven themselves through their experiences that they’re ready to take that next step.”
KUHNHACKL MISSES CAMP
Penguins forward Tom Kuhnhackl was unable to attend development camp. Pittsburgh’s fourth-round pick (110th overall) in 2010 is being held out due to an illness.
“Tom wasn’t feeling well over the last week or so,” Hynes said. “We didn’t think it made a lot of sense to have him come over if he couldn’t participate in the activities. It was better for him to stay home, train and get himself ready to go for the fall.”
07-11-2012, 03:14 PM
A Loss for Words
Tuesday, 07.10.2012 / 6:47 PM
Features By Greg Fernandez
Stepping into the Penguins locker room for the first time, many of Pittsburgh’s 2012 NHL draft picks were struck with awe as this week marks the beginning of their journey towards making it to the NHL.
“I was kind of at a loss for words once I walked in,” said goalie Sean Maguire, drafted in the fourth round (113th overall). “It’s the only thing I really dreamed of.”
2012 second-round draftee Teddy Blueger is one of the first-time attendees at this year's development camp.
Tuesday marks the first official day of the Penguins’ annual prospect development camp, and for the players who have been in the system for some time, it’s a chance to step into leadership and mentoring roles with the younger guys. But for the newly drafted players, it’s where they learn what it means to be a Pittsburgh Penguin in every sense of the word and develop the habits and mindset of a pro athlete.
“It’s really a surreal moment,” said Matt Murray, Pittsburgh’s third round (83rd overall) pick. “To be drafted a couple weeks ago was life changing and it’s been a dream of mine ever since I was a kid. It’s really hard to explain right now. This is not something that everybody gets to experience. I ‘m very privileged and I’m really honored to be apart of it. “
This camp is just the first stepping-stone for many of these prospects’ careers. While it’s primarily about education – learning the Penguins’ systems and sitting through seminars on nutrition, sports pychology and NHL security – there’s also going to be a healthy dose of competition between the athletes.
“I think it’s going to be tough,” Maguire said. “It’s not going to be easy but also at the same time it’s going to be fun and competitive. That’s exactly why I’m here and what I like.“
Many of the players realize this is their chance to leave a good first impression on the coaching staff. It’s also a superb opportunity for players to showcase some of their strengths during drills, like fourth-round selection Matia Marcantuoni with his blazing speed, and see what they need to improve on in order to make it in the pros.
“I’m just going go out there and definitely show them what I can do,” said Marcantunoni, the 92nd-overall pick in June. “It’s fun since I can compare myself against the top players here that belong to the organization.”
Some of the prospects from this year’s draft class will be coming back to Pittsburgh in September for training camp. For others, they plan on just soaking it all in and learning as much as they can before they begin the year back with their respective college and junior teams.
“It’s just a really fun experience and I’m glad to be apart of it,” said Theodor Blueger, the Penguins’ second-round (52nd overall) pick. “I’m expecting a week of hard work and just a good opportunity to be here and get better and hopefully make the team some day.”
07-11-2012, 03:21 PM
Development Camp Preview: "Best Collection of Prospects We've Had"
Monday, 07.09.2012 / 11:59 PM
Features By Michelle Crechiolo
The Penguins have accumulated a wealth of exciting young talent in the developmental pipeline, especially recently. Let's take a quick look.
Entering the 2012 NHL Draft, they already had previous first-round picks Simon Despres, Beau Bennett and Joe Morrow – along with 2011 second-round pick Scott Harrington, who had an absolutely fantastic 2011-12 season – in the system.
The Penguins then came away from the draft with nine total selections – including two first-round picks in Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta – and two acquisitions via trade in Brian Dumoulin (from Carolina as part of the Jordan Staal trade) and Harrison Ruopp (from Phoenix as part of the Zbynek Michalek trade).
And what's completely awesome is that this week, those players headline the group of 34 prospects – a mixture of college, junior and professional athletes – that will be in Pittsburgh for the organization’s yearly development camp (click here for the full roster).
“This is the best collection of prospects at camp we’ve had,” said assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald. “Without a doubt.”
For Fitzgerald and the rest of the Penguins staff that will be running the camp, it all begins with those all-important first impressions. And those begin at the crack of dawn (OK, maybe that’s exaggerating a little bit) on Tuesday morning, when the players gather at CONSOL Energy Center for medical and fitness testing at 7:30 a.m. sharp.
“Expectation-wise, you want them all to come in good shape,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s the most important thing, seeing who’s working. It’s a barometer of where they’re at with their conditioning – who might need a kick in the behind and who you pat on the back. It’s an opportunity for all these kids to set a first impression. You only get one chance at that, and this is it for all these kids.”
From there, it’s all about fulfilling certain roles as the players are schooled in what it means to be a Pittsburgh Penguin.
The camp, which runs through Saturday, 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.
The next few days will be crammed with on-ice practices, off-ice workouts, a Saturday scrimmage and team-bonding experiences like bowling, paintball and group dinners. In addition, they’ll be receiving education in NHL security, sports psychology and will even be getting a nutritional tour at Giant Eagle to give them options outside of going to the nearest fast food restaurant when they no longer live with mom and dad or their billet families.
For the first-time attendees, the Penguins just want to give them an understanding of what it’s like to be a part of the organization. Think of it as a week of hockey school.
“On the ice, it’s not about execution and scoring goals,” Fitzgerald explained. “It’s about us educating them and giving them an understanding of what it’s like to be a Pittsburgh Penguin. This is how we get prepared for practice. This is the system we’re going to use, this is how we’re going to incorporate it into practice. Then we go out and execute.
“It’s not like this is how you should play when you go back system-wise. It’s all about the educating part. This is what you’re taking home and learning. You can apply it to wherever you go back to.”
For those players who have been to camp before – especially the ones who have spent time in WBS or have played NHL games, like Despres – the expectation is that they step into leadership roles. They don’t necessarily have to be vocal, but they must lead by example.
“That’s a big reason why we bring the pros, to help mentor the new prospects that come through here.” Fitzgerald said. “That’s the next step for them. The thing you watch for them is are they stepping up to the front of the line? Are they leaping? Because that’s what you want from them.”
Overall, it’s a lot of information to take in. But as Fitzgerald said, it’s manageable information. And it’s truly all for these players’ benefits, to help them understand how to conduct themselves as professionals in every sense of the word.
“We try to create an understanding of what it’s like to be a Pittsburgh Penguin, not only on the ice, but off the ice,” Fitzgerald said. “Because the reality is that they now represent the city of Pittsburgh. They’re going to be judged on their actions. We just try to create that environment.”
07-11-2012, 03:48 PM
Defenseman Morrow ready to 'shoot for the stars'
July 10, 2012 11:56 am
By Shelly Anderson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Joe Morrow won't be a newbie at the Penguins' development camp that starts Wednesday. The 2011 first-round draft pick was here a year ago and will share a locker room with nine players selected a month ago.
Neither will Morrow be the oldest or most experienced of the prospects -- wingers Zach Sill and Paul Thompson are 24 and 23, respectively, and fellow defenseman Simon Despres played 18 games with the Penguins in 2011-12.
Morrow, 19, is hardly middle of the pack, though. He had a strong enough training camp in '11 that the club gave some thought to keeping him, and he easily could be labeled the top prospect in the organization who hasn't cracked the NHL.
"I'm going to come in with the same expectations, the same determination I had last year," Morrow said recently. "I was on top of the world, getting treated well, and everything fell into place. I'm going to come in with the same kind of confidence I had. Being my second year rather than something brand new, I can play with a chip on my shoulder.
"I'm going to shoot for the stars, listen to everybody's advice, see how far I can take this. Do everything I can to stay as long as I can."
The Penguins are stacked at defense to the point where they are expected to make a trade because there are eight defensemen who require waivers if shipped to the American Hockey League. Still, Morrow, a first-year pro, could push his way into a slot on the NHL roster.
Because the preseason rookie tournament in which the Penguins usually participate has been canceled this year because of uncertainty surrounding the NHL's collective bargaining agreement with its players association, this week's development camp -- which concludes Saturday with a 3 p.m. scrimmage at Consol Energy Center that is open to the public -- is Morrow's only chance to impress team brass before the main training camp.
"I still remember all their systems, their little plays for defensemen," Morrow said. "It was such a drastic change from what I was used to, especially defensively. Now it's still stuck in my head."
Morrow, a 6-foot, 197-pounder who shoots left-handed, had 17 goals, 47 points for Portland last season, and followed that with four goals, 17 points in 22 games as the Winterhawks reached the final of the Western Hockey League playoffs.
He had to nearly suspend working on the Penguins system in his final junior season.
"It was a little more difficult to work on things that they wanted because it was shaped around their system and ours [in Portland] was quite different," Morrow said. "But I tried to do that as much as I could, especially defensively.
"Hopefully, once I get back in the Penguins' system, I can pick up where I was."
NOTE -- The Penguins are part of an apparently long list of teams that have a mutual interest with winger Shane Doan, an unrestricted free agent. His agent, Terry Bross, said of the Penguins by email, "They have been in contact, and Shane is interested." Doan, 35, has spent all of his career with the Coyotes/Jets, and has been the team captain, but the ownership situation in Phoenix is unstable. He has 318 goals, 788 points in 1,198 NHL games and could add size, skill and grit to one of the Penguins' top two lines.
07-11-2012, 03:50 PM
New defenseman already schooled in Penguins' way
July 11, 2012 12:20 pm
By Shelly Anderson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Brian Dumoulin grew up a Bruins fan in Maine and played three seasons at Boston College before turning pro this year. He was drafted by Carolina in the second round in 2009 and had been making plans to dovetail with the Hurricanes this season.
Still, when he joined the Penguins last month as part of the Jordan Staal trade, Dumoulin had a lot of reasons to feel an instant familiarity with the team and Pittsburgh.
Among his Boston College teammates were Penguins prospects Carl Sneep, Philip Samuelsson and Brian Gibbons. The latter two and Dumoulin are in development camp, which opened Tuesday at Consol Energy Center.
Two of Dumoulin's college roommates, also teammates, were defenseman Patrick Wey and goaltender Parker Milner, both of Mt. Lebanon.
Not only did Dumoulin hear a lot about the Penguins and Pittsburgh, but he also thrived in a Boston College system that is patterned to a large extent after the Penguins' preferred way of playing.
"I remember sitting in the BC locker room watching a tape on the Pittsburgh Penguins, and coach Jerry York saying that this is how we want to play. ... He's made the style of play just like Pittsburgh," Dumoulin said a few hours before his first time on the ice in a Penguins practice jersey.
In that video, Dumoulin watched current and recent Penguins defensemen, including Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang and Rob Scuderi. He got a good feel for how he wants and needs to play.
"I want to be good in the defensive zone, like with puck retrieval," Dumoulin said. "It's important, especially in their system, for me to get back and be the first guy to touch the puck and have my [defensive] partner communicate on where he wants it to go. So I want to get in on the puck first and be physical.
"And [the Penguins] have very mobile defensemen, so I want to be able to jump up into the play and support the forwards."
Dumoulin, 20, has an impressive resume, even beyond the two national titles.
He led Boston College defensemen last season with 28 points, including seven goals, in 44 games and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award that goes to the top college hockey player.
In international play, he helped the United States earn the bronze medal at the 2011 world championships.
Dumoulin also has imposing size, at 6 feet 4, 210 pounds.
Still, he's no shoo-in to make the opening-night roster, thanks to a deep and talented pool of defensemen in the organization beyond the remaining six who spent all of last season in the NHL. Four are first-round draft picks, including Simon Despres, who played 18 games in the NHL last season. Two others, Brian Strait and Robert Bortuzzo, have advanced beyond development camp and seem to be NHL ready, according to coach Dan Bylsma. And Dumoulin's former Boston College teammates Samuelsson and Sneep are in the mix, among others.
"It's going to be really interesting because with the players that we have, the first-rounders, a trade to bring in Brian Dumoulin -- there's lots of scenarios that are going to be created with the opportunity at training camp," Bylsma said.
Dumoulin, who considered turning pro a year ago but instead turned in a strong junior season and came away with his second NCAA title, isn't daunted.
"We're all going to be pushing each other -- here in development camp, at main camp later on," Dumoulin said. "We're all going to get better. I want to be better than each and every one of those defensemen. That's my goal. Hopefully, we can learn things from each other and we can keep pushing each other so that the whole organization grows."
NOTES -- Winger Tom Kuhnhackl, a fourth-round draft pick in 2010 and considered a strong prospect, was a late scratch for development camp because of illness, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach John Hynes said. ... Sneep, who was a restricted free agent, announced via Twitter that he signed a one-year contract extension. ... Winger Matt Cooke has been working out at the arena the past couple of weeks and spent a little time speaking with some of the prospects. ... With a larger than usual group, the prospects are practicing in two sessions, some days a mix of forwards and defensemen and other times split into a session for forwards and a session for defensemen.
07-11-2012, 03:58 PM
Ex-Hurricanes defenseman not feeling pressure
By Meredith Qualls
Published: Tuesday, July 10, 2012, 7:54 p.m.
Updated 3 hours ago
When Jordan Staal was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes on June 22, he was swapped for Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin and the eighth selection in the first-round. But for Dumoulin, 20, a defenseman out of Boston College, stepping into Consol Energy Center isn’t stepping into any sort of shadow.
“He’s my way in as a defenseman, and it’s my first year pro,” he said. “I’m looking to gain all the knowledge I can right now, and hopefully there’s no pressure on me trying to live up to Jordan Staal, and just me being the player I am, the player they traded for.”
But Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald said feeling that pressure isn’t out of the question.
“I’m sure he does, but he shouldn’t,” Fitzgerald said. “Being traded is something that isn’t in your power as a player. I got the opportunity to sit down and have lunch with him just after the draft, and he’s extremely excited to join our organization. He’ll be a big part of our future.”
• Fitzgerald said that Boston College is a place that matches up with the Pens. “For the most part, we’re a college organization from top to bottom. We believe in the NCAA,” Fitzgerald said Tuesday. “When you look at a school like Boston College, when you step foot on that university, their expectations are to win an NCAA national championship.” Of the 34 prospects invited to development camp, 11 are college hockey players.
• Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta, Penguins’ 2012 first-round draft picks, filled the shoes that prospects Joe Morrow and Beau Bennett wore in previous years, managing the expectations of being a top selection. Simon Despres has stepped in to help. “I’m just trying to do like the other guys did to me when they came here,” Despres said, “just trying to make them feel more comfortable in the room and have fun.”
• As Alexander Semin remains an unsigned free agent, the rivalry with the Capitals doesn’t mean he’s out of the question. “You always have strong feelings about the opponents you play against and you battle against,” Bylsma said. “Those are always there, and they have very little to do with whether they are good players or whether they can be on your team.”
• If Matt Cooke is spotted around development camp this week, it is only the fault of summer workouts. “He is working out, which is helping out,” Bylsma said.
— Meredith Qualls
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07-11-2012, 04:00 PM
Penguins’ Despres prepared to make leap
By Meredith Qualls
Published: Wednesday, July 11, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Updated 3 hours ago
Simon Despres is no longer a rookie.
Entering his fourth consecutive developmental camp, the 30th overall selection in the 2009 NHL Draft arrives with NHL experience in tow.
“I want to give myself the best chance to make the team,” Despres said, “so I’m going to work here really hard this summer and make a lot of sacrifices to be here at the camp.”
Last season, Despres played in 18 games with the Penguins from December to March, averaging more than 14 minutes of ice time per game during that span. He also appeared in three playoff games against the Flyers.
“Simon is interesting in the aspect that as a junior player, (he) has the ability to really do everything on the ice,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “As he turns pro, he’s juggling where he fits in terms of being able to add offense, jumping to the play, take risk if that’s what his offensive game might be.”
As Despres continues to develop, emerging as a complete player, or one who is at least NHL ready, the more interesting parallel for the Penguins is the potential for the defensive duo of Despres and Kris Letang.
“It’s an intriguing matchup,” said Bylsma of the pair, “but you kind of see a young guy kind of paired with a guy who was a young guy, who has some maturity at a different point in his game. They’ve had some similar paths, and Simon’s a couple years behind Kris and can lean on that, and you see that in the pairing.”
Despres scored one goal with the Penguins on Dec. 17 against Buffalo. He also recorded three assists in addition to 15 points in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last season.
“I think when you saw him come up and play, he showed he could play defensively against good people, good lines, in tough places,” Byslma said. “We saw him match up at times against (Alex) Ovechkin, and other team’s top lines in some of the injury situations we had last year with Kris Letang.”
As for NHL readiness, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach John Hynes said Tuesday that Despres is in the same category as AHL defensemen Brian Strait and Robert Bortuzzo
“I think those guys are right there ready,” he said. “Those guys are knocking right on the door, and they’re ready to prove themselves through their experiences that they’re ready to take the next step.”
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07-12-2012, 12:33 PM
Penguins Report: 2012 Development Camp (Day 2)
Wednesday, 07.11.2012 / 5:50 PM
Penguins Report By Sam Kasan
The Penguins prospects had another busy day at the office for Day 2 of Development Camp. The players had an early practice/workout session at 9 a.m. Half of the group hit the ice for drills and scrimmages while the other half hit the gym. Then the groups switched.
After lunch, the players headed to Children’s Hospital to do some community work. It was an element that Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald wanted to incorporate for this year’s camp to show the prospects the way the professionals act.
“One thing we try to instill in these kids is what it’s like to be a Penguin in all aspects,” Fitzgerald said. “One thing we added this year was the community work. You give back to your community. They’ll go around and play games with the kids to give back in that way.”
Below is the rundown on Day 2 of camp…
It was only about two weeks ago that defenseman Derrick Pouliot visited CONSOL Energy Center for the 2012 NHL Draft. On that day, host city Pittsburgh traded for the eighth-overall selection from Carolina, which the team used to pick Pouliot.
The 5-foot-11, 186-pound blueliner is back in the Penguins’ beautiful new building, but this time he’s lacing up the skates and hitting the ice with fellow prospects for development camp.
“It’s a new experience and a lot to take in at first,” Pouliot said. “It’s exciting, too. I’m having fun and learning a lot. It’s overall a good thing.”
Pouliot finished a stellar season with Portland of the Western Hockey League in 2011-12. He posted 59 points (11G-48A) in 72 games for the Winterhawks.
Pouliot also saw a lot of time on Portland’s top power-play unit, alongside teammate and fellow Penguins prospect Joe Morrow. The Penguins envision Pouliot as a future power-play quarterback in the NHL.
But Pouliot’s concentration for the summer and development camp is to get himself ready for Pittsburgh’s training camp in September.
“It’s starting all over. I’ve got to make a new team,” he said. “It’s back to square one for me. I’m looking forward to that moving ahead. That’s what I’m focused on.”
Pouliot, who said he is trying to add muscle and strength this summer, isn’t concerned about earning a roster spot in Pittsburgh in camp. Instead, he’s concentrating on putting together his best effort and letting everything work itself out.
“That’s up for the coaches and scouting staff to decide if I’m ready or not to play (in the NHL),” he said. “I’m going to come in with the mindset that I want to make the team. If not, I’ll be happy to go back to Portland for another year, develop and be ready as soon as I can.”
Penguins defenseman Scott Harrington has had quite a year. It began last summer in Minnesota when Pittsburgh drafted him in the second round (54th overall) at the 2011 NHL Draft.
Harrington went on to produce one of his best junior seasons with London of the Ontario Hockey League, leading the Knights to the league championship and finishing runner-up in the Memorial Cup. Harrington also played for Team Canada at the 2012 World Junior Championship, earning a bronze medal, and will participate in the upcoming Canada-Russia Challenge in August.
“It’s been a whirlwind, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” Harrington told the media Wednesday. “Starting last year at the draft, coming to development camp and training camp. Back in London we had a successful season, winning the OHL and then falling short in the Memorial Cup Final.
“I’m back in Pittsburgh this summer and heading over the Russia in a couple weeks. It’s been busy, but I’ve enjoyed it. As a hockey player, that’s what you want to do, be successful and be on the ice as much as possible. I’m looking forward to the rest of the summer.”
Harrington’s remarkable season all started with the time he spent in Pittsburgh last year for development camp and training camp. The things he learned during that time helped him elevate his game over the course of the year.
“It’s helped my confidence,” Harrington said. “Everything I learned in Pittsburgh and gaining confidence playing with such good players, I took that back with me to London. I thought I made a pretty smooth transition. I used the techniques and skills they taught me in London. I feel like I’m playing with a lot more confidence. I think it shows in my game.”
It’s hard to argue with the results.
Harrington was named an OHL First-Team All-Star after posting 26 points (3G-23A) and a plus-26 in just 44 games. He chipped in seven points and a plus-11 in 19 playoff games as London won the OHL championship.
Harrington added four points and a plus-7 rating for Canada to claim bronze in the World Junior Championships. And his crazy year concludes in the Canada-Russia challenge, which will be used to determine Team Canada’s roster for the 2013 WJC to be held Dec. 26, 2012 to Jan. 5, 2013 in Ufa, Russia.
But Harrington doesn’t mind the workload.
“The more hockey you play, the more your skills develop and the better you become,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to play a lot of hockey this year and I think it’s helped a lot.”
I had a conversation with defensive prospect Philip Samuelsson, 20, and he brought up an interesting point about his 2011-12 season.
To briefly recap, Samuelsson started the year by deciding to leave Boston College after two seasons and one NCAA national championship. But his transition to the pro game wasn’t always smooth.
Samuelsson, Pittsburgh’s second-round pick (61st overall) at the 2009 NHL Draft, split the season between Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League and Wheeling of the ECHL.
Samuelsson, who is the son of former Penguin and two-time Stanley Cup champion Ulf, had to overcome adversity that he hadn’t yet experienced in his young hockey career.
“I’ve never really been forced to fight to get into the lineup,” he said. “I’ve taken that for granted almost. This put that into perspective. You have to go out and earn your ice time everyday. That’s something I improved on a lot the entire year.”
It was a valuable lesson that should only help Samuelsson as he moves forward in his career. After all, mental toughness is just as important as having the physical tools to play the game – and possibly even more important.
“I went through a lot of ups and downs during the season. You’ll have those in pro hockey,” he said. “I think I did a good job of handling that and kept working hard trying to get better.”
That mental toughness will be a key asset as he battles with other highly-regarded defensive prospects in the Penguins organization. But as Samuelsson pointed out…
“Competition is good. It makes you want to be better. This is a great place for defensemen. There are a lot of good D-men. It makes you work that much harder just so you can advance in the ranks.”
GUERIN REMAINS RETIRED
The media surrounded Penguins development coach Bill Guerin in the locker room. A reporter started asking a question by bringing up the fact that the Penguins were looking to fill a hole among their top-6 forwards.
Guerin quickly responded, “I’m retired.”
The reporter finished his question, asking Guerin if he believed a player of Shane Doan’s age, 35, had the speed necessary to keep up with a player like Sidney Crosby.
“Absolutely. If I could, he can,” Guerin joked. Adding, “I don’t know if Sid would agree that I kept up with him. I was last in line, I just didn’t want anybody to be left behind.”
Guerin did give Doan some accolades.
“I don’t know what’s happening, but any team with Shane Doan is a better team,” he said. “The guy’s a proven leader. He’s a warrior. He’d be a nice fit for us.”
The Penguins brass certainly holds defenseman Olli Maatta in high regard. The club was elated when the London Knight’s top-scoring blueliner fell to them with the No. 22 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft in June.
In fact, Maatta’s London teammate and fellow Pittsburgh prospect Scott Harrington gave him a ringing endorsement.
“The Penguins definitely got a steal where they got him,” Harrington said. “I definitely thought he’d go top 10 for sure. He’s just an all-around two-way defenseman. He does everything really well. He plays with a lot of poise and confidence.”
07-12-2012, 12:35 PM
Dumoulin Making Seamless Transition
Thursday, 07.12.2012 / 9:00 AM
Features By Michelle Crechiolo
It’s too bad that the Penguins aren’t doing a cooking class for the prospects at this year’s development camp, because Brian Dumoulin probably could have instructed his fellow prospects on the art of preparing food.
Unlike a lot of young men his age living on their own, the 20-year-old defenseman – acquired from Carolina as part of the Jordan Staal trade – is quite the chef and enjoys whipping up meals for his teammates, roommates and friends.
“The best thing I can make is mushrooms and asparagus with a little teriyaki sauce,” Dumoulin grinned, who occasionally tweets photos of his culinary masterpieces from his Twitter account (@Du24theboyz). “It’s a household favorite. … Cooking is just something I have a passion for.”
Dumoulin’s not just a good cook – we’d venture to say he’s a pretty talented hockey player, too.
In three seasons at Boston College before turning pro at the conclusion of his junior year, Dumoulin racketed up the accolades and honors – starting with his two NCAA national titles.
He absolutely stood out on the college hockey powerhouse’s roster, winning back-to-back Hockey East Best Defensive Defenseman awards, earning First-Team All-American honors two seasons in a row and being named one of the top-10 Hobey Baker Award (best college player) finalists his junior season.
Oh, and he won a bronze medal with Team USA at the 2011 World Junior Championship. So needless to say, the Penguins are thrilled to have a player of Dumoulin’s caliber in the organization...and he's happy to be here.
“He’s extremely excited to join our organization as we are for him to join,” said Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald. “He’ll be a big part of our future.”
"Carolina was awesome to me," Dumoulin said. "They selected me in the draft, my time being there was awesome. They developed me pretty well. But now that I’m moving on to Pittsburgh, I’m really excited. A lot of familiar faces in the Pittsburgh organization and the success that they’ve had over the past years gets me even more excited."
So yes, Dumoulin comes to Pittsburgh having produced an incredible college career. But, as he alluded to in his last quote, he also comes to his new organization with a certain sense of familiarity. Here’s why.
Legendary Eagles coach Jerry York implemented the Penguins’ method of defensive execution, even showing his players tape of Pittsburgh’s defensive zone puck retrievals, breakouts and neutral zone transition.
“That’s one thing that’s awesome, is that Boston College kind of emulated the Pittsburgh Penguins,” Dumoulin said. “One of the main things as a defenseman is puck retrievals and going back for the puck and communicating with your partner. That’s something that we had to do at Boston College, which was almost the exact same system that Pittsburgh runs with their defenseman. It was kind of good and familiar to me when we went through that today.”
While Dumoulin warned that we shouldn’t be looking for him to post gaudy numbers points-wise, he said he enjoys playing in an aggressive, offensive-minded system.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a flashy offensive defenseman, but I like to play solid in my defensive zone,” he said. “Puck retrievals are key for me, as is getting that first pass and getting the puck out of the zone. Also jumping up and being that fourth guy in the play. Not leading the rush, but jumping up and being able to get up there and create offense as well.”
And not only is Dumoulin comfortable with what’s happening on the ice, he also has former Boston College teammates Brian Gibbons and Philip Samuelsson here at camp this week to help ease the transition.
But while Dumoulin said it certainly helps to have familiar faces, he’s not using that as an excuse to stay wrapped up in a BC bubble. In fact, it’s just the opposite.
“They allow me to meet more people,” he said. “Brian and Philip Samuelsson have already played a year pro and know a lot of the guys and the faces around here. If I kind of just follow them around and meet some other people, that can only benefit me.”
Dumoulin’s already got impressive size at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds. While he wants to continue to get stronger this summer, he’s also got specific areas of his game he’s honed in on and plans to improve to make it at the NHL level.
“I think gap control is huge, because if you can limit the other team’s time and space, that comes with quicker footwork and just being more agile,” he said. “I think that’s always something you can improve upon, especially when you’re making the jump to the NHL. Hopefully I can limit my time in the AHL and make the jump to the NHL.”
07-13-2012, 12:37 PM
Penguins Report: 2012 Development Camp (Day 3)
Thursday, 07.12.2012 / 9:05 PM
Penguins Report By Sam Kasan
The prospects had yet another full day of activities at development camp. It started in the morning with meetings, followed with some power skating drills and 3-on-3 scrimmages.
The players spent the afternoon with two squads going head-to-head in some paintball action.
We here at the Pens website, the No. 1 U.S.-based NHL site, have a passion for reporting the news. We dig deep to find the facts and truth and bring them to you. We brave any danger in the name of journalism.
I was given a very risky assignment by the assignment desk (a.k.a. Michelle Crechiolo). I was embedded in the paintball fields with General Zach Sill and the Resistance Army in a vicious battle against the Rebel forces (and I’m aware that Resistance and Rebels are kind of the same thing, but I’ve rationed this with the idea that there is no established power or rule of law. Only chaos exists in the Urban Assault paintball fields).
There lived a collection of brave men in Sill’s Army. They were the defenders of justice and freedom (and an orange flag on a pole). They heroically risked getting pelted with small balls of paint for the salvation of mankind and, more importantly, bragging rights.
I was armed only with a flip cam, cleverness and a thirst for the truth. Thankfully, I survived the many assaults – my JV track experience came in handy, as well as screaming “Don’t shoot, I’m a journalist!” I was however wounded, getting struck twice in the shoulder and once in the head. M*A*S*H unit doctor/Penguins athletic trainer Scott Adams pieced me back together.
This band of brothers in Sill’s Army faced heavy opposition. But with the forces of good and righteousness on their side, they triumphed in all four battles. Liberty once again ruled the day. Years from now the locals will speak of that day with awe and admiration.
The world is safe for Democracy once again, and I lived to tell the tale of their bravery.
Click here for numerous pic of paintball as well as on-ice practice:
07-13-2012, 12:40 PM
Bennett’s scoring ability intrigues Penguins
Beau knows hockey
Beau Bennett had a 120-point season in juniors, but injuries hampered his two college seasons at Denver.
Season Team GP G A PTS
09-10 Penticton Vees 56 41 79 120
10-11 Denver 37 9 16 25
11-12 Denver 10 4 9 13
By Chris Harlan
Published: Friday, July 13, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Updated 12 hours ago
Beau Bennett was shocked when his dad called and asked: “Did you hear what Dan Bylsma said?”
Bylsma had mentioned Bennett among the wingers who might skate with Sidney Crosby when training camp arrives this fall.
“I didn’t even know until my dad told me about it,” said the 20-year-old right wing, the Penguins’ first-round pick in 2010. “He was kind of in shock, too.”
Bennett liked the idea, of course.
“It’s pretty cool to hear something like that,” he said, “but I’m definitely not thinking that far ahead right now.”
Bennett has used this week’s prospect development camp to shed seven months of rust. He has played just 10 games over the past year and none since his December wrist surgery.
But at 6-foot-2, 207 pounds with solid scoring skills, Bennett has raw top-six potential that intrigues Bylsma.
“Having only played 10 games last year, it’s tough to see where he’s at,” Bylsma said, “but you definitely can see that skill.”
It showed yesterday when Bennett scored a quick backhand goal during three-on-three drills.
“He’s got that ability in tight in those areas,” Bylsma said. “That’s the reason you draft him in the first round.”
That’s also why Bennett could see preseason time with Crosby, if another winger isn’t added to the roster before then.
“I would love the opportunity,” he said.
Bennett was injured in October, four games into his sophomore college season at Denver, when a skate sliced his wrist during practice. He played six more games but opted for surgery after an MRI revealed a cut tendon.
“I’d say it’s about 80 percent right now,” he said. “… It’s coming along and I’m pretty happy with where I am.”
Conditioning has become his focus, along with added weight and strength. He was listed at 173 pounds in 2010, and 190 his last year in college. Now the Penguins place him above 200.
“I’ve been working really hard two or three hours a day, and I’ve put on the weight,” Bennett said, “but I’ve got to make it more functional weight. I’m going to start doing some two-a-days because I’ve got to get in better shape.”
Bennett watched most of the Penguins games last season and marveled at Crosby’s speed. Come September, he wants to prove he can keep up.
“But I need to get a lot better by then,” Bennett said. “I need to get a lot stronger and faster. I have two months to do so.”
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07-13-2012, 12:43 PM
Familiar face greets Pouliot at Pens camp
By the numbers
Defensemen Joe Morrow and Derrick Pouliot played together for two seasons with the Portland Winterhawks before attending Penguins development camp.
Morrow Category Pouliot
Left Shoots Left
6-foot-1 Height 5-foot-11
204 lbs. Weight 195 lbs.
19 Age 18
62 Games Played 72
17 Goals 11
47 Assists 48
64 Points 59
By Meredith Qualls
Published: Wednesday, July 11, 2012, 8:16 p.m.
Updated: Thursday, July 12, 2012
Derrick Pouliot wasn’t intimidated by the new faces at development camp, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t nice to come in knowing someone, particularly someone who has done it all before.
Pouliot, the eighth overall in the 2012 NHL Draft, played two seasons with the Portland Winterhawks, where he and Joe Morrow split time on the power play. Both defensemen admitted the circumstance was unexpected.
“It doesn’t happen too often, and it’s pretty good that it happened that way,” Pouliot said. “You know lots of times with Junior, you play with guys like that, and then you won’t see them for a long time, and might never play with them again, so it’s definitely a rare experience.”
Morrow attended Penguins development camp last summer, after he was the 23rd overall selection in the 2011 NHL Draft.
“Being on a team like that with someone you see every day, you get to know him quite well, and we became pretty good friends,” Morrow said. “I was happy to see his name pop up on the TV when the Penguins drafted him.”
As rare as it may be, Scott Harrington and Olli Maatta arrived having played together last season with the London Knights. The pairs make up four of the 14 defensemen who are attending development camp this week.
“Joe and I talked about that at the airport the other day, kind of funny I guess, the Portland and London defensemen,” Harrington said.
After two days of prospect camp, it is already evident that the two play with chemistry. During one drill Wednesday morning, when Morrow ran the point while Pouliot took the half-wall, it was clear the two have played together before.
“It’s awesome to have (Pouliot) here, and to play with him in the past, and hopefully play with him in the future,” Morrow said. “We had some good chemistry on the power play when we played in Portland together. He’s a smart hockey player, and he’s got a lot of potential, too.”
With the pressure on young prospects at development camp — the on-ice drills, the fitness tests, the new faces, all while trying to land a good first impression — Morrow said he did what he could to help Pouliot get acquainted.
“I try and help him out here, because I know he doesn’t know anybody,” Morrow said. “I know what the feeling is like, what I went through last year. Now, he’s got somebody to talk to, so hopefully I can help him out and make him feel a bit more comfortable and hopefully play better because of that.”
Pouliot said that before camp, he asked Morrow what development camp would be like and how tough the workouts would be.
“I don’t know if it’s an advantage, but it definitely helps a lot, having somebody that you know, who knows some of the older guys, too, and can introduce you,” he said.
Note: The Penguins re-signed minor league forward Keven Veilleux and defensemen Carl Sneep and Joey Mormina to one-year contracts.
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07-13-2012, 12:47 PM
Center moves forward, at his own pace
July 13, 2012 12:09 am
By Shelly Anderson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
There's the fast track in hockey, usually reserved for flashy top draft picks.
Then there's the Zach track.
"I've been kind of slowly moving forward my whole career," said Zach Sill. At 24, he's older than just about everyone else this week at Penguins development camp.
He doesn't get the attention heaped on first-round draft picks such as Joe Morrow, Beau Bennett and Derrick Pouliot. Or even the attention spread around to most of the other prospects.
"It's been scrap and claw," coach Dan Bylsma said of Sill, an upbeat, outgoing center who is entering his third season in the organization.
"You watch signees, free agents and draft picks, and you feel like you're not a guy that's being watched very much."
The Penguins are paying attention, though. They signed Sill to a two-way NHL contract a little more than a year ago.
Sill, 6 feet and 202 pounds, went undrafted playing for his hometown junior team, the Truro (Nova Scotia) Bearcats. He made a brief stop at the University of Maine before moving on to Moncton of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, then turned pro, splitting 2009-10 between Penguins affiliates Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League and Wheeling of the East Coast Hockey League.
He spent the past two seasons full time with Wilkes-Barre and is entering the final year of that NHL contract, but he's not discouraged that he hasn't gotten a call-up.
"This year coming is the year where I have to make that step or I'm going to feel like I'm going backward," Sill said.
"It would have been nice to get a couple of [NHL] games last year, but it didn't happen. This year it's time to make that step and try to get my foot in the door."
Sill's game is suited to the third or fourth line. His assets are energy and penalty killing. He has 26 goals, 58 points and 173 penalty minutes in 202 AHL games.
The Penguins already have stars Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin as their entrenched top two centers and expect Brandon Sutter, acquired from Carolina in the Jordan Staal trade, to be their third-line center.
That means Sill is left to hope to beat out players such as Joe Vitale and veteran Craig Adams or be in line for a promotion during the season if there are injuries, suspensions or trades.
"I've got a pretty good idea what I've got to do to impress and stay around a little bit longer than I have in the past -- just play more aggressively," he said.
"The past couple of years I might have been a little bit passive. In drills in practice and in exhibition games, being more aggressive, maybe fighting a little bit more -- doing what I do best, and not being deterred by it in any way."
Along the way, Sill has adopted some veteran tendencies despite not getting into an NHL game.
"You can see that leadership ability," Bylsma said.
Sill has embraced it.
"The coaches threw an 'A' on my chest [as an alternate captain] for a couple of games last year when guys were hurt," he said.
"That was only my third year in the league. It means a lot to step into that role of leadership.
"And it's development camp, so that's what I'm doing here, too -- developing in leadership and that kind of thing."
That doesn't mean in Saturday's scrimmage he'll hold back against players seven years younger.
"Me pushing harder on them is going to make them better hockey players" Sill said.
"And them being in wicked shape and trying hard to impress, they're going to push me, too. It's all give and take."
NOTES -- Team power skating instructor Marianne Watkins worked with the players for the first 30 minutes of practice, and a lot of the rest of the time was spent on fast-paced, short-rink, three-on-three scrimmages. ... After visiting Children's Hospital and bowling, the campers played paintball Thursday. ... Bylsma, who holds an annual youth camp in Michigan, is having one concurrent to the development camp at Consol Energy Center. "What we're doing on the ice with these players is what we do on the ice with the older players," he said. "That's what the best players in the world are doing. We go through the same things."
07-13-2012, 12:51 PM
Guerin doing what he does best in his role as development coach
July 12, 2012 12:07 am
By Shelly Anderson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Bill Guerin was holding court with reporters Wednesday in the locker room.
Just like old times.
Midway through a question about the Penguins' search for a top-six forward, probably a winger for Sidney Crosby, Guerin butted in with a deadpan answer that cracked everyone up.
Just like old times.
"I'm retired," said Guerin, who flanked Crosby on the club's 2009 Stanley Cup team.
Guerin, 41, isn't the answer as the Penguins look to plug a final couple of spots on the roster, but he's digging his role with the team that held an emotional retirement ceremony for him in December 2010.
"I love my job," said Guerin, who is working his second development camp after being named development coach in June 2011.
"It's great. I love dealing with the young players. It's keeping me involved, keeping me in the dressing room. I get to go to Wilkes-Barre [in the American Hockey League] and have a good relationship with the guys down there, travel around to see our other prospects that are in college and junior, too. Just trying to help them out. I love doing that.
"I liked doing that as an older player, helping guys out. Right now it's the perfect job for me."
Perhaps this will lead him to a more conventional coaching career. Or into management. Guerin isn't willing to look ahead.
"I haven't figured out what I'm going to do tomorrow, never mind the next 20 years," he said. "I know I want to stay in the game."
Guerin works closely with assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald. A season into the job, he has established an identity with the organization's young players that is different from their behind-the-bench coaches.
"I help them," he said. "I can talk to the guys a little more player-to-player than the coaches can. It's a different dynamic. I'm not the one chewing them out. I'm not the one sitting them down in my office every day.
"It's a different relationship, but I think it's an important one for a guy to have. Sometimes if you're struggling or if you're trying to figure something out, the best thing is to have somebody to talk to. I'm that guy."
It's not hard for Guerin to relate to the prospects. He's got the personality for it -- his hockey mind, his wit and his elbow are equally sharp -- and he can remember what it was like as a young player.
Guerin broke into the NHL with New Jersey after the Devils made him the fifth overall pick in the 1989 draft. By the time he was finished, he had also played for Edmonton, Boston, Dallas, St. Louis, San Jose, the New York Islanders and, finally, the Penguins. While chugging toward 429 goals and 856 points over 1,263 games, he picked up a reputation for being savvy, funny and a leader.
He got to that point without the benefit early on from any development camps or development coaches, which only recently have become popular in the NHL.
"We didn't have that at all," Guerin said. "I wish I had it. I needed somebody to hold my hand for a little while. You relied on older players. You relied on the coaching staff. And you had to figure a lot of things out."
At this year's development camp, Guerin is on the ice helping to run drills and offering pointers. He's around off the ice as a mentor, too.
One of the 32 prospects, 2010 first-round draft pick Beau Bennett, could get a look on Crosby's wing during training camp, according to coach Dan Bylsma.
"He's a guy that finds open ice," Guerin said of Bennett. "He's got a great shot, good hands, good release, things like that. He'd be able to make the skill play to get Sid the puck. So it would be a nice match."
Another possibility is Coyotes captain and unrestricted free agent Shane Doan. There is mutual interest in Doan signing with the Penguins, but he has extended his original deadline by a week, until Monday, for the ownership situation in Phoenix to stabilize before he considers other options.
"I don't know what's happening there, but any team with Shane Doan on it is a better team," Guerin said. "The guy's a proven leader. He's a warrior. He'd be a nice fit for us, too."
Doan would add skill and grit, but there has been some question of whether Doan's skating is good enough to keep up with Crosby.
"Oh, yeah. Absolutely," Guerin said, then smiled.
"If I could, he can. I don't know if Sid would agree that I kept up with him ... "
NOTES -- Former Penguins player and coach Ed Olczyk was named to the United States Hockey Hall of Fame class of 2012. ... The Penguins re-signed Keven Veilleux to a two-way, one-year contract worth $525,000 at the NHL level. Veilleux, a second-round draft pick in 2007, is a hulking, skilled winger who had added a physical edge before a knee injury wiped out all of his 2011-12 season. He is rehabilitating in Pittsburgh this summer. ... Defenseman Carl Sneep, whose extension was reported a day earlier, got the same terms as Veilleux.
• What: Prospect Camp-ending scrimmage, Consol Energy Center.
• When: 3 p.m. Saturday.
• The skinny: The scrimmage is free and open to the public.
Bill Guerin is the last to leave the ice after Wednesday's morning session of the Prospect Camp at Consol Energy Center. Says Guerin, who oversees player development: "I liked doing that as an older player, helping guys out. Right now it's the perfect job for me."
07-13-2012, 01:44 PM
Getting to Know Brian Dumoulin
Thursday, 07.12.2012 / 9:00 AM
Features By Michelle Crechiolo
We sat down with new Penguins prospect Brian Dumoulin on Wednesday and spoke with him on a whole bunch of topics. I couldn’t fit everything we talked about into my feature on the young defenseman, so I figured I’d make a separate “Getting to Know You” type of piece to include all his other answers -- including some non-hockey-related ones.
Favorite NHL team growing up: Boston Bruins
Favorite NHL player: Was Joe Sakic; now Erik Karlsson
Pump-up music or artist: Sammy Adams
“He’s from New England.”
Favorite video game: NHL 12
Favorite TV show: Entourage
Favorite off-ice activities: Playing cards, hanging with the boys, cooking
“The best thing I can make is mushrooms and asparagus with a little teriyaki sauce. It’s a household favorite. My parents always cooked for me, so I kind of learned from them. It’s just something I have a passion for and continue to do.”
Follow-up: “So do you watch the Food Network?”
“Me and my roommate Parker Milner, even this summer, we watch it daily. My favorite show on there is Iron Chef.”
Favorite food: Seafood
Favorite restaurant: Huot's Seafood in Camp Ellis, Maine
Favorite non-hockey playing athlete: Cristiano Ronaldo
Favorite sport besides hockey: We play basketball a lot, and I like watching European soccer.
What does your Twitter handle (@Du24theboyz) mean?
“Du2 for the boys. Because my number is 2, some guys call me Du2. Then for the boys. They call me Dumo, Du2, whatever they come up with.”
MORE IN-DEPTH Q&A…
Q. Where were you when you found out you were part of the trade to Pittsburgh and what was your reaction?
A. I was actually just hanging out with some friends; I wasn’t watching the draft at all. My first reaction was that I looked to see if the trade had actually happened, and it hadn’t, so I kind of checked my phone again to see if some of my friends were messing with me or something. But it was about 10 minutes before the trade was actually announced, so once it was announced I was more relaxed and knew it was happening and knew I was going to a good organization.
Q. Who called to break the news?
A. Ron Francis called me from Carolina about 10-15 minutes before. Then after that, my agent, Gary Prolman, called me. Then I called my parents and stuff, and a lot of the Pittsburgh management called me after that.
Q. Speaking of Pittsburgh management, assistant to the GM Tom Fitzgerald said you two had a good talk over lunch after the draft. What’s it been like getting to know him?
A. It’s awesome because my (Boston College) teammate Kevin Hayes is cousins with Mr. Fitzgerald. I know his kids are going to Boston College as well. So we were kind of asking each other questions. I was asking about Pittsburgh and he was asking me about the culture at Boston College. So it was a good conversation and flowed very well.
Q. You actually roomed with two Eagles teammates who were from the Pittsburgh area, right?
A. Yeah, I roomed with Patrick Wey, who was drafted by Washington, and Parker Milner, who’s going to be a senior goalie next year.
Q. Now that you’ve been in the city for a few days, what do you think of Pittsburgh and the Penguins’ facilities here at CONSOL Energy Center?
A. The bowling alley (on Tuesday) was pretty fun. It was in Mt. Lebanon, which is where my roommate’s actually from so I was texting him and sharing some thoughts. The facilities are incredible, the locker room – it’s awesome that they’re letting us use it and letting us use the ice, I couldn’t be more grateful. I just feel like I’m in an NHL environment.
Q. How’d you initially get involved in the sport and what was it like growing up playing in Maine?
A. No one in my family had ever played hockey before me. I remember my mom saying when I was 3 years old that I had a lot of energy, me and my brother. It was the only thing that was an actual team sport where the coaches were very involved, stuff like that. She just threw me into hockey and let me take all my energy out on the ice. It seems like everyone starts as a forward because they want to score goals, but then I realized I couldn’t score goals (laughs). So they moved me back to D.
Q. What was the recruiting process like with BC and why’d you decide to go there?
A. I kind of always had an inkling I wanted to go to BC just because of education, the hockey program, the tradition, coach Jerry York and some of the other players that were going there also. They just brought me in and they were one of the last teams to offer me a scholarship. Obviously, I had to sit down and think about it because that’s a big decision. I spent three years of my life there. It was a big decision for me and my family, but I’m very happy with my selection and very proud to represent Boston College.
Q. You had quite the career at Boston College – two-time national champion, two-time All-American, two-time Hockey East Best Defensive Defenseman, Hobey Baker finalist. How much did you develop as a player during your three seasons there?
A. A ton, and that’s one thing good about coach Jerry York’s system is that it’s like professional hockey. You’re very accountable but he’s not always on us, you kind of have your own freedom. The style we play is similar to Pittsburgh, so that can only help the transition to the NHL level.
Q. Representing the U.S. at the 2011 World Juniors and coming away with a medal – what was that whole experience like?
A. That was awesome, especially because you can tell as you play different countries, that they play different styles. Just grasping that and seeing that, not just focusing on college hockey or American players and getting a feel for other players in the world and how to play against them, like a small, quick forward or a big, rugged power forward, can only help me. It was awesome to win a medal with Team USA.
07-15-2012, 11:47 PM
Penguins Report: 2012 Development Camp (Day 4)
Friday, 07.13.2012 / 8:48 PM
Penguins Report By Michelle Crechiolo
Today's development camp itinerary featured a trip to Giant Eagle Market District for a nutrition seminar and store tour for the prospects to learn how to properly fuel their bodies. Lots of coverage below, and video up above.
Sadly, the 2012 Penguins prospect development camp is slowly coming to an end as today marked the last day of skill/conditioning practices, workouts and seminars. The players will have an awards presentation on Saturday morning, scrimmage in the afternoon (which is free and open to the public) and one last team dinner before they go their separate ways on Sunday.
For those of us that aren’t culinary wizards, remember moving out of the dorms in college and realizing that you were now really, truly on your own in terms of buying groceries and cooking meals? And do you recall how intimidating that was?
Most students I knew (including myself) could push buttons on a microwave and slide the lever on the toaster – and that was pretty much the extent of it. A lot of my friends and I succumbed to fast food way too often because it was easy and cheap.
But while many of the Penguins prospects in town this week for development camp probably feel the same way, poor nutrition is not really an option for them. They are elite athletes, and they must fuel their bodies in a way that elicits peak performance. Though a lot of them are on their own now (or will be once they turn professional), opting for a diet of pizza and Taco Bell just isn’t going to cut it if they want to be successful in this sport.
That’s why the Penguins took them to the Giant Eagle Market District grocery store in Robinson on Friday for 1) a nutritional seminar by Leslie Bonci, director of sports nutrition for UPMC and sports dietician for the Penguins, Pirates and Steelers and 2) a tour of the grocery store to show them the best kinds of food in each section.
“These young players are the future Pens, and this is really the time where if you get (proper nutrition) right now, you’re going to be able to do it when you get out there and you’re a pro,” Bonci said. “Not only that, you’ll do it for a longer period of time. It is career extension.”
Bonci gave a short lecture to the guys on performance eating, and was kind enough to share her top-three takeaways with us.
#1: "Timing. You have to fuel your body before you get out there on the ice and you have to recover appropriately."
#2: "Getting in enough fluid. Yeah, they’re inside, but they sweat a lot – they wring out that sweater when they come off the ice and it’s all nasty. So you’ve got to have enough liquids to do what you want to do so you’re not injured."
#3: "It’s a performance plate. What does that mean? It’s not that just one food does it all. It’s not just pasta. It’s not just a pork chop. It’s not just a potato. It’s kind of some mix of things on the plate. It’s a little color – I’m all about color on the plate, too. We’ve got to do that."
Bonci also added that it’s all about uncomplicating proper nutrition.
“Most importantly, you have to eat what you like,” she said. “It’s also about the timing, finding things within your budget to do and things you can do quickly. We’re not talking 5-star chefs here. We’re talking open a can of this, open a can of that, put it together and bam, you’ve got a meal.”
After that, the guys split into four groups to tour the big, bright grocery store – one of the nicest I’ve ever visited. Brian Dumoulin, who’s actually a great cook and likes to prepare organic meals for his teammates and friends, agreed with me. He told me that he usually shops at Whole Foods, but could definitely get used to a food store like this.
The tours were very thorough. They stopped everywhere, stopping to chat dairy, produce, fruits, nuts and berries, pasta and whole grains and canned veggies, to name a few. The guys actually asked a lot of questions during, which is awesome.
“I think some of the questions were fabulous, like should I do organic," Bonci said. "They’re finding some things they’ve never tried before, and that’s always good. I’m all about the show and tell. That’s why we’re having them do it.”
All in all, the guys left a lot more informed than they entered. And as 2011 first-round draft pick Joe Morrow told us, proper eating plays a bigger role in success than I think we all realize.
“This is pretty much 80 percent of it,” he said. “You can only work out so hard. If you’re not consuming what needs to go into your body, you’re losing more than half of what you’re doing. Food’s a huge part of it. I was happy to learn a lot about it today.
“If you can feed yourself properly, it’ll give you an extra edge on the competition if they’re out eating McDonald’s or some sort of garbage like that. It’s definitely a positive thing to come out here and learn about it.”
Lots of food samples being given out - probably a good idea being surrounded by all those yummy-looking groceries. Going to a grocery store hungry = not a good idea, as I discovered today.
All this talk about eating right and I haven't really given you any specifics as to what foods the players are recommended. I'm going to change that right now by giving you a sample meal I pulled from the materials the prospects were given - sounds pretty doable to me!
A bowl of oatmeal (1 cup) with nuts (one-quarter cup), dried fruit (one-quarter cup) or a large banana and 8 ounces of low-fat milk
12-ounce glass of milk or 8-ounce yogurt
8-ounce glass of juice
Sandwich on a roll
5 slices of meat
2 slices of cheese
Piece of fruit
Crackers, pretzels or baked chips – 2 handfuls
12-ounce glass of milk, juice or lemonade
12-ounce glass of water
2 granola bars, or a muffin
8 ounces of lean meat, poultry or fish
2 cups of pasta, rice or potatoes
2 cups of vegetables, either cooked or salad
12-ounce glass of milk, juice or lemonade
8-ounce glass of water
Dessert of fruit, or 1 cup of lower-fat ice cream, pudding, frozen yogurt, sherbet or sorbet
Bowl of cereal (2 cups) with fruit (1 cup) and milk (8 ounces)
20 ounces of water
*The most popular dessert suggestion was actually a yogurt parfait: 1 cup fruit, 1 cup Greek yogurt, 1/4 cup nuts or granola. I know this is a favorite of health nut Brooks Orpik. It's actually quite delicious, but I'd definitely miss chocolate.
*This doesn't count what they eat before, during and after practices and games!
Defenseman Reid McNeill agreed to blog for us one day during camp, and we posted it earlier this afternoon. It's absolute gold. You have to check it out. Teaser below.
Discussing the paintball games: "I think (Philip) Samuelsson and I are enlisting in the future. We had Call of Duty maneuvers going on. He was giving me hand signals and pointing to bunkers to jump in. Samuelsson and I put together are a deadly duo. We were going pretty hard out there. I hit double digits in getting guys out."
The forwards and defensemen split up today, taking the ice for separate sessions.
The forwards did a skill development practice, while the blueliners went through a skate called "Defense University" - led by head professors Todd Reirden (assistant coach, Pittsburgh) and Alain Nasreddine (assistant coach, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton). Both coaches work primarily with the defensemen on their respective teams.
07-15-2012, 11:54 PM
Prospect Blog: Reid McNeill
Friday, 07.13.2012 / 3:42 PM
Defensive prospect Reid McNeill was drafted by the Penguins in the sixth round (170th overall) of the 2010 NHL Draft. He played for the Barrie Colts of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) in 2011-12. The defensive-minded blueliner established career highs in goals (3), assists (9) and points (12) while finishing second on the Colts with a plus-9 rating.
McNeill, who is attending his third development camp, was kind enough to blog about his week for www.pittsburghpenguins.com.
I was really excited to come back to Pittsburgh for development camp. I’ve been working hard all summer and wanted to make a good impression this week. In development camp you try to take in as much as they give you so you can use that for the rest of your summer and next season.
There were about eight or nine of us that met in the Toronto airport and flew in together, like (Zach) Sill, (Scott) Harrington, Adam Payerl, (Simon) Despres, Clark Seymour and a few other guys. It was good to see some familiar faces and meet the younger guys, new draft picks and free agents. It’s always nice meeting guys.
The first day of development camp always starts with the fitness testing, which means an early wake up. You know it’s coming. It’s my third camp so I was expecting the early start. It was still tough, but after the fitness testing is done it’s a fun week. It’s good to get it out of the way early.
I’ve been working on overall strength this summer and a lot of leg and foot speed. I have been focusing on getting bigger and filling into my size. That was my main focus. I thought I tested pretty well. They took out the wingate test this year. A lot of guys were happy about that. That was always a tough one.
After the testing, we got on the ice for the first time for practice. That first skate is always the hardest. Most of us have “summer legs” and other guys’ seasons went pretty long with the Memorial Cup guys having only a month off. I was down in Wilkes-Barre for a month. We all had summer legs. As the week goes on you get your legs back and the touch back, things clean up. It’s a good week to get back on the ice and get a feel for things again.
We ended our first day with bowling. It’s something we’ve done before. I was on a team with Harrison Ruopp, Brian Dumoulin and Scott Wilson. Our first game we bowled the worst out of everybody. But then we rallied and in the second game we set the second-highest score. Ruopp bowled a 65 in the first game and a 187 in the second. Wilson was having a tough time with the gutters. We just wanted him to hit a pin. He stepped up in the second game. We all stepped up in the second game. I bowled a 140 and a 145, trying to be consistent.
It’s nice to get out with the team and off the ice, doing team building stuff. We get to see everybody’s personalities. It was awesome. We all had a lot of laughs.
On the second day we got to visit a hospital. When they told us we were going to Children’s Hospital, I thought it was a great opportunity to get out into the public and give back, especially with such special kids. They were awesome. We had a lot of fun, playing board games with the kids.
I got beat in Jenga three times in a row. Olli (Maatta) and I had a rough time playing Jenga. Just when we thought we had it, the kids would pull out the block like it was nothing. I think they’ve been practicing for us. It’s something I’ll have to work on for next year, buy a Jenga for the hotel room and practice.
The kids made it a great day for us. Seeing the kids go through such a tough time, but still smile and have so much fun with us makes me feel grateful for everything I have. It makes you feel good when you give back like that. I’m looking forward to going back in future camps. It was a really awesome day.
On Thursday we were back on the ice for another round of practice. We went through some power skating drills with Marianne Watkins. Then we played some three-on-three against each other.
After practice we suited up for paintball. It was a lot of fun. We had a great team. We were rushing up and putting pressure on the other guys that were hiding back. We won all four games. That was awesome.
Our captain was Sill. He was wearing a completely camouflaged outfit. As soon as he stepped into the forest I lost him. I was running back to our flag and saw him in a bush, sitting on top of a hill, just waiting. He was a great leader. We didn’t lose a game. I credit him on the backend for holding down the fort.
I think (Philip) Samuelsson and I are enlisting in the future. We had Call of Duty maneuvers going on. He was giving me hand signals and pointing to bunkers to jump in. Samuelsson and I put together are a deadly duo. We were going pretty hard out there. I hit double digits in getting guys out. I got Scott Wilson and (Anton) Zlobin really good right in the back. I sneaked around their flag and came in from behind. They thought I was on their team and I got them. I was behind their team most of the game. I had to put the orange armband (which signified teams) on my mask just so they would stop complaining.
(Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John) Hynes and I have a grudge that goes back to three years ago in paintball. I beat him then and he said he was going to light me up and get payback. The first game I actually took him out again. It was a lot of fun.
It’s been a good week so far. I just want to finish it out with a good scrimmage (Saturday).
McNeill at practice
McNeill and teammates played paintball Thursday
07-18-2012, 09:19 PM
Sore wrist can't stop Bennett from seeing scrimmage in different light
July 15, 2012 12:37 am
By Shelly Anderson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Beau Bennett couldn't mask a bit of wincing at least once when he went back to the bench Saturday but still wore a wide smile afterward in the Penguins locker room at Consol Energy Center.
A right wrist that is about 80 percent healthy following surgery in early December didn't deter Bennett in a scrimmage that marked the end of this summer's development camp.
"It does get sore over time," said Bennett, a 2010 first-round draft pick who turned pro this year. "I think that will get better as time goes on."
Bennett, who wore a protective shield on the wrist but has shed the brace he wore for a long period of time, didn't have any goals or assists in the scrimmage. Getting through it and remembering what it's like to play was enough for him.
"I was just trying to keep it simple," he said. "That's my first game since Dec. 2. It was awesome to get back out there."
The scrimmage drew an estimated crowd of 6,000 to 7,000. It was scored on a point system, not by goal count.
Reid McNeill (sixth-round draft pick, 2010) twice, Simon Despres (first-round pick, '09), Joe Morrow (first-round pick, '10), Alex Velischek (fifth round, '09), Harrison Ruopp (trade with Phoenix), Scott Harrington (second round, '11), Philip Samuelsson (second round, '09) and Nick D'Agostino (seventh round, '08) each scored on penalty shot or shootout attempt. That list is intriguing because they are all defensemen.
Forwards Matia Marcantuoni (fourth round, '12) and Zach Sill as well as Despres got conventional goals. Despres and forwards Brian Gibbons and Anton Zlobin (sixth round, '12) got assists.
Bennett, 20, opted to leave Denver University in the spring following his sophomore year, even though his wrist injury limited him to 10 games, in which he had four goals and nine assists. He had nine goals and 25 points in 37 games as a freshman.
"I felt it was the right step going forward, and I was definitely ready for it," he said of going pro.
The past two summers, Bennett attended development camp at his own cost to maintain his NCAA eligibility, then returned to school. This time, his next stop will be Penguins training camp.
"It is a little different," he said. "I'm taking everything in just as [with] the other years, but just moving forward it is more important with the fitness, the nutrition, the sleeping.
"College is a different animal with only 40 games, and you've got a big offseason. I'm definitely ramping it up going home. I need to get a lot better come September, just trying to get my conditioning up and being ready to play with the bigger guys."
Bennett will spend the balance of his summer in California. When he returns for training camp in September -- assuming that isn't affected by a work stoppage over the NHL collective bargaining agreement, which expires Sept. 15 -- he expects his wrist to be stronger.
He will be stronger, too, compared with when he was drafted and listed at 6 feet 1, 173 pounds. He now checks in at 6-2, 207.
Perhaps that size and his stickhandling skill will help him realize an idea floated during the week by Penguins coach Dan Bylsma -- that Bennett could get a look as star center Sidney Crosby's right winger during an exhibition game and, who knows, maybe beyond.
Bennett doesn't plan to study extra video of Crosby or plot out strategy for playing alongside him just yet.
"I think I'll just focus on my training, first and foremost," he said. "If I ever get that chance, hopefully I'll be ready."
Key dates: NHL calendar
• Friday-Aug. 4: Salary arbitration hearings will be held.
• Aug. 6: Deadline for salary arbitration decisions to be rendered.
• Sept. 15: Expiration date of Collective Bargaining Agreement.
• Sept. 19: NHL preseason is scheduled to begin.
• Oct. 11: NHL regular season is scheduled to begin.
07-18-2012, 09:28 PM
Defenseman balances busy summer schedule
July 14, 2012 12:05 am
By Shelly Anderson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Scott Harrington is living proof that a lot can happen in, oh, 15 months or so.
"It's been a bit of a whirlwind, but I've enjoyed every minute of it, starting last year at the draft," the defenseman said during this week's Penguins development camp.
Harrington, 19, was selected in the second round of the 2011 draft, attended his first development camp last July and made a strong impression during main training camp, getting into two preseason games.
He went back to his junior team, London, which won the Ontario Hockey League championship and went to the final of the Memorial Cup. That season was interrupted by a trip to Calgary, where Harrington was part of Canada's bronze-medal team at the world junior championships.
Now he's back at Consol Energy Center for his second development camp, which ends today with a 3 p.m. scrimmage that is free and open to the public. Next month, he will play in Russia and Halifax, Nova Scotia, in the Russia-Canada junior challenge.
Then comes his second Penguins training camp.
The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder wouldn't slow down if he could.
"It's been busy, but I've enjoyed it," Harrington said.
"As a hockey player, that's what you want to do -- be successful and be on the ice as much as possible.
"I think [the past year] has really helped my confidence first and foremost. Everything that I learned in Pittsburgh [last year] gave me confidence, with such good players, and I took that back to London. I thought I made a pretty smooth transition and used some of the techniques and skills that they taught me [here] back in London. I think it shows in my game."
With London, Harrington ranked second among defensemen -- behind Penguins 2012 first-round pick Olli Maatta -- with 26 points, and he had an impressive plus-26 plus-minus rating.
His baby face belies the level of his game.
"He's so mature for his age," said Alain Nasreddine, a former Penguins defenseman, a development camp coach and assistant coach of American Hockey League affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He watched Harrington in the junior playoffs after Wilkes-Barre got eliminated.
"He's the kind of guy that does everything well. But that was at the junior level," Nasreddine said. "I think he also made a great impression last year in training camp."
Nasreddine won't get a chance to work with Harrington in Wilkes-Barre this season no matter how well Harrington does in camp.
He is not eligible for the AHL yet, so his monthslong whirlwind of hockey will come to a decisive point during or shortly after training camp.
He will return to junior or stick in the NHL -- although under the current collective bargaining agreement he can play up to 10 NHL games and still be returned to London.
"You know what your options are going to be at the end of the summer," Harrington said.
"It's pretty clear-cut for me."
The Penguins are rich in talent and depth at defense, so cracking the NHL lineup will be difficult.
All Harrington can do is make the most of the myriad experiences he's having in this stretch of months and keep in mind the style of play the Penguins preach.
"I think the main things that I tried to work on were the things that I learned here in camp last year, and I tried to incorporate them into my game the entire season," Harrington said.
"I kind of bundled up main camp, Memorial Cup and world juniors all in one year. Some people never get any of those opportunities, or for some people it takes a couple of years. I think it's helped me mature as a person, playing that much hockey."
NOTES -- The Penguins signed forward Benn Ferriero to a one-year, two-way contract worth $700,000 at the NHL level. Ferriero, 25, a former Boston College player, had seven goals, eight points in 35 NHL games with San Jose in 2011-12 and also spent time in the American Hockey League. ... Root Sports will televise four Penguins preseason games: Sept. 29 vs. Columbus, Sept. 30 at Chicago, Oct. 3 at Detroit and Oct. 5 vs. Chicago. ... The development camp practices were divided into a session each for forwards and defensemen.
07-18-2012, 09:31 PM
Penguins Notebook: Camp boasts deeper roster than in past
July 14, 2012 11:54 pm
By Shelly Anderson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Tom Fitzgerald, assistant to the general manager who helps run the Penguins summer development camp, liked the group of prospects this year in terms of numbers, talent and what it does for the organization.
"This is not a knock to the [camp rosters] in the past, but I think overall [the talent] is getting richer," he said. "The cupboard is stacking up nicely."
A significant portion of the roster for the camp -- which concluded Saturday with a scrimmage at Consol Energy Center -- belonged to nine first-timers who were selected last month in the draft.
"It's good to come to the city, see the area, meet all the prospects," said defenseman and fifth-rounder Clark Seymour. "It's also a very competitive atmosphere. I didn't know what to expect. I'm just being a sponge."
For Swedish center Oskar Sundqvist, a third-round pick, the camp gave him a first chance to skate on the smaller North American ice surface.
"I was a little bit lost at the beginning," he said. "This means a lot to me."
Goaltender Sean Maguire, taken in the fourth round, was surprised to see a fair amount of reporters every day but decided that "it's a blast. There's nothing better than being in an NHL dressing room and being on NHL ice."
The Penguins' two first-rounders, defensemen Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta, are more used to attention but still appreciated the experience.
"I learned some new stuff," Pouliot said. "Every little thing they do, you can learn from. I'm just learning how to be a pro -- dressing, eating, practice habits."
Maatta was most impressed with what happened on the ice.
"You don't know how strong or high-tempo the game is, how strong the guys are, even in [development] camp," he said. "It's still ice hockey, but it's kind of a new game."
Another Ovechkin fan
Another 2012 draftee, winger Anton Zlobin, shares a home country with Penguins center Evgeni Malkin, the reigning NHL scoring champion and MVP. But it's a rival NHL player from Russia he admires most -- Washington's Alex Ovechkin.
"Pretty much I am an Ovechkin fan," said Zlobin, picked in the sixth round last month. "I practiced with him a couple of times [in Moscow]. We just played for fun. I like how Malkin plays, but ..."
He relates more to Ovechkin.
"It's his style," said Zlobin, who had an assist in the scrimmage. "He goes in the [offensive] zone and just shoots the puck. That's what I try to do."
Zlobin is coming off of a career highlight. Last month, he scored both goals for host Shawinigan in a 2-1 overtime win against London in the deciding game of the Memorial Cup, the North American junior championship.
"The first five minutes after my [overtime] goal, I don't remember what I was doing," he said. "I was excited."
Asked if he talked about the game with fellow development campers Maatta and Scott Harrington, who play for London, Zlobin laughed.
"No, they don't want to talk to me," he said.
A college try
Goaltender Ryan Faragher was a college invitee to the camp, and if he were inclined to brag, when he returns to St. Cloud State for his sophomore season he could tell his teammates he was one of the best players in Saturday's scrimmage.
Faragher made several strong saves, including a couple of glove saves that brought him loud cheers.
"You want to get a feel for how the speed and the shots are at this level, and you get to see what it's like to be a pro and interact with guys in the organization," he said.
"You can take it back to the [college] team, share what you learned, hopefully make the team better."
07-18-2012, 09:43 PM
For Pens prospects, crowded blue line
By Chris Harlan
Published: Friday, July 13, 2012, 11:40 p.m.
Updated: Friday, July 13, 2012
Penguins prospect Scott Harrington noticed an immediate difference from last year’s camp.
“There are definitely a lot more defensemen,” he said, “and good defensemen at that.”
A second-round pick in 2011, Harrington has joined a dozen other young defensemen this week at Consol Energy Center for the Penguins prospect development camp. It’s his second time at the weeklong workouts that end today with a 3 p.m. scrimmage that’s free to the public.
A year ago, there were nine blueliners. And of them, few were high draft picks. But this time there are four first-round picks and three seconds.
The ice around Harrington seemed more crowded.
“Regardless of the competition, it’s important to have a good camp,” he said. “But with the talent level so high this year, it’s even more important that you leave a good impression on the coaching staff.”
At 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, the 19-year-old from Kingston, Ontario, has grown and matured since last summer, when he first grabbed coaches’ attention. A first-team all-star for OHL champion London, Harrington has been chosen for the Canada-Russia Challenge next month in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
“Our scouts and our management have done a great job of building a lot of blue-chip prospects for us to work with,” assistant coach Todd Reirden said.
The Penguins intentionally have stockpiled young defensemen. They chose 11 in the past four drafts and traded for two others. With them now sharing the ice, the positional depth becomes obvious.
“It’s incredible, actually,” said Joe Morrow, the Penguins’ first-round pick in 2011. “Everybody’s pretty evenly matched. I try to do my best to stand out, but it’s harder than I expected.”
The Penguins used this year’s first-round picks on defensemen: Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta. Also at camp is 2009 first-rounder Simon Despres, a favorite to begin this season on the NHL roster. But just as talented are the second-rounders.
“It’s pretty deep, but I don’t think it scares anyone,” said Pouliot, chosen eighth overall in June’s draft. “It’s good competition and makes you fight that much harder for a spot on the team.”
Their development is crucial, and the Penguins had almost as many coaches as players taking part in Friday’s defensive practice.
“I’ve watched all of them play on video,” Reirden said. “Now I get to see them and mold them into Pittsburgh Penguins defensemen. Certainly there’s a lot to mold there.”
Pouliot, 18, and Maatta, 17, certainly fit the team’s style and system. Reirden praised the composure of both and describe their mobility as “high-end.”
“We wanted to make sure we put an emphasis on defensemen that are mobile (and) can defend,” Reirden said, “and can take the place of some of our older defensemen as we move forward here.
“We’ve got an outstanding group of forwards in place. We’ve got to make sure they get the puck.”
But not all can be future Penguins. Some will never reach expectations. Others will be traded. That has prospects wondering who goes where.
“Hockey’s a business, and trades are a huge part of hockey,” Morrow said. “We do have a lot of defensemen, and something’s bound to happen sooner or later, whether it be me or anybody in this room. You never know if you’re safe or not, but you try to come out here, do your best and solidify a spot in the organization.
“That’s what I’m trying to do, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else but here.”
Note: The Penguins signed forward Benn Ferriero to a one-year, two-way contract worth $700,000 at the NHL level. Ferriero, 25, has spent parts of the last three seasons with for the San Jose Sharks.
07-18-2012, 09:46 PM
Penguins newcomers make solid impressions
By Chris Harlan
Published: Saturday, July 14, 2012, 9:08 p.m.
Updated: Saturday, July 14, 2012
There were few surprises this week at prospect development camp, but seeing newcomer Harrison Ruopp score a shootout goal would make the list.
“I didn’t expect that, but he did,” Tom Fitzgerald, assistant to the general manager, said, with a laugh.
Known more for toughness than scoring touch, Ruopp buried a breakaway goal during Saturday’s scrimmage at Consol
Energy Center that concluded a five-day camp for Penguins prospects.
The scrimmage roster was heavy with offensive-minded defensemen, yet Ruopp and fellow stay-at-home blueliner Brian Dumoulin weren’t overshadowed.
“Although I might not be as flashy as some of the guys, I’ll try to do whatever I can to be a reliable defenseman,” said Dumoulin, who was acquired from Carolina in the Jordan Staal trade.
More than 6,000 fans watched the afternoon scrimmage, which was divided into five sections: two 25-minute halves, two shootouts and a five-minute three-on-three session. The White Team that included Ruopp won three of the five contests, giving it a 3-2 victory.
Dumoulin, 22, scored the only three-on-three goal. The 6-foot-4, 219-pounder had five goals and 20 assists last season for Boston College.
Ruopp, 19, was acquired from Phoenix last month in a draft-day trade that sent Zbynek Michalek to the Coyotes. The Penguins had considered drafting the 6-foot-3, 205-pound Ruopp in 2011, until Phoenix took him with a third-round pick.
“He’s a big kid who was on our radar during his draft year,” said Fitzgerald, who called Ruopp’s skills raw. “We had a chance to pick him up in a trade, and we did it.”
Ruopp had just two goals in 62 games last season while playing juniors for Prince Albert in the Western Hockey League. He also had 127 penalty minutes.
“I take pride in my physical play,” Ruopp said, and fighting is “something I’m not afraid to do.” But he left this camp determined to improve his “puck skills (and) offensive play,” he said.
Ruopp had been working out at a gym when the trade was finished June 22, a move that surprised the Ontario native.
“They don’t have very good service in there,” he said. “When I stepped outside for a second, my phone was going off the hook. I found out from my friend. He’d seen it on twitter. It’s not the greatest way to find out, but I was very excited, though.”
Ready for camp
Simon Despres, who scored a goal during the second 25-minute period, was the only prospect at camp with NHL experience. The defenseman played 18 games last season with the Penguins, a stretch that boosted his confidence.
“I proved I can play at this level,” said Despres, a first-round pick in 2009. But the 20-year-old said that won’t change his approach.
“Every year, you want to come into camp with the mindset of doing your best, leave the best impression and hopefully crack the lineup,” Despres said. “I’m going to keep the same mindset.”
Defenseman Reid McNeill, right wing Matia Marcantuoni and center Zach Sill also scored during the five-on-five.
Right wing Beau Bennett, who played his first game since his December surgery, wore a brace to protect his right wrist.
The 2010 first-round pick said the wrist was sore and weaker than usual, but he finished the scrimmage without issue.
“It does get sore, but I think that will get better as time goes on,” Bennett said. “That’s another focus going home ... getting the wrist back to 100 percent.”
Doctors told Bennett that might take a year, he said. The injury showed most on a sharp-angled wrist shot Saturday that didn’t have his usual snap.
Four of the Penguins’ best defensemen were grouped together on the Black Team, when Joe Morrow was paired with Scott Harrington, and Dumoulin was paired with Derrick Pouliot, the eighth overall pick in June’s draft. Morrow was a first-rounder in 2011, and Harrington was a second-rounder that year.
The Penguins used three goalies, with Sean Maguire and Matt Murray alternating for the White Team. Undrafted goalie Ryan Faragher of St. Cloud State, who handled the entire afternoon for the Black Team, enjoyed the added work.
“I showed them I’m a hard worker,” Faragher said. “I compete to the end. That’s just the kind of person I am. I come from a blue-collar family. That’s the kind of work ethic I have.”
Faragher, 22, hopes a good college season this fall could draw a professional offer.
07-18-2012, 09:51 PM
Pens Prospects, Staff Appreciate Fan Turnout at Scrimmage
Saturday, 07.14.2012 / 6:56 PM
Features By Greg Fernandez
When the gates to the CONSOL Energy Center opened to the public at 2:30 p.m., Penguins fans of all ages began piling into the arena to find a seat to watch the organization’s talented prospects take the ice for their development camp scrimmage.
As the players hit the ice for warmups, the arena filled with cheers from over 6,000 fans taking up two-thirds of the lower bowl who were delighted to be watching hockey in July.
“I’m really ecstatic for this game,” said Penguins fan Bobby Wehrle. “It’s awesome that the event is free and it’s a great time to come by, see the other fans and see some of the new players that we’ve got.”
For many fans, it was an opportunity to see the Penguins' deep pool of talented prospects in game action. With many of these young players still in juniors or at college, this is one of the few chances that fans will get to see them perform under the CONSOL Energy lights before they hit the big stage.
“I’m really excited to see (Olli) Maatta play,” Cameron Reeder said. “I’ve seen him play in juniors a lot and I think he’s going to be a great fit for the team.”
The prospects divided into two teams – Team White (coached by assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald) and Team Black (coached by player development coach Bill Guerin, who elicited perhaps the loudest cheers of the day when shown on the videoboard).
Fans were given two 25-minute halves, with a shootout after the first intermission, a 3-on-3 overtime after the final score turned out to be a tie (2-2) and witnessed an AHL-style five-round shootout to close out the game, with the White Team coming out on top, 3-2.
After a week long of hard practices, it was an opportunity for the prospects to put together what they had learned over the week in front of the large crowd – who the players saluted at the game’s end.
“It was a great way to end the week,” defenseman Simon Despres said. “We had a nice game and everyone played hard. It’s fun to have a lot of fans. The fans were incredible to come and see us prospects.”
The Penguins faithful brought their immense enthusiasm throughout the game, as the gasps and cheers were heard in the arena after each big play. It was a whole different experience for some, like Swedish-born center Oskar Sundqvist.
“It was really fun and with all the people it was amazing,” Sundqvist said with a smile. “In Sweden, it’s just a couple hundred that come to the games.”
I think it’s fantastic that the fans come out like that to watch what is in the cupboard and what’s coming down the road here. Our fans are our fans. These guys are going to be playing for them someday. For them to come out, I think it says a lot about the city and the fanbase. - Assistant to the GM Tom Fitzgerald“I think they were surprised at the number of fans,” assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald said. "I think it’s fantastic that the fans come out like that to watch what is in the cupboard and what’s coming down the road here. Our fans are our fans. These guys are going to be playing for them someday. For them to come out, I think it says a lot about the city and the fanbase.”
The turnout of over 6,000 fans for this year's scrimmage exceeded last year's impressive count of just over 5,000, and the players couldn't be more grateful to have such support.
"It’s the best, to have a fanbase like this," 2011 first-round pick Joe Morrow said. "Just to have that many fans come out just for prospects and for a couple of kids playing out on the ice is just phenomenal. It really makes you appreciate the place that you play in. To have over 6,000 people out there, it was really special. The same thing happened last year. It’s fantastic. It’s a lot of fun."
Throughout much of the game, the stockpile of blue-chip defense prospects that the Penguins possess were put on full display as Team Black contained the 2012 first-rounder Derrick Pouliot, 2011 draftees Morrow and Scott Harrington and newly-acquired Brian Dumoulin. Team White had Pittsburgh's other 2012 first-rounder Maatta, along with Simon Despres and Harrison Ruopp.
“There’s a lot of great players on the ice here, especially great defensemen,” Harrington said. “For all of us to get on the ice at the same time in a game situation is a bit of an eye opener for all of us so we can kind of see where everybody’s at. I think that everybody played pretty well. It’s hard gelling with a defenseman if you’ve never played with him, but personally I think Morrow and I did pretty good job and it was a lot of fun.”
As the final chapter of this week has closed, a new chapter begins for some of these prospects as they head to their respective teams in juniors, college or with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. One thing is for sure – the future appears very bright for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“This is by far the best group of talent we’ve had at development camp,” assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald said. “That’s not a knock to the kids in the past, but overall the talent pool is getting richer. We’ve got some really talented kids and it’s our job as an organization to mold them to the way that we want to play.“
07-18-2012, 11:44 PM
Pens Like Ruopp's Aggressive Game
Friday, 07.13.2012 / 2:30 PM
Features By Michelle Crechiolo
Penguins management was thrilled to acquire Harrison Ruopp in the trade that sent Zbynek Michalek to Phoenix at this year’s NHL Draft – especially because they’d nearly drafted him the year before.
“We really, really came close to taking him last year in the second round,” Penguins general manager Ray Shero said. “Our guys really like him.”
It would be the Coyotes who ended up selecting Ruopp, taking him in the third round (84th overall) of the 2011 NHL Draft before he was sent to Pittsburgh on June 22 in exchange for Zbynek Michalek.
Ruopp, a defenseman for the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League (WHL) actually found out about the trade via Twitter.
“I was in my gym, which is called Pure Body Conditioning,” Ruopp said of where he was on Day 1 of the 2012 NHL Draft, when the trade went down. “Inside the gym, we don’t have good cell reception. I was in there and we were actually kind of celebrating my friend Ryan Murray getting drafted second overall (Columbus). Once I stepped out of the gym and I got service, my phone was blowing up and vibrating off the hook. Actually, my buddy told me. He was like, ‘you got traded,’ and I was like, ‘really?’ He showed me a tweet.
“Then I had to make some phone calls. But needless to say, I was really excited.”
Ruopp is a big, bruising defenseman (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) who excels on the penalty kill and who emulates himself after a player who made a career out of the physical side of the game – retired blueliner Scott Stevens.
“He was my favorite player,” Ruopp said. “Actually, after he retired was when I kind of didn’t watch as much hockey. … I’ve always liked the physical side of the game and I know he played like that.”
Shero said what the Penguins like most about Ruopp is that physical edge he brings to the ice.
“He’s a big kid that plays an aggressive game and skates well,” Shero said. “His puck skills need to come up a bit, but he plays an aggressive game which adds to the mix to our defense and is important moving forward.”
Something else Ruopp possesses is the will to win. He said the way the Raiders have struggled the past few seasons have taught him how to deal with adversity, and to “really hate to lose.”
Ruopp said his style of play is “definitely more defensive,” adding that it’s “just kind of gritty. I take pride in my compete level and being solid in the D zone.”
But with that being said, Ruopp said he’s adjusting well to the Penguins’ high-tempo, aggressive systems that focus on puck retrievals and quick breakouts this week at prospect development camp.
“They make it really easy for it to become comfortable for you. They’re really good at teaching it to you. It’s been good so far.”
Although Ruopp plans on attending training camp this fall, Shero said the 19-year-old defenseman will need more time in juniors to continue honing his game.
When Ruopp returns to Prince Albert for his fourth season, he plans on embracing his leadership role and any and all opportunities to continue expanding his repertoire of skills.
“This will be my fourth year now, and as I’ve been here my role’s changed – mostly this past year,” he said. “I got a letter on my jersey and I was wearing an A, so I took on a bit more of a leadership role. Playing lots more PK. Then they were actually giving me some power-play time, which is nice. It’s something I’m not used to, but I’ll definitely take advantage of the opportunity when I’m given it.”
He’s learned a lot about his new team during his week here in Pittsburgh, and it’s opened his eyes as to what he needs to do in order to make it at the NHL level.
“Definitely take everything I learned here back home and apply it to my training,” he said. “Definitely have kind of a different mindset going back into it and just keep working hard.”
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07-18-2012, 11:50 PM
Maatta's Potential Thrills Pens
Wednesday, 07.18.2012 / 6:00 AM
Features By Michelle Crechiolo
The Penguins were absolutely thrilled to get defenseman Olli Maatta with the No. 22 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft – especially because he’s the kind of talent that could have gone much earlier.
“The Penguins definitely got a steal where they got him,” London teammate and fellow Pittsburgh prospect Scott Harrington said. “I definitely thought he’d go top 10 for sure. He’s just an all-around two-way defenseman. He does everything really well. He plays with a lot of poise and confidence.”
And Maatta couldn’t have been happier to go to the hometown crowd with the 22nd-overall pick – especially after seeing the reception that the Penguins’ other first-round pick, Derrick Pouliot (eighth overall), received after being selected.
“It was great. Actually, the feeling was unbelievable,” Maatta said. “I had kind of hoped to get drafted by Pittsburgh when they cheered for Pouliot when he got picked No. 8. It was a pretty good feeling.”
Maatta’s got that poise and confidence Harrington mentioned despite being the youngest prospect in the Penguins organization at 17 years old (he doesn’t turn 18 until Aug. 22). And physically, Maatta is already well on his way to having an NHL-ready frame at 6-foot-2, 206 pounds.
“Maatta is over 200 pounds right now,” Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald said. “You can see what he’s going to be.”
Maatta has already accomplished a lot in his young hockey career. Most recently, he played a big role in helping the Knights to the Memorial Cup Championship Final in May – where they lost in overtime to the host Shawinigan Cataractes.
This past season marked Maatta’s first in North America, as the young defenseman was born and raised in Finland. He was one of just two players on London’s roster that came to the team through the CHL Import Draft, but he picked up both the North American style of play and culture quickly thanks to his teammates and coaches.
“The game differs a little bit from the game in Europe, but the guys taught me well and taught me a lot and so did the coaches,” he said. “And living in Canada, it’s not too much different from living in Finland.”
Maatta also said his English improved dramatically in just his one year here, saying that “I studied 10 years before coming here. But you know what, I’ve improved at least two times over since I’ve been here this one year from the whole time I studied it. “
And everything came together for Maatta during London’s lengthy playoff run, as he ranked tied for first in team scoring with six goals and 23 points through 19 games after posting five goals and 32 points during 58 regular-season games (which led all Knights defensemen and earned Maatta a spot on the OHL First-Team All-Rookie squad).
Maatta played all situations for the Knights – power play, penalty kill and, of course, 5-on-5.
“I really felt comfortable in the playoffs,” he said. “I like the game here. Just the tempo and the speed here, I think it fits well with me. I really like that.”
What also might have helped Maatta shine on such a big stage was his experience at an international level.
He’s one of the rare prospects to have played in two World Junior Championships before the draft, becoming the first player since 1998 to represent Finland in the tournament at the age of 16 in 2011.
And while his 2012 tournament was cut short due to injury, Maatta said representing his country at that level is something that’s helped his growth dramatically.
“It was a great experience for me,” he said. “I got to play in games against guys 3, 4 years older. It helped me a lot with my career thus far.”
Maatta’s joy at being part of an organization like the Penguins has been evident since he first addressed the media shortly after being drafted in the arena and city that he’ll play in someday.
He’s expressed his amazement with the Penguins’ gorgeous facilities at CONSOL Energy Center, saying “it’s a new rink, so I don’t know what else to hope for. It’s unbelievable here. The town itself, it’s great.”
Maatta, who went and visited the official team store to get caps and shirts for his friends back home in Finland during draft weekend, also joked that “you could almost kind of live there, if you want to sleep over. Just go ahead."
Being drafted and attending his first-ever prospect development camp last week has been an eye-opener for this teenager, who’s going to do everything he can to make sure he gets here.
“I really feel like I have to get (my skating) better to make it to the NHL,” he said. “Just overall strength too. And just every day at practice, to be there every day and do your best. Just put 100 percent on the ice. That’s what I learned and what I want to bring back to London.”
07-20-2012, 01:45 PM
Bennett Preparing for Transition to Pros
Thursday, 07.19.2012 / 6:00 AM
Features By Greg Fernandez
When entering the Penguins locker room each day for media availability during this year’s development camp, it always seemed that one player was in highest demand.
That can happen when the team’s head coach mentions his name along with Sidney Crosby’s in the same sentence.
Beau Bennett’s career has begun with high expectations as the Penguins’ 2010 first-round draft pick (20th overall) signed a three-year entry-level contract on April 13 after finishing his sophomore season at the University of Denver.
Bennett, 20, is out to make an impact any way he can, with head coach Dan Bylsma even hinting at the possibility of him earning a spot in the Penguins’ top-six forward lineup – perhaps even on a line with Crosby – in the future.
“The one thing that Beau has is the ability to make plays and finish plays offensively in traffic,” Bylsma said. “He’s not necessarily a guy who’s going to race down the ice with his speed, but his hands, his ability to create space and the ability to get his shot off is fairly evident in seeing him both in practice, in drills and also on tape in some of the games that he’s played.
“So you see that in him and you envision that as a pro player. It’s a guy you see in a top-six role with that type of skill and ability. Where that is as a professional, we’re going to see this year in terms of him going pro.”
After posting 25 points (9G-16A) in 37 games as a freshman, Bennett began his sophomore campaign on a torrid pace with 13 points (4G-9A) in 10 games. But the California native’s sophomore campaign ended prematurely when he suffered a broken wrist in the beginning of the season.
“I felt awesome. I felt I was ready for the season and got off to a way better start than I did my freshman year, just knowing more of the ropes and how college how works,” Bennett said. “I think I was ready for the season but it’s just something that happens like this. It’s unfortunate but in the grand scheme of life it’s not that big of a deal. I want to get better but going to the children’s hospital (during camp), we’re pretty fortunate with what we have so a little wrist injury is not the biggest deal.”
For Bennett, watching his teammates out on the ice while he was sidelined with such a difficult injury was a tough experience – but there were still things to be taken away when watching off the ice.
“There’s a lot to be learned from being a spectator,” Bennett said. “You can see it from above the rink perspective. You can see different plays and how everything forms on the ice. It looks like there’s a lot more room out there than there actually is. I think even though I didn’t play that many games, I got better in the sense that understanding the game a little better.”
Bennett’s rehabilitation on his surgically repaired wrist though has gone well, and he will continue to train in California for the summer leading up to Penguins training camp in September.
A lot of Bennett’s offseason has been spent in the weight room with new trainer TR Goodman as he’s been adding muscle and better preparing his conditioning for the transition to the pros. It shows, as Bennett has gotten his weight up to 207 pounds – more than 30 pounds more than what he weighed when he was drafted in 2010.
“I’m going to ramp up,” Bennett said. “(Goodman’s) training is really high intensity. It’s different than what I’m used to in the past. I’m following his lead.”
The winger’s play throughout camp was impressive, displaying an arsenal of dekes and crafty ways to get off his shot during the practices, skill sessions and scrimmage. Bennett left a good impression on some of the coaches, and they’re excited to see what he can do now that he’s in the pros.
“Beau Bennett, who we’ve drafted and is now turned pro, is a first-rounder who you hear a lot of good things about,” Byslma said. “He’s a high-end talented guy that is expected to be able to do that at some point in time and he’s turned pro here.”
With all the different scenarios floating around – like if he will be the piece to complement Crosby – Bennett’s focus remains on the prize: to put himself in the best situation possible in hopes of succeeding.
“I think there is an opportunity here,” Bennett said. “I would have loved to have won a national championship; that’s something you can share with your teammates for a really long time. I think right now though, (turning pro) was best for me at the time. Now going forward, I want to put myself in a spot where I can have an opportunity to maybe take that big step.”
07-20-2012, 01:49 PM
Pouliot's Play Speaks for Itself
Friday, 07.20.2012 / 6:00 AM
Features By Michelle Crechiolo
Derrick Pouliot’s reputation preceded him before he first joined the Western Hockey League’s Portland Winterhawks as a 15-year-old back in early 2010, as the defenseman had been taken first overall in the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft.
“That’s a big thing on our team. He was pretty special coming in,” Winterhawks teammate and fellow Penguins prospect Joe Morrow said with a laugh.
“He doesn’t seem like it, but everybody knows he’s pretty good. We called him ‘First Overall’ as a nickname for a while, but I don’t think he liked it very much. It fell apart pretty fast.”
That’s because Pouliot isn’t an arrogant teenager with a big ego. He’s a quiet, reserved 18-year-old from a small town in Saskatchewan who just happens to be extraordinarily talented at playing hockey.
The Penguins chose the defenseman with the No. 8 overall selection (acquired from Carolina as part of a draft day trade) in the 2012 NHL Draft here in Pittsburgh on June 22, and are excited about how the young prospect fits with the organization’s philosophies.
“Forwards are going to love playing with him,” Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald said. “Pouliot is going to be that smooth, Brian Campbell-type of skater that can get you out of your end, be quick on our retrievals and put the puck on our forward's sticks.”
Pouliot named his skating, vision and puck movement as his strengths, adding that after a week of seeing the Penguins’ on-ice style of play at this year’s prospect development camp, he feels that he’s going to fit right in.
“It makes a lot of sense,” he said. “I think it complements how I play quite well. I’m more of an offensive-minded defenseman and like to get up into the play, move the puck, stuff like that. I like it a lot.”
The Winterhawks advanced all the way to the league final for the second-straight season before falling in seven games to the Edmonton Oil Kings, and Pouliot finished the postseason tied with Morrow for the most points among WHL blueliners with 17 points (3G-14A) in 22 games.
Pouliot, who played alongside Morrow on Portland’s first power-play unit this past year, ranked second among Winterhawks defensemen behind Morrow with 59 points (11G-48A) in 72 regular-season games.
But despite his impressive numbers, Pouliot said he got stronger in his own end this past season.
“I didn’t start out on the PK, but as the season went on I gradually got more time there,” he said. “I played first PP this year, so still more of an offensive role, but I jumped into a defensive role and hopefully I can do that again this year.”
After being educated all of last week on what it takes to be a Pittsburgh Penguin, Pouliot – who roomed with Simon Despres at camp – knows he has a lot of work to do this summer heading into the 2012-13 campaign, starting with making his 5-foot-11, 195-pound frame more powerful.
“I want to have good workouts this summer and come into camp ready and hopefully push for a spot on the team here,” he said. “If I need to go back to juniors for another year I’ll be happy to do that and develop. World Juniors is high on my priority list. If I go back to juniors I want to have a good first half of the season, get an invite to the December camp and hopefully make that team.”
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07-20-2012, 01:54 PM
Getting to Know Derrick Pouliot
Friday, 07.20.2012 / 6:00 AM
Features By Michelle Crechiolo
We did a sit-down interview with Penguins prospect Derrick Pouliot last week at development camp, and since I couldn’t squeeze all of his answers into the feature I wrote, I put together a separate “Getting to Know You” type of piece to include all his other answers – and a few other goodies.
Favorite NHL team growing up: Colorado Avalanche. “They had big goons back then and they were a good team.”
Favorite NHL player: Drew Doughty
Pump-up music or artist: “Anything that’s on at the gym I go to. They have Sirius Hits 1 playing.”
Favorite video game: Call of Duty
Favorite TV show: Big Bang Theory
Favorite movie(s): “Bridesmaids is one of my favorites. Or anything that has Will Ferrell in it.”
Favorite off-ice activity: Relax!
Favorite food: Sushi
Favorite restaurant: Fuji’s in Portland, Oregon (a sushi bar)
Favorite non-hockey playing athlete: Tom Brady or Tiger Woods
Favorite sport besides hockey: Golf
Siblings: A younger brother (Nicholas) and a younger sister (Janelle)
MORE IN-DEPTH Q&A…
Q. Now that you’ve been in the city for a few days, what do you think of Pittsburgh and the Penguins’ facilities here at CONSOL Energy Center?
A. The city’s really nice. It’s a little bit like Portland, actually, where I played last year. It has a little bit of an older downtown, it seems like, but everything is really nice. The CONSOL Energy Center here is just unbelievable. It’s a really amazing facility and it’s a top-notch organization here.
Q. What’s it like living and playing in Oregon?
A. It’s lots of fun. It’s actually not too big of a hockey city. They’ve got an NBA team and a soccer team there. But our fans are starting to come back. We had a couple good seasons and it’s a really nice place. It’s always green, doesn’t get too cold in the winter so it’s pretty good to be there.
Q. Looking back, how cool was it to get drafted in the city and in the arena that you’ll play in someday, especially the way it went down as part of a trade?
A. It was really an exciting experience. It’s something that doesn’t happen too often or to too many people. So I was very, very excited when my name got calledthere, and that trade was obviously a big one there. So I was extremely honored and very excited.
Q. This is your first development camp. Overall, what do you think?
A. I like it. I like it a lot. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect coming in, but everything has been really good so far. All the instruction, what they’ve been teaching us, it’s all been first-class. You can tell that this is a really good organization.
Q. Does it help having a junior teammate in Joe Morrow here with you?
A. A little bit. Coming in, you’re a little nervous at first. You don’t know anybody. Having that one person that’s been through it once already and has played with you a couple years just makes you feel a little more at ease.
Q. Was it kind of cool for you to be on the ice with all the other talented defensive prospects during the defense-only session?
A. It was. Those are all guys you’re competing against and there’s a lot of them, so you’ve got to go all out each day and prove yourself and work your hardest. They’re doing that too, so it’s good competition.
Q. You guys advanced all the way to the league championship, where you lost in Game 7 to the Oil Kings. What was that run like?
A. It was really good. Two years in a row, making it to the Final like that doesn’t happen too often in junior hockey. It’s something special. We had an excellent team and fell one game short, but it was still a really good season and it was a lot of fun.
Q. I know Portland has one of the strongest back ends in the CHL. How did playing with so much talent help you develop?
A. It’s helped a lot. I’ve been pretty fortunate to get into that organization right when they turned it around with the ownership and the new staff. Mike Johnson and Travis Green, those two guys are unbelievable. Top notch in the league there. It’s been pretty fortunate for me.
07-31-2012, 01:20 PM
At a Glance: Seymour and Zlobin
Friday, 07.27.2012 / 6:00 AM
Features By Greg Fernandez
With their final two picks in the NHL Draft, the Penguins selected defensive defenseman Clark Seymour and quick, goal-scoring forward Anton Zlobin.
Here’s a quick inside look on what the players will be doing this summer.
A stay-at-home defenseman, Clark Seymour was selected by the Penguins in the fifth round (143rd overall) at the 2012 NHL Draft. The rugged 6-foot-4, 205-pound blueliner has a physical edge to his game.
“He plays a hard, physical game,” assistant director of amateur scouting Randy Sexton said. “Clark Seymour is a denter. He leaves dents in people.”
“I had a big summer last year,” Seymour said. “I gained some confidence and worked hard on my fitness and my skill. Going into the season I had a lot of confidence. I had a few unfortunate injuries that set me back. Once I was back in the line up, I was confident and thought I played pretty well.”
With another season with Peterborough of the Ontario Hockey League in store for the physical defenseman, Seymour will look to continue to improve on his defensive capabilities.
“Being consistent is one of my biggest problems,” Seymour said. “I just want to keep up my consistency, obviously work on my footwork, my speed and my skill.”
Anton Zlobin went undrafted at the 2011 NHL Draft, overlooked by all 30 NHL teams. The forward returned to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with a staggering response, leading the Shawinigan Cataractes in goals (40) and points (76) and almost single-handedly delivered a Memorial Cup championship in the 2011-12 season.
“I think I just started practicing harder,” Zlobin said. “I did more work in the defensive zone, working on my shots. I think it’s helped me play better in my second season.”
Zlobin was a crucial offensive component during the Cataractes Memorial Cup run, scoring five goals in the tournament.
In the Memorial Cup Final, Zlobin scored both Cataractes’ goals, including the overtime Cup-winner, in a 2-1 victory over the London Knights.
The Penguins called Zlobin’s name with the 173rd overall pick (sixth round), his offensive upside coming into play that late in the draft. He will play next season with Val-d’Or Foreurs after they acquired him in a trade from the Cataractes. Playing with his new team, Zlobin will continue to hone his game while playing in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
“In QJMHL I only played on the power play,” Zlobin said. “I need to learn how to play in penalty kill. I think I need to skate harder and shoot more.”
07-31-2012, 01:25 PM
Sundqvist Combines Physicality with Scoring Touch
Monday, 07.30.2012 / 6:00 AM
Features By Greg Fernandez
Though Oskar Sundqvist was an unknown commodity to many Penguins hockey fans during the 2012 NHL Draft, he was coveted by Pittsburgh’s management – who couldn’t be happier that they were able to draft the Swedish-born center in Round 3.
“Sundqvist slipped through cracks, which we’re delighted with,” Penguins assistant director of amateur scouting Randy Sexton said at the time. “We got him in the spot we thought we would, but we weren’t sure he would be there. We’re pretty pleased with that.”
Drafted 81st overall by the hometown Penguins, Sundqvist is a big-bodied center who plays a hard-nosed physical style, using his rangy 6-foot-3, 172-pound frame to his advantage.
“I’m a big player,” Sundqvist said. “I always work hard and give it all for my team. I’m always been good at the role I play and I work as hard as I can every practice and game.”
Throughout Penguins development camp earlier this month, the center constantly used his body to his advantage in drills, shielding opponents away from the puck with his frame.
After every drill, Sundqvist was constantly smiling and enjoying himself the best way he can. But while he may be fun-loving and carefree on and off the ice, when it comes to game time, he turns on the competitive edge and a fierceness that made him a coveted player.
“It was really fun. More than I expected actually,” Sundqvist said of camp. “I was pretty nervous from the beginning. I think it went better and better every day and I’m really happy I came here.”
Although physicality is one of his greatest strengths, Sundqvist also displayed an adept scoring touch for Skelleftea Jr. of the Swedish Elite League during the 2011-12 season, scoring 22 goals and posting 54 points in 41 combined games. Despite that, he knows he still needs to improve in other aspects of his game.
“Definitely my skating,” Sundqvist said. “I talked to (Marianne Watkins – skating consultant) and she’s going to talk me through it and practice on stuff like that. It’s great that you can go and talk to someone if you need to. She taught me stuff that I’ve never done before.”
For Sundqvist, playing in an NHL-size area during camp was somewhat of an adjustment for him. The rinks in Europe are normally bigger, so he had to remind himself that he was playing on a smaller space at times throughout the week.
“I didn’t notice before until I was skating backwards,” he said laughing. “It began to feel little to me. Smaller than I’m used to having in Sweden.”
This next season, Sundqvist will continue to play for Skelleftea, a team that has taken him and made him feel at home – just like Pittsburgh has.
“I’m definitely staying (with Skelleftea) this year, that’s for sure,” Sundqvist said. “It’s the best decision for me I think because Skelleftea has helped me so much. I feel like Skelleftea and Penguins are kind of the same. They care about the players and stuff like that. It’s wonderful, actually.”
07-31-2012, 01:28 PM
Archibald Flashes Skill and Competitiveness
Tuesday, 07.31.2012 / 6:00 AM
Features By Greg Fernandez
Small in stature but not in the way he plays, forward Josh Archibald was a player who many noticed out on the ice throughout development camp in mid-July as he displayed what he does best – competitiveness.
“He’s not a big guy but his skills stand out,” Wilkes-Barre/Scranton assistant coach Alain Nasreddine said. “I like his ‘compete’ and that’s something that is sometimes left out. You see a guy and sometimes see that left out but ‘Archie’ competes. The way he goes after it, his whole demeanor the way he goes after it. It’s what we appreciate in a player – especially a skill player.”
Playing on third and fourth line duties for most of his freshman year at the University of Nebraska-Omaha in 2011-12, Archibald impressed many in development camp with his tenacity and his ability to compete at a high level as a skill player.
Archibald said that his role with UNO gave him a chance to work on a different aspect of his game, which will help in the long term and give him more flexibility as a player.
“We started off the season really well,” Archibald said. “Personally, for me I had a great start. I kind of played a different role playing a grinder and not much of a scorer as you can say. I was putting up more points at the beginning of the season and I felt like I was helping the team out that way as compared to a third or fourth line grinder.”
Drafted in the sixth round (174th overall) of the 2011 NHL Draft, Archibald has taken immense steps to make himself a bigger, faster player. Listed at only 5-foot-10 and 161 pounds on draft day, the center said he has already put on about 20 pounds and has now garnered the reputation as a workout fiend amongst the Penguins staff.
“I definitely got a lot bigger size wise,” the 19-year-old said. “My speed definitely picked up going from high school to college right away. Game sense you pick up along the way. Your hands and feet are working together, that also comes along with practices and games throughout the season.”
His father, Jim Archibald, who was drafted by the Minnesota North Stars in the seventh round (139th overall) in the 1981 NHL Draft, gives the younger Archibald a little bit of something to look up to. But that hasn’t stopped Josh from paving the way to become his own player.
“I like to model my game after Cal Clutterbuck,” Archibald said. “He’s a smaller guy, he’s feisty. He’ll go in the corner and do a lot of the dirty things for you, but he can also put points up on the board. He comes up big when you need them.”
Archibald also competed for Team USA at this past World Junior Championship, adding even more experience to his already budding career.
“It was crazy. It was definitely a dream come true,” Archibald said of representing his country. “Playing against all the top 19, 18 year olds in the world is definitely something I’ll soak in and cherish for the rest of my life.”
07-31-2012, 01:33 PM
Pens Add Goaltending Depth with Duo
Tuesday, 07.24.2012 / 6:00 AM
Features By Greg Fernandez
The Penguins added goaltending depth within the organization at the 2012 NHL Draft, taking Matt Murray in the third round and college-bound Sean Maguire in the fourth round.
They were able to receive some one-on-one attention with Penguins goalie development coach Mike Bales at last week’s development camp, leaving him impressed with their play.
“I think all the guys have been real receptive to learning and playing hard in all the practices,” Bales said. “Obviously, it’s not December and they aren’t in midseason form. They’ve got a lot of little things they need to work on. But overall I think all of them have looked really good.”
After an impressive rookie season where he found himself third in wins (8) and fourth in save percentage (.877) among Ontario Hockey League rookie goaltenders in 2010-11, Matt Murray was primed to be the man in net for Sault Ste. Marie.
Murray began the season on a tear, winning nine of his first 14 starts. During the campaign, he split time between the pipes with 2010 first-round pick Jack Campbell (Dallas Stars).
“I’m definitely one of the goalies that likes to see a lot of shots,” the 6-foot-4, 166-pound Murray said. “I feel like I play better when I’m busier and when I’m playing more frequently. If I get into a groove, if I’m playing a lot, playing every game and seeing a lot of shots then I’m at my best.”
For Murray, playing with the highly regarded Campbell did have its advantages. Murray learned from one of the best, if not the best, goalies in juniors. The tall netminder said he learned a lot from Campbell, things he can take into next season.
“He’s a first rounder and the winningest goalie in USA Hockey history. You can’t do anything, but learn from the guy,” the Thunder Bay, Ontario native said. “All of his experiences he’s had through hockey, his work ethic off the ice and on the ice. It was really good for me to learn from him and I think that really benefitted me.”
With Campbell now off to Dallas to play for the Stars organization, Murray will be handed the keys as the last line of defense for the Hounds, with a little added experience this time around.
“I was playing almost every game at the start of the year. I was playing some of my best hockey, too,” Murray said. “The stint last year definitely helped me prepare for this year and I think it’s going to benefit me in the long run.”
Sean Maguire came into this summer’s draft as a highly decorated goaltender from the British Columbia Hockey League, finishing the year third among BCHL netminders in goals-against average (2.33) and fourth in wins (17) while leading Powell River to the league championship.
“I had a really good start to the season in Powell River,” Maguire said. “We had a pretty lopsided record with wins and losses. Went to the finals in the playoffs against a really strong team and ended up winning the whole thing. I’m really proud of my season and the boys that played with me.”
Maguire and his goaltending counterpart, Jonah Imoo, helped the Powell River Kings win the Wally Forslund Trophy (BCHL goalie tandem with lowest combined GAA) for the second consecutive year. While the recognition is nice, Maguire was quick to share the accolades.
“It’s great, it’s a big accomplishment,” Maguire said. “It’s a team effort really for the lowest goals-against average. Our defense was impenetrable both years. We had a little bit to do with it. It was a great honor.”
Maguire also was the goalie for Team Canada West and helped the team capture gold at the 2011 World Junior A Challenge. Next season, Maguire will be leaving Canada to play college hockey for Boston University as he continues his path to the NHL.
“I’m really excited to get the year started. I was there doing some summer school and skating with all the guys,” Maguire said. “It’s a great facility, great program. It’s really top notch.”
07-31-2012, 01:38 PM
Marcantuoni Leaves Impression at Development Camp
Wednesday, 07.25.2012 / 6:00 AM
Features By Greg Fernandez
Throughout the Penguins development camp in mid-July, it was pretty easy to spot Matia Marcantuoni amongst the forwards.
Marcantuoni’s blazing speed, slick puck handling skills and competitive edge showed his immense potential as a prospect and why many prognosticators feel he was a steal by the Penguins in the fourth round (92nd overall) at this summer’s NHL Draft in Pittsburgh.
Ranked as high as No. 20 on Red Line Report’s prospect list last September, the 6-foot, 194-pound winger’s stock fell because of an injuries during his season. But Marcantuoni, who ended his year with shoulder surgery, feels the injuries actually were a blessing.
“At first when I popped (my shoulder), obviously it was frustrating, getting injured in your draft year. I wanted to play,“ Marcantuoni said. “But I think it made me mentally stronger. I put on a lot of weight, got stronger, faster. Instead of taking it negative, I took it in a positive way and used it to my advantage.”
Marcantuoni, who plays for the Kitchener Rangers of the Ontario Hockey League, used his time wisely, coming to all his team’s home games, and watching the road games on TV whenever it was possible. Watching hockey away from the ice gave Marcantuoni a new perspective on how to play the game.
“You see the game differently, you learn. Because on the ice you really get to see how much time you have with the puck,” Marcantuoni said. “It may seem like you have to make a quick play, but when you watch from up top you see you really do have a lot more time. So I’m learning how to be more patient with the puck, and I feel I’m going to be able to bring that next year.”
After the shoulder surgery, Marcantuoni was relegated to a sling for a month and was prohibited from skating for three months, something that frustrated the young forward. Rededicated to a new workout regimen, Marcantuoni said he has already put on about 15 pounds of muscle from the beginning of the season.
In the OHL, Marcantuoni has a very limited sample size, totaling 44 points (20G-21A) in only 66 games the past two seasons. He has proven to be a big-time competitor, playing for Team Canada during their gold medal run at the 2011 Under-18 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament and also captaining Team Ontario to a gold medal at the 2011 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge.
Playing with a few cuts on his face after an errant stick struck him during a collision with fellow development camp invitee, 6-foot-8 defenseman Andrej Sustr, Marcantuoni finished off the week with a strong performance and a lasting impression, scoring a goal in the development camp open scrimmage.
Leaving training camp and heading back to Kitchener for the next season, Marcantuoni has left a good impression with the coaches, displaying the traits the organization looks for in prospects.
“He’s been really good,” Wilkes-Barre/Scranton assistant coach Alain Nasreddine said. “ You notice him out there, which is always good. This is a first impression for him and he’s made a good first impression so far.”
07-31-2012, 01:40 PM
24/7 Leaves Impression on Prospects
Monday, 07.23.2012 / 6:00 AM
Features By Greg Fernandez
When HBO launched the show 24/7 in the Fall of 2010 to follow around NHL rivals Pittsburgh and Washington leading up to the 2011 Winter Classic at Heinz Field, it gave a chance for hockey fans everywhere to take an behind-the-scenes look at hockey players and their everyday lives.
It also left a lasting impression for some of hockey’s future prospects.
“I was a huge fan of the 24/7 series,” Penguins goaltending prospect Matt Murray said. “With the Pittsburgh (season), it’s crazy to see the same sort of thing that went on in the 24/7 series. To see all the guys walking in the dressing room and now I’m sitting in one of the stalls, it’s definitely a shock and it’s nice.”
HBO 24/7 helped to bring in a whole new group of Penguins fans, like many of these prospects, who began watching Marc-Andre Fleury, Sidney Crosby or some of the other Penguins on the show. HBO’s 24/7 also led to the creation of “In the Room” – a 24/7-type web series on www.PittsburghPenguins.com.
“It’s pretty unreal,” Penguins forward prospect Matia Marcantuoni said. “I watched the HBO series 24/7 and seeing Sidney’s stall is pretty surreal.“
For some, like Teddy Blueger, the show gave him an inside look on the ins and outs of the NHL, ranging from time with the media, to family, to the talk on the ice.
“I was definitely a big fan of the show,” Blueger said. “It was interesting to me and I really enjoyed watching it because I always wanted to know what it would be like to be in the NHL because that’s my dream – to play there. To see how the players live their day-to-day lives, now, it’s hard to believe that I’m here now in the same locker room that the show was on that I watched so many times over. It feels really good, it’s a special opportunity and I’m really enjoying it. “
Many of the prospects, after being picked at the 2012 NHL Draft in Pittsburgh, all exclaimed how they were excited to be a part of an organization where they got to watch the players and coaches their every day lives – something the players hope to accomplish at some point in the near future.
“Seeing all the familiar faces like Mr. Byslma and Mr. Shero, the coaches, even the rooms in the facility, it’s an eye opener for sure,” defenseman Clark Seymour said. “Seeing it two years ago on TV and now sitting in one of the stalls with the equipment on is definitely pretty surreal.”
09-13-2012, 12:22 PM
Pens the Big Winners of 2012 NHL Draft
The 2012 NHL Draft was an unforgettable event for the Penguins and their fans.
Not only will it be memorable for the excitement that comes with hosting one of the NHL’s marquee events and the thrill that accompanies a blockbuster trade like the one Penguins general manager Ray Shero pulled off in the first round, but it will be one to remember because of Pittsburgh’s absolutely stellar performance at the draft table.
Led by Shero’s aggressive trade that brought Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin and the No. 8-overall pick to Pittsburgh, the Penguins staff proceeded to add two more blue-chip defense prospects to that already stacked position by taking Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta (22nd overall) in the first round.
Pittsburgh then chose wisely on the second day of the draft, adding four forwards (Theodor Blueger, Oskar Sundqvist, Matia Marcantuoni and Anton Zlobin) that have been called “steals” and “sleepers” by many in the hockey world – along with a pair of goaltenders (Matthew Murray and Sean Maguire) and another defenseman (Clark Seymour).
The team’s performance earned an A+ grade from The Hockey News, with the publication writing that the Penguins “bolstered already impressive D ranks; Zlobin, Marcantuoni steals.”
The Hockey News wasn’t the only publication to give the Penguins high marks for their 2012 draft class, as Red Line Report, a leading independent scouting review, listed Pittsburgh as one of its top performers at the podium and ranked them No. 6 out of 30 NHL clubs.
Kyle Woodlief, a former NHL scout with the Nashville Predators who is now Chief Scout/Publisher of the Red Line Report and a contributor to USA Today, had this to say about Pittsburgh’s draft class:
“There are the two kids at the top end (Pouliot and Maatta), who are pretty much bets to play at the NHL level. Later on in the draft, there’s some nice little gambles and risks that were taken to get some nice sleepers. You’ve got a variety of guys with Blueger, Zlobin, Sundqvist and even Marcantuoni. You’ve got four guys there who all bring different things to the table. At least two of them could be late bloomers with Zlobin and Sundqvist. Marcantuoni is a guy who, if he had been healthy, certainly would have went a lot higher.”
Here’s a deeper look at the highlights of Pittsburgh’s 2012 NHL Draft performance, with commentary from Woodlief.
This draft took shape with (Pittsburgh’s) aggressive tradeup in the (Jordan) Staal deal to get one of the top two puck-moving defenders in the draft, Derrick Pouliot, to help take some of the load off Kris Letang. Then the Pens were stunned by their good fortune to see Olli Maatta still on the board at No. 22. The future of their blue line now looks secure. –Red Line Report, July 2012
With the Penguins being a perennial Stanley Cup contender and finishing at or near the top of the standings for several years, they’ve been drafting low in the first round for some time now.
They appeared to be destined to that fate again this year, as the Penguins entered this year’s draft with the 22nd-overall pick. But minutes after Minnesota made the seventh-overall selection, Shero orchestrated a blockbuster trade with Carolina to procure the Hurricanes’ No. 8 pick as well – giving the Penguins a top-10 selection for the first time in six years (and two first-round picks for just the second time in franchise history).
And the Penguins chose soundly with those two first-round picks. Woodlief couldn’t say enough about Pittsburgh landing a pair of talents like Pouliot and Maatta in the first round.
The Penguins already have a wealth of blue chip defensive prospects in Simon Despres, Joe Morrow, Scott Harrington and Brian Dumoulin, to name a few. But Woodlief believes that Pouliot and Maatta are now two of the best.
“Those two kids at the top end are pretty much bets to play at the NHL level,” Woodlief said. “I don’t think I would rate any of (Pittsburgh’s defense prospects) as highly as I would rate either of these two kids.”
Woodlief is especially enamored with Pittsburgh’s first choice in Pouliot, an offensively gifted, puck-moving defenseman who’s a strong skater and will be instrumental on the power play.
“There are very few kids in the draft that had better hockey sense and vision than Pouliot,” Woodlief said, who compared the Portland Winterhawks defenseman to current Penguins blueliner Kris Letang.
Landing a player with Pouliot’s skill set in the first round would have been enough for most NHL clubs. But the Penguins weren’t done there.
With their original first-round pick, Pittsburgh snagged a top-10 talent that was somehow still available at the No. 22 slot in defenseman Olli Maatta of the London Knights.
Woodlief believes Maatta’s puck-moving skills are exemplary like Pouliot’s – and he especially praised the Finnish blueliner’s decision-making in his own zone.
“Maatta makes better decisions in the defensive end,” Woodlief said. “He’s going to be more of a shutdown type of guy who just plays a very solid, steady, consistent game. He doesn’t make any mistakes. He’s going to play like a veteran by the time he’s 21.”
GAMBLES + RISKS = STEALS
One of the real steals of the draft came on Pittsburgh’s last pick of the day as they gobbled up soft-handed sniper Anton Zlobin, who could fill the net working alongside any of the Pens’ great centres. … Taking a calculated gamble on oft-injured Matia Marcantuoni’s world-class speed and skill is a nice move, too. –Red Line Report, July 2012
The first round yielded two players for Pittsburgh that Woodlief believes are sure bets to play in the NHL.
But later in the draft, the Penguins also took some gambles and risks that Woodlief believes will absolutely pay off.
Consider this: a player who scored a team-leading 40 goals and 76 points during the 2011-12 regular season with Shawinigan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, then proceeded to score nine points (5G-4A) in six games during the 2012 Memorial Cup – including the clinching overtime goal for the Cataractes to help them earn their first Memorial Cup Championship.
He certainly sounds like a promising prospect with plenty of skill. But Anton Zlobin was a player that no one was taking a chance on as the 2012 NHL Draft went on, until the Penguins grabbed the Russian forward in the sixth round (173rd overall).
“Zlobin is a guy who is really dangerous with the puck on his stick,” Woodlief said. “He’s a real finisher. Got an excellent shot with a terrific release around the slot. He’s a guy who has a feel and a knack for getting himself to open ice and scoring territory. Once he gets there, if he’s got a center who can get him the puck, he’ll bury it.”
Making the transition to the North American style of play and culture is always a process for European born-and-trained players like Zlobin. It certainly was an adjustment for Zlobin, but Woodlief believes that he is finally comfortable and will continue to thrive in his situation.
“He was aware coming into his second season what was going to be expected of him and what he was going to have to do in order to get good scoring chances,” Woodlief said. “He was willing to go to the dirty areas this year. It’s not like he improved his shot or his release. He already had that. This year he was more willing to take hits to get scoring chances, was more willing to go play in traffic.”
The Penguins took another risk by selecting Matia Marcantuoni in the fourth round (92nd overall), as the Kitchener Rangers forward was limited to 66 games the past two seasons due to injury.
But Marcantuoni’s got a natural talent that any player would love to have, and it’s one of the reasons the Penguins – and Woodlief – like him so much.
“He’s got world-class speed,” Woodlief said. “He’s one of the best pure skaters in last year’s draft. If he had played all season healthy for Kitchener last year, he’s a guy who certainly could have gone in the top 60 and maybe even the top 50.”
Marcantuoni’s compete level and intensity also made him attractive to the Penguins.
“He’s fast and he plays hard,” said assistant director of amateur scouting Randy Sexton at the draft. “Sometimes he’s had a few injuries because he plays so hard, but he’s got speed to burn and a high intensity level.“
Teddy Blueger is a creative playmaker with great vision, and third-rounder Oskar Sundqvist is our Swedish scout’s choice as the most intriguing sleeper in the draft. –Red Line Report, July 2012
The term ‘sleeper’ is one that’s tossed around a lot on draft day in all sports. It’s where a player who is chosen in a later round has the potential to exceed the expectations of their draft position.
Woodlief said that this June, the Penguins got two of those in Theodor “Teddy” Blueger (second round, 52nd overall) and Oskar Sundqvist (third round, 81st overall).
“I really liked Teddy Blueger. He’s a real sleeper,” Woodlief said of the Latvian native and Shattuck-St. Mary’s product. “He’s a guy who is not overly big, but really intelligent and smart with the puck. He’s a guy who makes his other linemates better.”
Blueger’s hockey sense and vision is something that can’t be taught, and he’ll continue to hone and develop those this fall – along with his overall strength and conditioning – at Minnesota State University.
Taking Blueger in the second round was a solid move by the Penguins, as was drafting Sundqvist in the third.
While Sexton said he and the Penguins staff couldn’t believe Sundqvist was still available that late in the draft, Woodlief said understanding the upside of a player like that takes due diligence.
“He’s a guy who was not really on the radar for much of the season,” he explained, adding, “things really clicked for him starting around February, March and into the playoffs. He had a really strong run going into the playoffs.”
09-13-2012, 12:30 PM
Penguins Sign 2012 First-Round Draft Picks Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta
Wednesday, 09.12.2012 / 3:00 PM
Derrick Pouliot was drafted 8th overall in 2012.
The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed their 2012 first-round draft picks, defensemen Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta, to three-year entry-level contracts, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Ray Shero.
Both contracts will begin whenever they turn professional.
Pouliot, 18, was the first of Pittsburgh’s two first-round draft picks after being chosen 8th overall with the selection acquired in a draft-night trade from the Carolina Hurricanes. Pouliot attended Pittsburgh’s prospect development camp in July.
The 5-foot-11, 195-pound Pouliot had a breakout season with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League (WHL) in 2011-12, ranking second among team blueliners behind fellow Penguins prospect Joe Morrow with 59 points (11G-48A) in 72 regular-season games. His goal, assist and point totals were all career highs.
Pouliot, who hails from Weyburn, Saskatchewan, was even better for the Winterhawks during the postseason, as his 17 playoff points (3G-14A) tied Morrow for the most among WHL defensemen. Pouliot’s 14 assists and eight power-play assists both led all WHL blueliners.
Pouliot, who helped Team Canada capture a gold medal at the 2011 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, has played the past two-plus seasons with the Winterhawks after being the No. 1-overall selection in the 2009 WHL Bantam Draft. He has tallied 16 goals, 74 assists, 90 points and a plus-28 rating in 145 regular-season contests. Pouliot has added 21 points (4G-17A) and a plus-7 rating in 43 postseason games.
Olli Maata was drafted by the Penguins with 22nd overall pick.
Maatta, 18, was drafted by the Penguins with the No. 22-overall selection in the 2012 NHL Draft held at CONSOL Energy Center.
The 6-foot-2, 206-pound Maatta spent his first season in North America during the 2011-12 campaign with London of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), helping the Knights win the OHL playoff championship and a berth in the Memorial Cup.
Maatta, a native of Jyvaskyla, Finland, joined the Knights after being the No. 1-overall selection of the 2011 Canadian Hockey League import draft. He earned a berth on the OHL First-Team All-Rookie squad after tallying 32 points (5G-27A) and a plus-25 rating in 58 regular-season games. Maatta led all Knights’ blueliners in goals, assists and points.
During the postseason, Maatta tied for the team lead and ranked sixth in the OHL with 23 points (6G-17A) in 19 games. His 17 assists led the team. Maatta posted an even rating in four Memorial Cup contests as the Knights finished the tournament as runner-up to the host Shawinigan Cataractes.
Maatta has represented Finland several times internationally, including each of the last two World Junior Championships. In 2011, Maatta became the first 16 year old to play for Finland at the WJC since 1998. Maatta also participated in the 2011 World Under-18 Championships, totaling four points (1G-3A) in six games while being named one of Finland’s top-three players at the tournament.
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