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Bylsma Keeps Busy as Training Camp Approaches

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins may wear black and gold, but last week head coach Dan Bylsma was all about the red, white and blue.

Bylsma during a timeout at the U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp. (Credit: Nancie Battaglia / USA Hockey)
Bylsma just returned from Lake Placid, N.Y., where he served as an assistant coach at the 2011 U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp that ran from Aug. 6-13.

The camp – which initially had 44 participants before the roster was trimmed to 29 players on Aug. 8 – will determine the makeup of the 2012 U.S. National Junior Team that will compete at the World Junior Championships in December/January in Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta.

It was Bylsma’s first big event with USA Hockey, as he didn’t get the opportunity to represent his country as a player – and he couldn’t say enough about the level of competition he saw from behind the bench during the week.

“I was very impressed,” said Bylsma, a native of Grand Haven, Mich. “It was my first chance to put on the red, white and blue and get out and coach and be with those kids, and we had over 40 kids there competing to try to move on throughout the week and then to possibly come to the junior tournament.

“We had a lot of great players out there. There will be some tough decisions to make. But it was great for me to get out there and see that group of kids.”

What also impressed Bylsma was the camp’s strong Pittsburgh connection.

Bylsma coached Penguins prospects Kenny Agostino (fifth round, 140th overall, 2010 NHL Draft) and Bryan Rust (third round, 80th overall, 2010 NHL Draft) during the week, as well as Pittsburgh-area invitees J.T. Miller (Coraopolis/E. Palestine, OH), Vince Trocheck (Upper St. Clair), John Gibson (Baldwin) and Stephen Johns (Wampum).

Bylsma during a timeout at the U.S. National Junior Evaluation Camp. (Credit: Nancie Battaglia / USA Hockey)
The play of Agostino – who finished as Team USA’s leading scorer with 10 points (3G-7A) through six games – especially turned Bylsma’s head.

“(Agostino) did a magnificent job of making a statement for his play,” Bylsma said. “To get a guy showing that sign of life, that sign of potential and what he can do in that kind of competition from the fifth round (of the draft) is exciting. I’m really looking forward to seeing him have a strong season (at Yale) this year and if he can build on that, that’s a guy we’re going to like to see in training camp here in short order.”

After serving as the special guest instructor at the Penguins’ annual Summer Youth Hockey School on Monday, next on Bylsma’s agenda is the 2011 NHL Research, Development, and Orientation Camp in Toronto on Wednesday and Thursday.

At the camp, Bylsma and Coyotes coach Dave Tippett will coach 36 of the top prospects available for the 2012 NHL Entry Draft as they test potential changes to the game.

But while Bylsma is certainly keeping a busy schedule, he’s still constantly planning and preparing for the upcoming NHL season. Bylsma has talked to all of the Penguins’ recent acquisitions, both before and after those players signed their contracts, and he’s excited to see where they will fit in on the team’s depth chart come training camp – which is just a month away.

Bylsma serving as a special guest instructor at the Penguins' annual Summer Youth Hockey School.
He’s especially excited to see winger Steve Sullivan enter the fold.

“You see him fitting in with some skill, some real playmaking ability and how he can score some goals,” Bylsma said. “You see him fitting in with a good centerman and his forward line, but really possibly adding a dimension on the power play that we haven’t had with bringing the puck up the ice and being a right shot on the point as a forward … kind of offering another right shot for (Evgeni) Malkin and (Sidney) Crosby.”

He’s also intrigued by what Jason Williams has to offer.

“Williams is also a guy who has shown he can play with some skilled players,” Bylsma said. “He has shown he can play the point on the power play and shown he can add some offensive ability throughout a good lineup. That’s something he’s going to get a real chance to do in training camp.”

Bylsma added to the growing anticipation for the upcoming season when he gave updates on the respective statuses of Dustin Jeffrey and Brooks Orpik.

Jeffrey, who was sidelined with a knee injury on March 24, may be cleared to begin on-ice workouts today.

"Dustin Jeffrey is going to see the doctor today here in Pittsburgh to be hopefully cleared to skate," Bylsma sad. "He’s doing quite well and is hopefully progressing to the next level today."

Bylsma added that Orpik, who underwent successful lower abdominal/hernia surgery on his right side on July 20, is also doing well.

"Orpik is recovering fine and doing well in that regard," Bylsma said.
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