CRANBERRY, Pa. -- Calen Addison wanted to improve defensively when the Pittsburgh Penguins chose him in the second round (No. 53) of the 2018 NHL Draft. A year later, that remains his goal.
"One thing I know and everyone kind of always repeats to me is just working on my defensive game," the 19-year-old defenseman said during Penguins prospect development camp June 26. "Making sure I'm getting stronger and more powerful so I can battle in the corners against the big men like in the American [Hockey] League and the NHL. So that's what I'm trying to get to."
That nearly was identical to what Addison (5-foot-10, 180 pounds) said last year during his first prospect development camp. But there was one difference between then and when he spoke at the start of camp this year.
This time, Addison has the path for improvement carved out in his mind.
"In my draft year, I think I struggled quite a bit defensively," he said. "Since then, I think it's just being more aware in the defensive zone and just kind of being more aware of where everyone is at all times. Going into corners and battling like it's your last battle. I think that's what going to help get me to the next level."
Most of that work was done with Lethbridge of the Western Hockey League, where Addison had 65 points (11 goals, 54 assists) in 67 games last season. But that couldn't match the value of playing three games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL.
"Just to get out there and get a feel for everything and see what everything's like on a day to day basis, it was great for me," Addison said. "That's the biggest difference, is just playing against bigger and stronger guys. It's men rather than kids."
He'll gain more experience at training camp this season. Since it's unlikely he plays in the NHL, he'll take his lessons learned against bigger competition back for one more WHL season.
Tom Kostopoulos, Pittsburgh's player development coach, said he was impressed with how Addison handled himself around some of Pittsburgh's core players last season during training camp. He's since seen Addison mature further.
"Seeing how much time a guy like Sidney Crosby, [Kris] Letang and those guys, how much time and effort they put into their game, I think it's eye-opening for a lot of junior kids in their first training camp," Kostopoulos said. "I think he went back to junior and really worked on his game and took a lot from camp last year. You can just see him developing. You can see his confidence on the ice."
Despite admitting his defense still needs work, that confidence was on display at Addison's locker stall during development camp.
"They [drafted] me for a reason," Addison said. "That was just to play the way I play. ... They just let me play my game."