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Pens' Agostino impresses for Team USA

Thursday, 08.11.2011 / 9:32 AM / 2012 World Junior Championship

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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Pens' Agostino impresses for Team USA
Kenny Agostino has been among the most impressive players at Team USA's national junior evaluation camp despite having battled mononucleosis not long ago.
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- When the invitation from USA Hockey came in June to attend this week's national junior evaluation camp, Kenny Agostino almost was too sick to open the envelope.

Agostino was laid up with mononucleosis and barely got out of bed for six weeks.

"The first half of the summer was rough," he told NHL.com. "I went down the middle of May and I wasn't cleared until the end of June."

That left him about five weeks to get into shape for possibly the most important training camp of his hockey career to date.

It was then that Agostino put the first year of his Yale education to the test and figured out just what it was going to take for him to get into shape to put on the best showing he could in front of the USA Hockey staff and potentially earn a spot on Team USA for the 2012 World Junior Championship.

"I planned it out when I was sick," he said. "I'm going to have to work out twice a day. I can't overdo it, though, but at the same time I did a great job with my trainer and was able to get back into shape."

So far, all the work Agostino has done has paid off. Through four games, he's the only player to have at least a point in all of them. He's also the leading scorer at the camp with two goals and six assists.

"It's been unbelievable," Agostino said. "Just being invited to this camp is a tremendous honor. Because it's such an honor I really want to make the most of it. I'm working as hard as I can out there and puck just seems to be bouncing my way."

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Imagine if he had been healthy enough to get in his full workout this summer.

Agostino, a fifth-round pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2010, earned his invitation thanks to a strong freshman season at Yale, where he had 11 goals and 14 assists in 31 games. Not only did he have to adjust to the higher level of NCAA hockey, he had to do it at one of the toughest academic institutions in North America.

"It is tough," he said. "A lot of the older guys there do a great job of bringing the younger guys along. You have to figure it out. You really have to be organized and task-oriented. It's a demanding schedule academically and athletically, but we seemed to manage this year. It was great year for me. I had a lot of fun and I learned a lot about hockey."

He's carried that knowledge into this camp, where he's shined in all situations. He had a pair of assists in the opening intrasquad scrimmage on Saturday, and followed that with a goal and an assist in Sunday's scrimmage. In the first international game Monday, he had a goal and two  assists against Finland and then added an assist on the lone U.S. goal in Wednesday's 4-1 loss to Sweden.

Not bad considering that in addition to working his way back from mono, he's been playing with a sore left elbow he injured in the first intrasquad game. He's had it wrapped in a thick bandage and ice all week.

"I thought I played well the first game. That really gave me a confidence boost … let you know that you were OK, that you can play with everybody and from there you just play your game," Agostino said. "From there you just play your game and there's not a lot of thought involved after that, which is great."

Agostino might not be thinking about too much out there, but he's certainly got the USA Hockey staff thinking about just how much they can play him.

"He started a little bit slow the first day, but that day was a tough, grind-it-out practice and the intensity and everything they had to show," U.S. coach Dean Blais said. "He got better throughout the (first) three days and that's hard to do. But he did it."

His future employers in Pittsburgh also are pretty happy with what they've seen.

"We think it is excellent for Kenny's development to be exposed to a national camp like this and to compete against other top prospects in his age bracket," Penguins Director of Amateur Scouting Jay Heinbuck told NHL.com. "It will enhance his confidence, and at the same time, he will discover some areas of his game that need to be improved because he was competing against some top-caliber players."  

Agostino has looked like one of those top-caliber players since the start of camp. His line, with T.J. Tynan and Vincent Trocheck, was Team USA's best Wednesday against Sweden. Agostino drew an assist on Trocheck's power-play goal and he used his speed to create a number of outstanding chances, including one in the high slot that looked like a sure goal in the second period until the crossbar got in the way.

"Not much you can do there," he told NHL.com after the game. "I tried to put it where I thought it would go in, but it was a little too high. What are you going to do?"

For Agostino, he's going to keep working hard and competing, with the goal being to have a bigger bite of the action at Yale this season and also make the World Junior team.

But that's in the future. For now, he's going to keep showcasing himself at this camp and enjoying the ride.

"It's a lot of fun right now," he said. "I'm really enjoying myself."

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK
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