Penguins 2012 Development Camp Taking Place in Pittsburgh This Week
Defenseman Brian Dumoulin is attending his first Penguins development camp after being acquired by Pittsburgh, along with center Brandon Sutter and the eighth-overall pick (Derrick Pouliot), for Jordan Staal.
And the first thing you notice about the reigning two-time Hockey East Best Defensive Defenseman is his size. Towering (6-foot-4, 210 pounds) over the media assembled at his locker, Dumoulin discussed his decision to turn pro after three collegiate seasons with Boston College – two of which ended with an NCAA national title.
“To play in the NHL,” said Dumoulin, whose defensive play has been compared to former Stanley Cup-winning Penguin and BC alum Rob Scuderi. “Obviously that’s my goal. If I work as hard as I can, hopefully good things will happen for me. I just have to put myself in good positions. When the opportunity strikes, I have to take full advantage of it.”
One aspect that could help in Dumoulin’s conversion from the college level to the professional level is that BC and the Penguins play a similar defensive style.
Two seasons ago, Eagles head coach Jerry York implemented the Penguins’ method of defensive execution. York even showed BC players tape of Pittsburgh’s defensive zone puck retrievals, breakouts and neutral zone transition.
“I remember sitting in the BC locker room and watching tape of the Pittsburgh Penguins,” Dumoulin said. “Coach Jerry York said this is how we want to play. He knows Pittsburgh has had success and won a Stanley Cup. That’s translated into college and us winning national championships. Coach York has made the style of play like Pittsburgh’s. Hopefully, it will help my transition into the organization.”
Since Dumoulin joined Pittsburgh via the trade of Jordan Staal, a fan favorite, there is a natural belief that the blueliner may feel some added pressure to perform well, but the Penguins hope that is not the case.
“I’m sure he does, but he shouldn’t,” Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald. “Being traded is something that isn’t in your power as a player.
“He’s real excited. I had an opportunity to sit down and have lunch with him after the draft. He’s extremely excited to join our organization as we are for him to join. He’ll be a big part of our future.”
One Penguins defenseman that really made a strong impression at last season’s development camp and September’s training camp was 2011 first-round pick Joe Morrow.
In last season’s NHL camp, the 18-year-old youngster didn’t look out of place playing against veteran players. In fact, his solid performances were rewarded with more ice time and opportunities. Morrow was one of the final roster cuts heading into the 2011-12 regular season.
Morrow took that experience with him when he returned to Portland of the Western Hockey League, resulting in his best career junior season. The smooth-skating blueliner set career highs in goals (17), assists (47) and points (64).
“Going through the whole situation that I went through last year was a lot of fun,” Morrow said. “ Going back to the (Portland) was fun and we had a really good team this year. To be in back-to-back (WHL) Finals was something special. We had a lot of good players get drafted this year.
“I can’t lie to you and say that I didn’t wish I would have stayed (in Pittsburgh). It was probably for the best. I got to develop with really good coaches and had another good year in the league.”
Morrow’s play wasn’t the only thing that grew over the past year. He arrived at development camp with chin-length blonde hair.
“I was close last year so I had to change it up with something,” he joked.
Morrow added: “My mom and my sister bet me that I couldn’t grow my hair out all year. They thought I was a pretty boy and concerned about my appearance. I kind of let it grow out. I don’t know what to do with it anymore.”
With the departure of winger Steve Sullivan via free agency, the Penguins have a hole to fill among their top-6 forwards. One player that will be given an opportunity in training camp to play in that spot is 2010 first-round pick Beau Bennett.
“His hands and ability to create space, get a shot off is fairly evident,” head coach Dan Bylsma said. “You envision that as a pro player and you see him as a guy in a top-6 role with that skill ability.”
Bennett signed a three-year entry-level contract with the Penguins in April, turning pro after two collegiate seasons with Denver. However, based on his develop, Bennett felt the time had come take his game to the pro level.
“I felt I was moving in the right direction,” he said. “I gained some weight. I felt it was time. That was the consensus around everyone that I was talking to. It was a decision my family and I made. I think it was the right one.”
Fitzgerald said the decision to leave college was Bennett’s to make, but the organization supported him either way.
“We are a college organization from top to bottom. We believe in the NCAA route as equally as the junior route,” Fitzgerald said. “With Beau it was about what do you want to do? Where do you see your career? What is the next step? When his decision was to leave the University of Denver, we said that’s great. We are open to that.”
Bennett played in only 10 games in 2011-12 with the Pioneers – collecting four goals and 13 points. A wrist injury sidelined him for the remainder of the campaign.
In anticipation for his transition to the pro game, Bennett has been working with professional sports trainer TR Goodman to add muscle and better prepare his body’s conditioning.
He’s hoping all his hard work over the summer will pay off with a leap into the National Hockey League.
“I’m going to ramp up,” he said. “(Goodman’s) training is really high intensity. It’s different than what I’m used to in the past. I’m following his lead.
“Going forward, I want to put myself in the best spot to have an opportunity and maybe take that big step.”
The Penguins made a run during free agency to acquire forward Zach Parise to play as one of the club’s top-6 forwards. Even though Parise opted to sign with Minnesota, the Penguins have plenty of options in filling the hole left by Sullivan’s departure.
“We like the players on our team. We like where our forward group is at,” Bylsma said. “If we have the opportunity to add a top-6 forward, we’ll look into doing that. We also know we have good players and like where we’re at in that forward group.”
Two players that the team could consider adding from outside the organization are Phoenix’s Shane Doan or Washington’s Alexander Semin.
“If you’re talking about adding a player, Shane Doan has attributes in a top-6 role, a big-bodied guy, strong power winger,” Bylsma said. “Alexander Semin has scored 40 goals in this league. He is a dangerous player. You know when he’s on the ice. He’s been dangerous on the Capitals’ power play. Where they fit and the possibilities are things Ray Shero is looking at, we’re looking at as a staff.”
But Bylsma said the team is comfortable with the group of players already in the organization that could fill that spot:
“You see the possibility of seeing younger players in the organization get a chance to play there as well, whether it’s Eric Tangradi in a top-6 role or Beau Bennett getting a chance to play there in exhibition and training camp or Tyler Kennedy. We feel good about the possibilities of guys like Kennedy supplementing that top-6 role.”
The progression and maturation of defenseman Simon Despres is similar to that of another Quebec-native blueliner drafted by the Penguins: Kris Letang.
In fact, coach Bylsma envisioned a scenario where the two players work alongside each other in the future.
“I can see (Despres) as a big-bodied guy that can defend. Putting him next to Kris, you see a formidable pair,” Bylsma said. “Both can defend, but also have the ability to make a pass and make a play. It’s an intriguing matchup. You see a young guy paired with a guy who was a young guy, who is now mature and at a different point in his game. They’ve had similar paths. Simon is a couple years behind Kris and can lean on that. You see that in the pairing.”
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes said that defensive prospects Robert Bortuzzo, Brian Strait and Despres are NHL ready in their development.
“As far as Robert Bortuzzo and Brian Strait, they’ve proven themselves at the American Hockey League level. They’ve been dominant in Wilkes-Barre. They’ve led our team and played against top players. They’ve played huge minutes. They’ve had good opportunities to get called up and play in Pittsburgh. They had good experiences last year and showed that they can play. Those guys are NHL ready. It depends on what they do with their opportunity and what the openings will be.
“Simon is a highly talented player. He got great experience last year, coming into rookie camp, in Wilkes-Barre and got to play in the playoffs at the National Hockey League level. Those guys are knocking right on the door. They’ve proven themselves through their experiences that they’re ready to take that next step.”
KUHNHACKL MISSES CAMP
Penguins forward Tom Kuhnhackl was unable to attend development camp. Pittsburgh’s fourth-round pick (110th overall) in 2010 is being held out due to an illness.
“Tom wasn’t feeling well over the last week or so,” Hynes said. “We didn’t think it made a lot of sense to have him come over if he couldn’t participate in the activities. It was better for him to stay home, train and get himself ready to go for the fall.”
A Loss for Words
Tuesday, 07.10.2012 / 6:47 PM
Features By Greg Fernandez
Stepping into the Penguins locker room for the first time, many of Pittsburgh’s 2012 NHL draft picks were struck with awe as this week marks the beginning of their journey towards making it to the NHL.
“I was kind of at a loss for words once I walked in,” said goalie Sean Maguire, drafted in the fourth round (113th overall). “It’s the only thing I really dreamed of.”
2012 second-round draftee Teddy Blueger is one of the first-time attendees at this year's development camp.
Tuesday marks the first official day of the Penguins’ annual prospect development camp, and for the players who have been in the system for some time, it’s a chance to step into leadership and mentoring roles with the younger guys. But for the newly drafted players, it’s where they learn what it means to be a Pittsburgh Penguin in every sense of the word and develop the habits and mindset of a pro athlete.
“It’s really a surreal moment,” said Matt Murray, Pittsburgh’s third round (83rd overall) pick. “To be drafted a couple weeks ago was life changing and it’s been a dream of mine ever since I was a kid. It’s really hard to explain right now. This is not something that everybody gets to experience. I ‘m very privileged and I’m really honored to be apart of it. “
This camp is just the first stepping-stone for many of these prospects’ careers. While it’s primarily about education – learning the Penguins’ systems and sitting through seminars on nutrition, sports pychology and NHL security – there’s also going to be a healthy dose of competition between the athletes.
“I think it’s going to be tough,” Maguire said. “It’s not going to be easy but also at the same time it’s going to be fun and competitive. That’s exactly why I’m here and what I like.“
Many of the players realize this is their chance to leave a good first impression on the coaching staff. It’s also a superb opportunity for players to showcase some of their strengths during drills, like fourth-round selection Matia Marcantuoni with his blazing speed, and see what they need to improve on in order to make it in the pros.
“I’m just going go out there and definitely show them what I can do,” said Marcantunoni, the 92nd-overall pick in June. “It’s fun since I can compare myself against the top players here that belong to the organization.”
Some of the prospects from this year’s draft class will be coming back to Pittsburgh in September for training camp. For others, they plan on just soaking it all in and learning as much as they can before they begin the year back with their respective college and junior teams.
“It’s just a really fun experience and I’m glad to be apart of it,” said Theodor Blueger, the Penguins’ second-round (52nd overall) pick. “I’m expecting a week of hard work and just a good opportunity to be here and get better and hopefully make the team some day.”
Development Camp Preview: "Best Collection of Prospects We've Had"
Monday, 07.09.2012 / 11:59 PM
Features By Michelle Crechiolo
The Penguins have accumulated a wealth of exciting young talent in the developmental pipeline, especially recently. Let's take a quick look.
Entering the 2012 NHL Draft, they already had previous first-round picks Simon Despres, Beau Bennett and Joe Morrow – along with 2011 second-round pick Scott Harrington, who had an absolutely fantastic 2011-12 season – in the system.
The Penguins then came away from the draft with nine total selections – including two first-round picks in Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta – and two acquisitions via trade in Brian Dumoulin (from Carolina as part of the Jordan Staal trade) and Harrison Ruopp (from Phoenix as part of the Zbynek Michalek trade).
And what's completely awesome is that this week, those players headline the group of 34 prospects – a mixture of college, junior and professional athletes – that will be in Pittsburgh for the organization’s yearly development camp (click here for the full roster).
“This is the best collection of prospects at camp we’ve had,” said assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald. “Without a doubt.”
For Fitzgerald and the rest of the Penguins staff that will be running the camp, it all begins with those all-important first impressions. And those begin at the crack of dawn (OK, maybe that’s exaggerating a little bit) on Tuesday morning, when the players gather at CONSOL Energy Center for medical and fitness testing at 7:30 a.m. sharp.
“Expectation-wise, you want them all to come in good shape,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s the most important thing, seeing who’s working. It’s a barometer of where they’re at with their conditioning – who might need a kick in the behind and who you pat on the back. It’s an opportunity for all these kids to set a first impression. You only get one chance at that, and this is it for all these kids.”
From there, it’s all about fulfilling certain roles as the players are schooled in what it means to be a Pittsburgh Penguin.
The camp, which runs through Saturday, will be run by Fitzgerald, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes, WBS assistant coach Alain Nasreddine, Penguins goaltending coach Gilles Meloche, Penguins player development coach Bill Guerin, Penguins strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar and WBS strength and conditioning coach Joe Lorincz.
The next few days will be crammed with on-ice practices, off-ice workouts, a Saturday scrimmage and team-bonding experiences like bowling, paintball and group dinners. In addition, they’ll be receiving education in NHL security, sports psychology and will even be getting a nutritional tour at Giant Eagle to give them options outside of going to the nearest fast food restaurant when they no longer live with mom and dad or their billet families.
For the first-time attendees, the Penguins just want to give them an understanding of what it’s like to be a part of the organization. Think of it as a week of hockey school.
“On the ice, it’s not about execution and scoring goals,” Fitzgerald explained. “It’s about us educating them and giving them an understanding of what it’s like to be a Pittsburgh Penguin. This is how we get prepared for practice. This is the system we’re going to use, this is how we’re going to incorporate it into practice. Then we go out and execute.
“It’s not like this is how you should play when you go back system-wise. It’s all about the educating part. This is what you’re taking home and learning. You can apply it to wherever you go back to.”
For those players who have been to camp before – especially the ones who have spent time in WBS or have played NHL games, like Despres – the expectation is that they step into leadership roles. They don’t necessarily have to be vocal, but they must lead by example.
“That’s a big reason why we bring the pros, to help mentor the new prospects that come through here.” Fitzgerald said. “That’s the next step for them. The thing you watch for them is are they stepping up to the front of the line? Are they leaping? Because that’s what you want from them.”
Overall, it’s a lot of information to take in. But as Fitzgerald said, it’s manageable information. And it’s truly all for these players’ benefits, to help them understand how to conduct themselves as professionals in every sense of the word.
“We try to create an understanding of what it’s like to be a Pittsburgh Penguin, not only on the ice, but off the ice,” Fitzgerald said. “Because the reality is that they now represent the city of Pittsburgh. They’re going to be judged on their actions. We just try to create that environment.”
New defenseman already schooled in Penguins' way
July 11, 2012 12:20 pm
By Shelly Anderson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Brian Dumoulin grew up a Bruins fan in Maine and played three seasons at Boston College before turning pro this year. He was drafted by Carolina in the second round in 2009 and had been making plans to dovetail with the Hurricanes this season.
Still, when he joined the Penguins last month as part of the Jordan Staal trade, Dumoulin had a lot of reasons to feel an instant familiarity with the team and Pittsburgh.
Among his Boston College teammates were Penguins prospects Carl Sneep, Philip Samuelsson and Brian Gibbons. The latter two and Dumoulin are in development camp, which opened Tuesday at Consol Energy Center.
Two of Dumoulin's college roommates, also teammates, were defenseman Patrick Wey and goaltender Parker Milner, both of Mt. Lebanon.
Not only did Dumoulin hear a lot about the Penguins and Pittsburgh, but he also thrived in a Boston College system that is patterned to a large extent after the Penguins' preferred way of playing.
"I remember sitting in the BC locker room watching a tape on the Pittsburgh Penguins, and coach Jerry York saying that this is how we want to play. ... He's made the style of play just like Pittsburgh," Dumoulin said a few hours before his first time on the ice in a Penguins practice jersey.
In that video, Dumoulin watched current and recent Penguins defensemen, including Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang and Rob Scuderi. He got a good feel for how he wants and needs to play.
"I want to be good in the defensive zone, like with puck retrieval," Dumoulin said. "It's important, especially in their system, for me to get back and be the first guy to touch the puck and have my [defensive] partner communicate on where he wants it to go. So I want to get in on the puck first and be physical.
"And [the Penguins] have very mobile defensemen, so I want to be able to jump up into the play and support the forwards."
Dumoulin, 20, has an impressive resume, even beyond the two national titles.
He led Boston College defensemen last season with 28 points, including seven goals, in 44 games and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award that goes to the top college hockey player.
In international play, he helped the United States earn the bronze medal at the 2011 world championships.
Dumoulin also has imposing size, at 6 feet 4, 210 pounds.
Still, he's no shoo-in to make the opening-night roster, thanks to a deep and talented pool of defensemen in the organization beyond the remaining six who spent all of last season in the NHL. Four are first-round draft picks, including Simon Despres, who played 18 games in the NHL last season. Two others, Brian Strait and Robert Bortuzzo, have advanced beyond development camp and seem to be NHL ready, according to coach Dan Bylsma. And Dumoulin's former Boston College teammates Samuelsson and Sneep are in the mix, among others.
"It's going to be really interesting because with the players that we have, the first-rounders, a trade to bring in Brian Dumoulin -- there's lots of scenarios that are going to be created with the opportunity at training camp," Bylsma said.
Dumoulin, who considered turning pro a year ago but instead turned in a strong junior season and came away with his second NCAA title, isn't daunted.
"We're all going to be pushing each other -- here in development camp, at main camp later on," Dumoulin said. "We're all going to get better. I want to be better than each and every one of those defensemen. That's my goal. Hopefully, we can learn things from each other and we can keep pushing each other so that the whole organization grows."
NOTES -- Winger Tom Kuhnhackl, a fourth-round draft pick in 2010 and considered a strong prospect, was a late scratch for development camp because of illness, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach John Hynes said. ... Sneep, who was a restricted free agent, announced via Twitter that he signed a one-year contract extension. ... Winger Matt Cooke has been working out at the arena the past couple of weeks and spent a little time speaking with some of the prospects. ... With a larger than usual group, the prospects are practicing in two sessions, some days a mix of forwards and defensemen and other times split into a session for forwards and a session for defensemen.
Penguins’ Despres prepared to make leap
By Meredith Qualls
Published: Wednesday, July 11, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
Updated 3 hours ago
Simon Despres is no longer a rookie.
Entering his fourth consecutive developmental camp, the 30th overall selection in the 2009 NHL Draft arrives with NHL experience in tow.
“I want to give myself the best chance to make the team,” Despres said, “so I’m going to work here really hard this summer and make a lot of sacrifices to be here at the camp.”
Last season, Despres played in 18 games with the Penguins from December to March, averaging more than 14 minutes of ice time per game during that span. He also appeared in three playoff games against the Flyers.
“Simon is interesting in the aspect that as a junior player, (he) has the ability to really do everything on the ice,” Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. “As he turns pro, he’s juggling where he fits in terms of being able to add offense, jumping to the play, take risk if that’s what his offensive game might be.”
As Despres continues to develop, emerging as a complete player, or one who is at least NHL ready, the more interesting parallel for the Penguins is the potential for the defensive duo of Despres and Kris Letang.
“It’s an intriguing matchup,” said Bylsma of the pair, “but you kind of see a young guy kind of paired with a guy who was a young guy, who has some maturity at a different point in his game. They’ve had some similar paths, and Simon’s a couple years behind Kris and can lean on that, and you see that in the pairing.”
Despres scored one goal with the Penguins on Dec. 17 against Buffalo. He also recorded three assists in addition to 15 points in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last season.
“I think when you saw him come up and play, he showed he could play defensively against good people, good lines, in tough places,” Byslma said. “We saw him match up at times against (Alex) Ovechkin, and other team’s top lines in some of the injury situations we had last year with Kris Letang.”
As for NHL readiness, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach John Hynes said Tuesday that Despres is in the same category as AHL defensemen Brian Strait and Robert Bortuzzo
“I think those guys are right there ready,” he said. “Those guys are knocking right on the door, and they’re ready to prove themselves through their experiences that they’re ready to take the next step.”
Dumoulin Making Seamless Transition
Thursday, 07.12.2012 / 9:00 AM
Features By Michelle Crechiolo
It’s too bad that the Penguins aren’t doing a cooking class for the prospects at this year’s development camp, because Brian Dumoulin probably could have instructed his fellow prospects on the art of preparing food.
Unlike a lot of young men his age living on their own, the 20-year-old defenseman – acquired from Carolina as part of the Jordan Staal trade – is quite the chef and enjoys whipping up meals for his teammates, roommates and friends.
“The best thing I can make is mushrooms and asparagus with a little teriyaki sauce,” Dumoulin grinned, who occasionally tweets photos of his culinary masterpieces from his Twitter account (@Du24theboyz). “It’s a household favorite. … Cooking is just something I have a passion for.”
Dumoulin’s not just a good cook – we’d venture to say he’s a pretty talented hockey player, too.
In three seasons at Boston College before turning pro at the conclusion of his junior year, Dumoulin racketed up the accolades and honors – starting with his two NCAA national titles.
He absolutely stood out on the college hockey powerhouse’s roster, winning back-to-back Hockey East Best Defensive Defenseman awards, earning First-Team All-American honors two seasons in a row and being named one of the top-10 Hobey Baker Award (best college player) finalists his junior season.
Oh, and he won a bronze medal with Team USA at the 2011 World Junior Championship. So needless to say, the Penguins are thrilled to have a player of Dumoulin’s caliber in the organization...and he's happy to be here.
“He’s extremely excited to join our organization as we are for him to join,” said Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald. “He’ll be a big part of our future.”
"Carolina was awesome to me," Dumoulin said. "They selected me in the draft, my time being there was awesome. They developed me pretty well. But now that I’m moving on to Pittsburgh, I’m really excited. A lot of familiar faces in the Pittsburgh organization and the success that they’ve had over the past years gets me even more excited."
So yes, Dumoulin comes to Pittsburgh having produced an incredible college career. But, as he alluded to in his last quote, he also comes to his new organization with a certain sense of familiarity. Here’s why.
Legendary Eagles coach Jerry York implemented the Penguins’ method of defensive execution, even showing his players tape of Pittsburgh’s defensive zone puck retrievals, breakouts and neutral zone transition.
“That’s one thing that’s awesome, is that Boston College kind of emulated the Pittsburgh Penguins,” Dumoulin said. “One of the main things as a defenseman is puck retrievals and going back for the puck and communicating with your partner. That’s something that we had to do at Boston College, which was almost the exact same system that Pittsburgh runs with their defenseman. It was kind of good and familiar to me when we went through that today.”
While Dumoulin warned that we shouldn’t be looking for him to post gaudy numbers points-wise, he said he enjoys playing in an aggressive, offensive-minded system.
“I wouldn’t say I’m a flashy offensive defenseman, but I like to play solid in my defensive zone,” he said. “Puck retrievals are key for me, as is getting that first pass and getting the puck out of the zone. Also jumping up and being that fourth guy in the play. Not leading the rush, but jumping up and being able to get up there and create offense as well.”
And not only is Dumoulin comfortable with what’s happening on the ice, he also has former Boston College teammates Brian Gibbons and Philip Samuelsson here at camp this week to help ease the transition.
But while Dumoulin said it certainly helps to have familiar faces, he’s not using that as an excuse to stay wrapped up in a BC bubble. In fact, it’s just the opposite.
“They allow me to meet more people,” he said. “Brian and Philip Samuelsson have already played a year pro and know a lot of the guys and the faces around here. If I kind of just follow them around and meet some other people, that can only benefit me.”
Dumoulin’s already got impressive size at 6-foot-4, 210 pounds. While he wants to continue to get stronger this summer, he’s also got specific areas of his game he’s honed in on and plans to improve to make it at the NHL level.
“I think gap control is huge, because if you can limit the other team’s time and space, that comes with quicker footwork and just being more agile,” he said. “I think that’s always something you can improve upon, especially when you’re making the jump to the NHL. Hopefully I can limit my time in the AHL and make the jump to the NHL.”
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."