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Thread: Tangradi, 3 1st Round Picks Highlight Pens' Development Camp

  1. #11

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    Re: Tangradi, 3 1st Round Picks Highlight Pens' Development

    Morrow Learning the Ropes
    Thursday, 07.14.2011 / 9:13 PM
    Features By Sam Kasan

    Defenseman Joseph Morrow was given the same introduction to the city of Pittsburgh that is received by every first-time visitor to the city.

    Driving toward downtown from the airport, Morrow rode through the Liberty Tunnels and the entire city emerged on the other side, opening up a bright future and new world in front of him.

    “It’s an outstanding city so far from what I’ve seen,” said Morrow, the Penguins’ 2011 first-round draft pick. “You come through that tunnel from the airport, it goes from a little bit of a jungle to a huge city. That’s a really cool bridge to be on. I’ve never been on anything like that. I really like it.”

    Morrow, 18, is one of 28 Penguins prospects in town for the weeklong development camp at CONSOL Energy Center. As part of the camp, Morrow is learning the Penguins system, terminology and philosophy, as well as bonding with fellow prospects.

    “It’s extremely important,” Morrow said of the camp. “You get to know all the names and important people around here. Everyone treats you fantastic. I’ve never been treated like this in my life. It’s kind of like I’m royalty. Personally, I don’t think I’m that special of a person. It’s been fantastic. I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.”

    Watching Morrow on ice, it is easy to see why the Penguins brass are excited about his future. The Sherwood Park, Alberta native is a strong skater and gifted two-way defenseman with a big shot. His skating has always been one of his strengths, something he claims is a “natural God given talent handed down to me. I have to use that to my advantage.”

    But just being born with a gift isn’t enough to satisfy Morrow. He’s know accomplishing anything takes some effort and sweat.

    “My skating is good, but it can be better. My shot is pretty good, but it can be better,” he said. “It took a day or two to get used to this faster pace. I’m starting to get the hang of it a little bit.

    “I’ve always been kind of the stronger kid growing up. You come out here and I’m not the stronger kid anymore at all. There are some big guys out here. … I’m going to get stronger, get faster, shoot harder, pass harder.”

    Morrow played junior hockey at Portland of the Western Hockey League over the past three-plus seasons. The Winterhawks play an aggressive style in which their defensemen join the attack. Not only does that style mirror that of the Penguins system, it also best suits Morrow’s offensive abilities and overall game.

    “From what I’ve seen, even the first couple days of camp, (the styles are) extremely similar,” Morrow said. “From me getting yelled at for not jumping into the play and being lazy back there. That’s what the Winterhawks like, too. Work your can off to get into the play and create that extra man. So far that’s what I like to hear. I’m going to use that every chance I can get. It’s pretty comforting that they like that style of play.”

    But what Morrow is taking most from camp is a taste of the NHL and the motivation to get there: a taste of working with Penguins coaches and staff, running through the team’s drills, dressing in the team’s locker room, working out in the Penguins weight room and skating on the ice surface at CONSOL Energy Center.

    And a little motivation for him to keep working and progressing so that one day he will join players like Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury in the lineup.

    “Being in their dressing room, using their equipment, their stuff, to walk out of their dressing room, down their tunnel in their rink, it’s something special,” he said. “I don’t know what it would be like to step onto that ice with 18,000 people in the building. I’m looking forward to it whenever it comes.”

    Morrow at a Glance
    Thursday, 07.14.2011 / 9:38 PM
    Features By Sam Kasan

    The Penguins selected Portland defenseman Joseph Morrow in the first round (23rd overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minnesota. Here are some quick quotes from Morrow on speaking his mind, possibly playing World Juniors for Team Canada and more…

    That would be something really special to make that Canadian World Junior team. I’ve watched that ever since I was little. At Christmas time you sit down, have some good food and look forward to watching World Juniors. To do that in your hometown, having a lot of family and friends support you sitting in the stands would be great for my confidence. It would boost you up a little bit. I can’t even imagine playing for your country. Playing for your province is a little different. Playing for a team in the States is a little different. But playing for an entire country is out of the ordinary.

    I say what’s on my mind. I’ve never been too scared to hold back what I’m thinking in my head. Maybe I’ll censor a couple things, which is smart. I’ll speak what I want to say, but I’ll say it smartly.

    I spend a lot of time outside. I’m not really an inside type guy, watch TV and sit around all day. I live out on a farm in Alberta. I like to do a lot quading, spending time outside, typical country boy stuff.

    I’ve been told by some people that I play like Brent Seabrook, so it got stuck in my head. I watched him after that quite a bit. I really respect the way he plays. He’s an extremely smart hockey player. Some guys have a lot of skill and talent and work really hard, but don’t think the game as well as they should, which would turn them into an All-Star. Seabrook has pretty much everything. He’s got the whole package. You can’t beat that.

    I’ve been there for three years now. The first year was a nightmare. It turned around faster than I’ve ever seen any organization flip a switch from off to on. It’s been exciting. You play with some of the best players that I’ve seen in a long time, fourth- and fifth-overall draft picks. We had eight drafted guys. It probably helped me get to where I am today, practicing with those guys, playing with them. You try and make everyone better that’s a round you and they do the same for you. I really appreciated playing in Portland.

    Family Matters
    Penguins Morrow Comes from Hockey Lineage
    Thursday, 07.14.2011 / 9:39 PM
    Features By Sam Kasan

    Penguins defensive prospect Joseph Morrow plays hockey for a pretty simple reason: it’s in his blood.

    Morrow, Pittsburgh’s 2011 first-round draft pick (23rd overall), comes from a family that has produced two (three counting Joseph) NHL draft picks.

    Dave Morrow, Joseph’s father, was drafted by the Vancouver Canucks 56th overall in the 1977 NHL Draft. Joseph’s older brother, Josh, was drafted in the seventh round (203rd overall) of the 2002 NHL Draft by Nashville (when Penguins general manager Ray Shero was serving as assistant GM for the Predators).

    “My brother and my dad supported me through everything I did,” Joseph said. “They’ve helped me from skating to shooting to passing. They’ve helped me be a smart hockey player, thinking the game before you do something.”

    In fact, the reason Morrow chose to play along the blue line is because both his father and brother were defensemen.

    “My dad’s a defenseman, my brother’s a defenseman, so it’s natural to hop into a defenseman’s boots and play like that,” he said. “I thought it was smart to do that, get the best advice from both of them. They’ve been through it all. Being a forward it would have been a little more difficult.”

    It’s also not surprising to learn that Morrow followed in his older brother’s footsteps considering that of all the players in the NHL, it was Josh that Joseph idolized the most as a youth.

    “Growing up (my idol) was my brother,” Morrow said of Josh, whose playing career was ended prematurely due to a shoulder injury and subsequent surgery. “I watched my brother play. He was a tough guy. He was a pretty big, scary dude. I respected everything he did. He was my idol for sure. He brought me into the dressing rooms as a kid. It’s pretty heart warming to know that he really cared about me.”

    Of course, the love is mutual between the two brothers.

    “On draft day he was a little bit teary eyed to see me get drafted and go high,” Joseph said. “To be selected in the first round is like a dream come true. His heart was right where mine was.”

    And just to illustrate Morrow’s priorities, after getting selected by the Penguins at the draft, he has used the past few weeks to spend quality time with the most important people in his life.

    “I spent a lot of time at home and with family, enjoyed the moment as much as I could,” Morrow said. “There’s not a lot of chance to spent time with my brother, sister and parents all together. They’re very important to me and I try to keep them as close as possible.”

    Joseph Morrow (left) and his older brother Josh (right)

  2. #12

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    Re: Tangradi, 3 1st Round Picks Highlight Pens' Development

    Penguins "Try Out" for Prospects
    Friday, 07.15.2011 / 7:19 PM
    Features By Michelle Crechiolo

    Paul Thompson and Brian Gibbons, both incredibly talented but undrafted college hockey players, attended Pittsburgh’s prospect development last summer as free-agent invitees.

    This year, they’re both back at camp. But this time, they’re no longer free agents, as both players signed two-year entry level deals with the Penguins at the end of their senior seasons.

    On the surface, it may appear that Thompson (University of New Hampshire) and Gibbons (Boston College) were at last summer’s camp on tryouts.

    But Tom Fitzgerald, Penguins assistant to the general manager, emphasized that the opposite was true. The Penguins were the ones trying to leave a good impression on those two players in hopes that they would consider signing with the team when they were eligible.

    “The college free agents that come to our camp and are invited are scouted thoroughly,” Fitzgerald said. “We know them well. This is an opportunity for us to try out for them. That’s what we did last year for those two particular players.”

    And with the talent possessed by both Thompson, 22, and Gibbons, 23 – two of the top-three scorers in their league, Hockey East – it’s no wonder the Penguins wanted to make a good impression on them.

    Thompson, a 6-foot-2, 210-pound forward, capped off a four-year career at New Hampshire by being named the Hockey East Player of the Year for the 2010-11 season after scoring a league-leading (tied) 52 points in 39 games.

    Gibbons, a 5-foot-8, 165-pound forward, won two NCAA national championships (2008, 2010) in his four-year career at Boston College. He finished his senior campaign with 18 goals and 51 points through 39 games, the second-highest point total in the league.

    Both players had a number of offers from NHL clubs once their prestigious college careers ended, but both Thompson and Gibbons chose Pittsburgh thanks to the comfort levels they built with the organization starting last year's camp.

    “I had a few offers,” Thompson said. “But I was really comfortable with the whole Pittsburgh organization. Just being here last year and getting to know the team and the management and some of the younger guys, I felt really comfortable and it felt like a really good place to be.”

    Gibbons agreed, saying: “I had interest from a couple teams, but the Penguins kind of had a leg up on everyone else because I’ve been here and I experienced it. I felt comfortable here. I got to know a lot of guys in the organization. You just kind of get gut feelings sometimes, and this one seemed like the right fit.”

    Establishing that comfort and familiarity that both players referenced is something the Penguins really try to do with these players when they arrive in town for camp.

    “We’ve had other free agents come in here, but those two came in and saw what we had to offer and what we are, which is that we’re very up front, black or white, this is it,” Fitzgerald said. “There’s no gray with what we are. And it worked. It was an attraction for them, probably because of being comfortable – whether it was with me or other staff members that saw them play this year. They had other offers to go other places, and we’re real fortunate that they chose us.”

    Not only did Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes work with both players at last year’s camp, but he also coached them for a brief period during his team’s playoff run. He’s excited for the opportunity to work more closely with both young men during the upcoming season.

    “They’re really exciting players,” he said. “The reason we signed them is because they have great speed and they’re on the upward swings of their careers. Having seen them, I know what they’re like as kids. They have a lot of character. They’re very competitive guys.

    “I think they’re going to be good impact players. … They’re both very competitive players that can play a very fast game. That’s what we’re looking for with those players.”

    This year, the Penguins are trying out for free-agent forward Scott Zurevinski, who is entering his senior season at Quinnipiac.

    Seeing fellow college players like Gibbons and Thompson sign contracts with the team is a motivating factor for Zurevinski, who scored 14 goals and 25 points through 39 games last season as a junior.

    “You see that they like guys out of the college level,” he said. “That’s great for myself to see. That shows that they’re giving those types of guys opportunities.”

    While Zurevinski knows it’s important for him to put forth his best effort this week, Fitzgerald can say the same for the organization.

    “Zurevinski is going into his senior year,” Fitzgerald said. “There’s no more development camp for him next year. He’s going to pick a team to sign with, and hopefully his last impression is what the Pittsburgh Penguins can offer him and what we do to develop players.”

  3. #13

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    Re: Tangradi, 3 1st Round Picks Highlight Pens' Development

    Bennett "Strengthens" His Game
    Friday, 07.15.2011 / 9:06 PM
    Features By Sam Kasan

    What a difference a year makes.

    At the Penguins 2011 development camp, prospect Beau Bennett, the Penguins’ first-round pick (20th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, looks like a completely different player from the same camp one year ago.

    First of all, he simply looks stronger. That is due to the 23 pounds of muscle that he has bulked onto his 6-foot-1 frame, bringing him to up to a solid 196 pounds.

    “This is a year and a half of work that I’ve put in,” said Bennett, who recently completed his freshman season at Denver University. “I feel a lot more confident with my body. I gained a little weight in college. That’s really where my confidence is coming from. Working in the gym five days a week with (Pioneers strength) coach (Mike) Bridges has been great.”

    “He’s a more mature player,” said Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes, who runs the development camp. “He’s definitely stronger on the puck. … You can see that he feels more comfortable playing against bigger, stronger guys. Last year, you could see the thought process that he wanted to do certain things, but he didn’t have the strength. This year you can see that he can do physically what his mind is telling him to do.”

    Second, Bennett’s on-ice play has taken huge steps forward. During the week he’s flashed the occasional brilliance and skill set that made him so attractive to the Penguins brass.

    “One of the things we liked about him when we drafted him was his hockey sense, his hands and his ability to make offensive plays,” Hynes said. “I think in this camp you can see in the regular skill drills, he does a good job releasing the puck. He’s got excellent hands. He can look off a pass, do no look passes. Then when you put him in more competitive situations later in practice, he has an impact in traffic.”

    Bennett, 19, is using his second Penguins development camp as an opportunity to test his skill set and hockey sense.

    “I thought it would be great to gage where I’m at this year compared to last year,” Bennett said. “It’s important to realize you’re not making the team out of this camp. You’re here to learn from the older guys and the coaches. Just take it as a learning experience and have fun with it.”

    Bennett will be entering his sophomore season with Denver. He originally had contemplated making the transition to pro from college after two years at the university, although that timeline was never set in stone.

    “I want to put in as much time and effort and see where I’m at after two years,” he said. “If it doesn’t work out I’ll always have Denver to go back to. It’s a great place, great fans there and a great school. I put the timeframe on myself so I’m not complacent, adding a little pressure to get in the gym and working as hard as I can.”

    The Penguins certainly aren’t rushing Bennett’s development.

    “With the college kids, we have four years,” assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald said. “I’d like to think and believe that when it comes to these kids after their freshman year, it becomes a year-to-year thing. What’s best for Beau's development? Would it be to come into the organization and play the 82-game schedule? Or would it be better for Beau to play 30 games and still concentrate on the things that you need to concentrate on, which is strength and conditioning, getting bigger, adding weight? Then we’ll re-visit it the next year and see where it goes.”

    And as Fitzgerald has pointed out, for Bennett to develop into a NHL player he needs to mature physically.

    “You see the difference in him body-wise, and you will continue to see the progression with thickness,” Fitzgerald said. “Every player has warts. His are his lack of strength, and that’s what he’s working on. That’s where the college game really benefits kids like that, because of the emphasis on the off-ice conditioning.”

    “Strength,” Bennett reiterated as the area he would most like to improve. “I never want to get complacent with it. I don’t want to be satisfied with it. This year I want to work on my leg strength, get my legs stronger. Then hopefully, that correlates to getting a little faster.”

    And if Bennett’s has improved that much in just one year, imagine how much one more year will help in his maturation.

    Bennett at a Glance
    Friday, 07.15.2011 / 9:03 PM
    Features By Sam Kasan

    The Penguins selected Cali-native Beau Bennett in the first round (20th overall) of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft in Los Angeles, California. Here are some quick quotes from Bennett on Bill Guerin, music, roller hockey and more…

    It’s great having him around the rink. One thing you notice form him is that he enjoys being around the guys, being around the rink. He really has fun with it. That’s what I try to bring to the rink everyday. A guy like that, you just want to take everything he says with you next year and really pay attention to him. He’s staying hard on me to make sure that I have a little pressure. He also wants to keep it fun and make sure I keep my head up and don’t get down on myself.

    I really hit him. It went off the crossbar and hit the side of his head. He geared up with a helmet the next day. I apologized like 10 times. I felt so bad.

    It was a long process for me because I never really hurt my knees before. That happened on a fluky play. I fell and looked really dumb doing it. Once I figured out what the diagnosis was, we didn’t waste any time. We started rehabbing. I got back a couple weeks before I thought I was going to be back. Everything is great. I feel pretty strong.

    I’ve been training mornings and sometimes nights. I’ve been (going to the) beach a lot, beach volleyball, paddle boarding, fun stuff you can do in California anytime.

    I try to. A lot drops off when you stop taking lessons and practicing every day. My parents told me that if I wanted to play hockey I had to play an instrument for five years. I made it 8 to 13. I can still play some songs from back then and learn some songs if I need to. I learned enough while I was doing it.

    I listen to everything. I never really liked country. I went up to Canada and that’s all they listen to so I started listening to it a little bit. I went to a Kid Rock concert recently. That was pretty awesome. It was a good experience.

    It helps with your hockey sense. It’s more of a strategic game. There is no icing, no hitting, so you really have to think and take your rushes when they come. That’s something I’ve always learned from roller hockey, you have to be patient with the puck and survey the play.

    My skills are very bad, very poor. I kept it simple with sandwiches (in college). On the go and getting to classes I’d get that extra sleep. I’ll keep that going forward into next year and hopefully make the meals once in a while.

    It was great. Learning the schedule and where to be, how to get to classes and stuff is a learning experience right off the bat. We don’t start the season until October, so we had a little time to figure it all out. We had a great year, great group of guys, great coaching staff. It was a really fun year, that’s for sure. (College players are) a lot stronger and quicker in the corners. That’s one thing that took me time to figure out is finding my space and being able to make plays at a higher rate. Once I did, I started playing better.

    It’d be unbelievable. That’s every kids dream growing up playing hockey. You want to make it as far as you can go. I didn’t realize that dream until the draft happened. Being here this week and skating around the facility makes you respect where you are. Hopefully, one day I can get here.

    Bill Guerin wearing a helmet after Bennett hit him with a puck (photo courtesy of Scott Stuccio)

    Penguins seeing room for growth in Bennett
    By Annie Maroon, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
    Saturday, July 16, 2011

    In a locker room full of New Englanders, Canadians and even Pittsburghers who grew up in intense hockey cultures, Beau Bennett stands out.

    Being from southern California will do that in hockey circles.

    Born and raised near Los Angeles, Bennett, 19, still is adjusting to skating in climates where it's cold enough to play pond hockey in the winter. That hasn't slowed him down, but the rigors of the Penguins' development camp this week have shown Bennett the level of commitment needed to play in the NHL.

    "Growing up in California, there's not much pressure put on you as a hockey player," Bennett said. "You just kind of come to the rink and do your thing, and just seeing how the pro guys work (in Pittsburgh), you definitely get a feel and a respect for the work ethic you need."

    Work ethic wasn't a problem for Bennett through his first year at the University of Denver. He's added about 10 pounds of muscle since the Penguins drafted him 20th overall last year, and he said further improving his conditioning is a goal for this season.

    "I think my legs have gotten a lot stronger," Bennett said. "I shaved a couple seconds off the skating test — that's always good — and got stronger upper-body and gained a little weight. So I have another year in Denver to develop, and I'm looking forward to it."

    Bennett is listed at 6-foot-1, 180 pounds. Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald said there's still room for him to grow.

    "You see the difference in him body-wise, and you will continue to see the progression with thickness, but the thing that separates him is his skill set and his hockey sense," Fitzgerald said. "He puck-protects very well. Every player has warts, and his (is) his lack of strength, and that's what he's working on. That's where the college game really benefits kids like that because of the emphasis on the off-ice conditioning."

    In his second turn at camp, Bennett also has progressed mentally, shedding the rookie nerves that accompanied him last summer.

    "I see a lot of (2011 first-round pick) Joe Morrow in the way Beau was last year, really wide-eyed and looking around and trying to take everything in," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "Now, I see a kid who's a little more confident. ... You see that now in the guy on the ice and off the ice, and the size he is on the ice versus the tall, slender kid he was."

    Bennett will return to Denver for the 2011-12 season. After that, he'll have a decision to make.

    "I want to have a great year with all the boys down there and hopefully win as many games as possible, and at the end of the season re-evaluate where I'm at and then either make the jump (to the pros) or go back for another year," Bennett said. "My goal has been two years (at college) from the start, and that's what I'm working toward."

    TV tweaks Pens' schedule

    The Penguins made a minor change to their recently released schedule.

    A home game against Winnipeg scheduled for Friday, Feb. 10 instead will be played the next day. The Penguins will host the Jets at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 11.

    The change was made so CBC could televise the game nationally in Canada.

  4. #14

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    Re: Tangradi, 3 1st Round Picks Highlight Pens' Development

    Harrington displays touch at Penguins' camp
    By Annie Maroon, TRIBUNE-REVIEW
    Sunday, July 17, 2011

    Scott Harrington wasn't the biggest name on the ice Saturday at the Penguins' prospect camp scrimmage, but he made one of the biggest impressions.

    Harrington scored a goal and three assists for the White squad, which won two four-on-four games, 4-2 and 4-3.

    Harrington, an 18-year-old defenseman who played with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League last year, was the Penguins' second-round pick (54th overall) in the 2011 draft.

    Defenseman Simon Despres didn't score, but he also jumped into his share of offensive plays for the Black team.

    Center Scott Wilson, the Penguins' seventh-round pick this year, scored two goals. Keven Veilleux, a 6-foot-5 right wing who was taken in the second round in 2007, also had two goals and spent much of his time on the ice in front of opposing goalie Patrick Killeen.

    Right wing Beau Bennett scored one goal for the Black team — a breakaway on Killeen — and had one assist. Left wing Eric Tangradi, the prospect most likely to open the season with the Penguins, was kept relatively quiet for the White team. He scored two assists.

    Whitney's brother gets invite

    Sean Whitney, the younger brother of former Penguin Ryan Whitney, played for the Black team in yesterday's scrimmage. He had been attending the camp as a nonskating participant and was invited to skate for the first time for the scrimmage as an undrafted free agent.

    Whitney is a 21-year-old senior defenseman at Cornell, six years younger than his brother who now plays for the Edmonton Oilers .

    Spirited shootout

    After the second scrimmage ended, the prospects took part in a shootout that saw Veilleux and Whitney as the last two men standing.

    Each scored on three straight attempts, then misfired on the fourth. Veilleux beat Killeen and Whitney was stopped by goalie Rob Madore to give Veilleux the win.

    Veilleux's most memorable goal of the shootout was his first. He juggled the puck on his stick starting at the blue line, then let it drop to the ice near the goal and flipped a low shot past Killeen.

  5. #15

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    Prospects conforming to 'the Penguins way'
    Sunday, July 17, 2011

    Europeans, Americans and Canadians in Penguins uniforms worked feverishly at Penguins rookie camp last week at Consol Energy Center while general manager Ray Shero, wearing a Team USA shirt, proudly looked on.

    Shero couldn't care less which nations his players hail from, so long as they play hockey the American way.

    Or, make that the Penguins way.

    Really, they are one and the same. Shero and coach Dan Bylsma passionately speak of what it means to "be a Penguin," and while it means something different to everyone, the roots of American hockey shine through.

    "We will bypass certain players who might be rated higher in the draft just because we want to draft players and people who we think are Penguins," Shero said. "It's that important to us."

    Herb Brooks' 1980 U.S. Olympic team will always be the modern day launching point for American hockey, and there are similarities with these Penguins. Brooks' team didn't have many superstars, and after Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin were lost for the season with injuries, it was the Penguins who were forced to win games without star power.

    And they did it, recording a remarkable 106 points without their stars.

    Tom Fitzgerald, the assistant to Shero, is convinced that the Penguins' penchant for acquiring a certain type of player is precisely how they managed such a magical regular season.

    "Look at what we did without Sidney and Geno," Fitzgerald said. "We competed every night and we played the right way. You can do that when you have the right kind of players. That's what being a Penguin is."

    Shero added that the game has changed significantly in three decades, but that certain philosophies remain relevant to winning games. Give Shero and Bylsma a team with speed and competitors, and they believe they can win.

    Certain physical attributes jump out at Shero and his staff. A fast player with a knack for delivering hits might impress the Penguins more than a skilled player with size.

    Think Chris Kunitz.

    "Oh yeah," Shero said with a smile. "Chris Kunitz is a Penguin."

    The Penguins are littered with speedy, feisty players on the NHL level and throughout their system.

    Being a Penguin, though, is far more than an array of physical gifts.

    Competitive people, some of whom weren't even drafted, comprise Bylsma's lineup. Such players also made their presence felt at rookie camp. Kunitz and Mark Letestu are a couple of Penguins who weren't drafted, and yet they contribute.

    "Look at Zack Sill," Shero said of the forward prospect. "Wasn't drafted, but just a total Penguin."

    Bylsma seemed pleased with the players on hand at rookie camp, and noted that such a blueprint has been successful for the organization.

    "Lots of Penguins out there," Bylsma said. "Lots of Pittsburgh Penguins."

    He wasn't stating the obvious, of course.

    The coach and general manager, both Americans, welcome players from all backgrounds. But that same work ethic, speed and tenacity that Brooks identified as the proper way to play hockey is quite evident.

    "We like our team a certain way," Shero said. "I want fast and aggressive. That's what Dan wants. We believe it is a formula that can always work."

  6. #16

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    Re: Tangradi, 3 1st Round Picks Highlight Pens' Development

    School's Out
    Monday, 07.18.2011 / 9:30 AM
    Features By Michelle Crechiolo

    For five days in the middle of July, CONSOL Energy Center was brought back to life.

    That’s because 28 prospects converged on Pittsburgh for the team’s annual prospect development camp, where they learned from those in the organization exactly what it means to be a Penguin and what it will take each of them to become a professional.

    The Penguins know that in order to have long-term success and to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender year after year, they must have a strong foundation. And they understand that starts with these young men.

    “These guys are the grass roots of our organization,” said Tom Fitzgerald, Penguins assistant to the general manager, who helped run this week’s prospect development camp. “Getting them off to a good head start to their pro career is real important.”

    The prospects, who left the city on Sunday morning, are surely bone-tired, as they never stopped moving (both on and off the ice) during their time here.

    Their week consisted of medical and fitness testing, off-ice workouts, on-ice sessions, a variety of seminars on topics such as nutrition, NHL security and sports psychology, team-bonding rituals like dinners and bowling – even a cooking class. The camp concluded with a scrimmage that was open to the public.

    “The staff and everyone here has done an incredible job accomplishing everything we wanted to accomplish,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s the education part of being a pro hockey player, from the mental side to the nutrition side to the workout side. The truth is the on-ice component is the last thing that we’re looking at. It’s how we feel we can develop players, which are in turn assets.

    “In this camp, what we try to do is instill the details and the habits that we like to play with so that when these guys leave here they know exactly how we approach every day and they know exactly what’s expected.”

    The players truly took that to heart.

    “The way you handle yourself on and off the ice is so important,” said forward Bryan Rust, the Penguins’ third-round pick (80th overall) in 2010. “Your character, your persona – it’s so much more important than some people think. The way you carry yourself and the way you act – it’s so important down the line.”

    The week is certainly an eye-opener for the players attending their first camp, especially Pittsburgh’s five picks in the 2011 Entry Draft – all 17- and 18-year-old kids who still have a lot of growth and development ahead of them.

    “I’ve always been kind of the stronger kid growing up,” defenseman Joseph Morrow said, the Penguins’ first-round pick (23rd overall) in June. “You come out here and I’m not the stronger kid anymore at all. There are some big guys out here. … I’m going to get stronger, get faster, shoot harder, pass harder.”

    A good portion of the players were attending their second, third and even fourth camps. Many of them have signed professional contracts and have spent time with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League (AHL) or Wheeling (ECHL).

    The camp is not a competition for a roster spot. But it is an opportunity for these players to show the Penguins brass that they’re receiving the message that is being disseminated to them.

    Whether that is shown through leadership (being the first person in line during drills, mentoring the younger prospects) or simply coming in, testing well then working their tails off throughout the week, there’s plenty of opportunities to impress the Penguins staff.

    “As long as you come and you’re prepared to work, an opportunity will be yours,” forward Eric Tangradi said. “All you can really do is work hard and everything else will take care of itself.”

    When it’s all said and done, there’s one aspect of being a professional hockey player that stood out to the prospects this week – and one they’re taking to heart.

    “Just work ethic,” forward Brian Gibbons said. “You see it all over the place here, it’s something they preach. You can tell in their practice habits and the way they do things here. They do things the right way.”

  7. #17

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    Re: Tangradi, 3 1st Round Picks Highlight Pens' Development

    Fans Flock to See Penguins Prospects
    Saturday, 07.16.2011 / 6:51 PM
    Features By Michelle Crechiolo

    The beautiful weather on this Saturday afternoon – sunny and 85 degrees with a breeze – couldn’t deter a huge crowd of Penguins fans from heading indoors to watch some hockey in July.

    “It couldn’t be any more beautiful out there than it is in here,” said Chooch Moody of Mars, decked out in a black Penguins jersey and cap. “No doubt about it.”

    About 5,000 fans came to CONSOL Energy Center for the free scrimmage, which concluded the 2011 prospect development camp that took place this week that saw 28 players learn what it takes to become a Pittsburgh Penguin.

    “It’s pretty exciting,” said Mike Stosko of South Park, who brought his wife and two children. “It’s nice watching the young guys flying up and down the ice.”

    Most fans agreed that they wanted to get a look at defenseman Joseph Morrow, the Penguins’ first-round pick (23rd overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, and forward Eric Tangradi, who played 14 games with Pittsburgh last season.

    “You read about (these players) on the Internet and now you get to see them,” Stosko said. “Hopefully we get to see them throughout the season.”

    Ed and Lois Eiseman, transplanted Penguins fans who currently reside in Ohio, drove in from Cleveland to catch the action.

    The Eisemans were pleased that the Penguins made it possible for them and the other fans in attendance to watch the organization’s prospects in action.

    “As soon as we heard about it, we were like, OK, it’s a Saturday afternoon, we’re here in the ‘Burgh,” Ed said. “It’s free and open to the public. Some people don’t even get in here.”

    While it may be surprising to see such a turnout on a gorgeous summer day in the middle of July, no one there was surprised.

    “Penguins fans are there all the time,” said Lois. “The fan support is just phenomenal. “

    Moody agreed, saying “There’s a good core of hockey fans here. I’m not surprised at all.”

    And since the fans can’t wait for the upcoming 2011-12 Penguins season to begin, this helped some of them get their hockey fix during the long summer months.

    “I get jonesin’ about this time, so I need some hockey,” Moody said.

  8. #18

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    Re: Tangradi, 3 1st Round Picks Highlight Pens' Development

    Rust Wants to Build Off Strong First Season at Notre Dame
    Wednesday, 07.20.2011 / 3:11 PM
    Features By Michelle Crechiolo

    Entering last season, Bryan Rust was one of 12 freshmen hoping to earn playing time on a youthful Notre Dame squad.

    With such a young team, many predicted this would be a rebuilding season for the Irish. But Rust and the rest of the first-year players proved otherwise, as they helped lead Notre Dame to its second Frozen Four in team history.

    “That was huge and also unexpected from everyone outside of our locker room,” Rust, 19, said. “We knew that we could do it from the beginning, but being so young, people maybe didn't give us the chance we deserved. We were led by some great seniors, then some of our younger guys really stepped up big for us.”

    What was also special for Rust was that his brother Matt, a senior forward at the University of Michigan, also advanced to the Frozen Four with the Wolverines.

    While the brothers didn’t face off against each other in the championship game – as Bryan and the Irish fell to Minnesota-Duluth in the semifinals, who topped Matt and the Wolverines in the championship game – their family soaked in the moment as much as they could.

    “My parents were pretty excited about it,” Rust laughed. “My mom was trying to wear just navy blue and my dad was trying to wear just navy blue so they could kind of go with both teams.”

    The Penguins selected Rust in the third round (80th overall) of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft after the 6-foot, 191-pound forward had spent the previous two seasons with the U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP).

    Rust’s coach with the USNTDP Under-17 team for the 2008-09 campaign was none other than Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes, who got reacquainted with Rust at last week’s prospect development camp in Pittsburgh.

    “On the ice, he’s a strong player – a power forward type of guy,” Hynes said. “I saw him two years ago when he was a 17-year-old. Now I see a guy that’s developed his body well. He’s faster. You can tell that his puck skills have improved over the course of the last two years. He’s just got to continue to develop his body and work on his speed and explosiveness.”

    Rust, who scored 19 points (6G-14A) through 40 games as a freshman, described himself as a “hard, two-way player.”

    “I’ll play both ends of the ice,” he said. “I’ll sacrifice the body. I can put the puck in the net and make some plays. But I’m not going to sacrifice any defense for offense.”

    Last week marked Rust’s first-ever Penguins prospect development camp, as the Novi, Mich., native couldn’t attend last summer because of summer classes.

    He’s taken a lot with him back to South Bend, but the most important lesson he learned was how to be a consummate professional.

    “The way you handle yourself on and off the ice is so important,” Rust said. “Your character, your persona – it’s so much more important than some people think.”

    But according to Hynes, integrity has always been Rust’s strong suit.

    “As far as a human being off the ice, he’s a really high-character kid,” Hynes remarked. “He’s got a strong work ethic. He’s got a lot of passion for the game.”

    This August, Rust is one of 40 skaters invited to attend the 2011 USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp in Lake Placid, N.Y., where he’ll see another familiar face in head coach Dan Bylsma – who will be an assistant at the camp.

    Rust won a gold medal representing Team USA at the Under-18 World Championships in Belarus last summer, and hopes to get a chance to don the red, white and blue for his country at the World Junior Championships.

    “The feeling that you get from winning a gold medal was absolutely unbelievable,” he said. “So to have the chance to make the team and potentially win something else – it’s an unbelievable feeling. I hope I can do it.”

    Come fall, Rust hopes to undertake a larger role with the team now that he’s gotten used to the faster, more physical pace of the college game and has learned how to balance hockey with classes.

    “I want to step up into a bigger role on the team,” Rust said. “Hopefully play special teams and produce a little bit more offensively, become more of a leader on and off the ice with my work ethic and a little bit vocally.”

  9. #19

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    Re: Tangradi, 3 1st Round Picks Highlight Pens' Development

    A Win-Win Situation
    Friday, 07.22.2011 / 6:00 AM
    Features By Michelle Crechiolo

    When a Penguins prospect got injured shortly before the team’s 2011 prospect development camp, the staff had a hole to fill.

    They found the perfect replacement in Upper St. Clair native Andrew Blazek, a junior defenseman at Robert Morris University.

    “Blazek was a last-minute add because of an injury to one of our prospects,” said Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald on the last day of camp. “We wanted to have X amount of defensemen and figured, let’s dip into the local scene. He’s come in and has been really impressive. He skates really well, shoots the puck.”

    Blazek, who came up through the Pittsburgh amateur hockey system playing for the SHAHA Panthers, the Pittsburgh Junior Amateur Penguins and the Pittsburgh Hornets, was more than willing to step in and help out.

    “I got a call a couple days before camp saying they had a few injuries, and I was happy to fill in,” Blazek said. “I’m excited. I’m happy to be here now. It’s a great opportunity and I’ve learned a lot this week from it.”

    The camp proved to be extremely opportune for Blazek, as he made the transition to defense just a year-and-a-half ago.

    “This is great for him in the summer, especially with the ability for him to get some high-level competition and learn a little bit more,” said Colonials head coach Derek Schooley, who attended the open scrimmage on July 16 to see how Blazek stacked up.

    “In Andrew’s situation, he’s only played defense for a year and a half. For him to have an actual week of tutelage in the summer from high-level coaching and playing against some good players is definitely going to help his development for our hockey team.”

    Fitzgerald said that Blazek’s play gave no indication of the recent switch.

    “I was told he just moved to defense a couple years ago so that’s even more impressive,” Fitzgerald said.

    For Blazek, the opportunity to see firsthand how the Penguins operate has been quite the learning experience – one that he’ll take back to Robert Morris to help his own game and his teammates.

    “It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s everything I expected it would be. It’s just a high-class organization. Everything is the way it should be, on and off the ice. It’s a lot that I’m going to bring back to my Robert Morris team. I kind of feel like we’re going to be a better team because of what I learned here at this camp.”

  10. #20

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    Re: Tangradi, 3 1st Round Picks Highlight Pens' Development

    Madore's Local Ties Just An Added Bonus
    Thursday, 07.21.2011 / 9:00 PM
    Features By Michelle Crechiolo

    Vermont senior goaltender Rob Madore grew up following the Penguins as a Peters Township resident. Needless to say, being extended a free-agent invite to Pittsburgh’s prospect development camp last week was a surreal experience for the 23-year-old.

    So what was Madore’s ‘pinch me’ moment of the week?

    No, it wasn’t the fact that he was using Marc-Andre Fleury's locker room stall, who is his favorite athlete. It had more to do with the designated locker room duty given to Brent Johnson.

    “I guess when I got to run the music in the Pittsburgh Penguins locker room and I got made fun of for my tastes,” Madore joked, adding that playing pop star Britney Spears to a roomful of young men is “probably a no-go.”

    Madore started playing the sport when his dad Rob Sr., who grew up in State College and was “always a football guy,” decided to give hockey a try.

    “He always needed someone to shoot on, and I think hitting my mom with hockey pucks would probably be bad for their relationship,” Madore said with a smile. ”So instead, the duties fell to me. I was outfitted in the finest cereal boxes and pillow leg pads around.”

    Madore eventually ditched his makeshift equipment for some authentic gear, playing for the SHAHA Panthers, the Pittsburgh Predators, the Pittsburgh Hornets and Peters Township High School (where he won two Penguins Cup championships at Mellon Arena).

    He then left to play juniors in Chicago before suiting up for Vermont – the same school that produced Bruins goalie and 2011 Conn Smythe winner Tim Thomas.

    “Now I’m here and I get the opportunity to put on a Pens jersey,” Madore said, who idolized Penguins goalies like Tom Barrasso and Frank Pietranglo as a youngster. “It’s not from a store – this is actually the real deal. It’s been absolutely a blast and just a lot of fun.”

    But in all honesty, Madore’s local ties were just an added bonus in terms of earning an invite to development camp, as the Penguins have been monitoring the netminder for some time.

    “They said they had been watching for a couple of years,” Madore said. “They wanted to get me into town, meet the guys and get a feel for the organization. It’s been a great experience so far. I’m really fortunate they thought of me. I’m very honored.”

    Madore started his college career off with a bang, as he backstopped the Catamounts to the Frozen Four – where they fell to eventual champion Boston University – as a freshman in 2009. As a sophomore, he led Vermont to a second-straight NCAA tournament appearance as they advanced to the West Regional semifinals.

    Last season, Madore shouldered a heavy workload as he played in all 36 games – finishing the season with a 2.98 goals against average and a .907 save percentage – and earned the team’s John C. Cunningham Most Valuable Player Award for his efforts.

    “I’ve grown a lot,” Madore said. “As you get older – especially as a goalie, the thing that improves the most is your mental game. I’ve learned to deal with adversity a little better, as well as how to deal with a disappointing season and how you can get over that and work hard the next summer looking forward to the following one.

    “I’ve seen a lot of different things, a lot of situations at Vermont and I think that’s only made me a stronger player and person.”

    And though Madore’s on-ice talent is what initially caught the Penguins scouts’ attention, the friendly, likeable young goalie’s enthusiasm is what really stood out to the Penguins staff during his time in Pittsburgh.

    “He walks over with the staff members at 6:30, 7 o’clock in the morning,” said Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald on the last day. “He doesn’t leave until 5, 5:30 p.m. He’s really enjoying it.

    “It shows a lot about his work ethic, his character, how much he appreciates the invite. He’s going to do everything he can to take advantage of this opportunity. He’s going to be a senior at Vermont and we look forward to watching him play.”


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