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.”
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.
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."
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."
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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."