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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.