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.”