After spending the past week in the Steel City, the Penguins prospects laced up their skates and made their official CONSOL Energy Center debut on Saturday afternoon in front of family, friends and about 6,500 fans. The scrimmage concluded the annual Penguins development camp and was free and open to the public.
The 35 players split into two teams, Team White and Team Black, for the scrimmage, which consisted of two 30-minute halves and ended with a shootout.
Right winger Adam Payerl, with help from Matia Marcantuoni, got Team White on the board first. Payerl, one of the more experienced guys on the ice, made his NHL debut and played two games with the Pens this season. At 6-foot-3, 218 pounds, Payerl is a big, strong power forward, and the staff loves his physicality.
“It was a good feeling to get that goal,” Payerl said. “I think I played well with Matia (Marcantuoni) and (Troy) Josephs there. We had good chemistry. It was a good skate in the middle of the summer.”
With the help of Payerl, Marcantuoni and Josephs, Team White came out on top thanks to Joseph’s game-deciding goal in the shootout. Josephs also had two goals during regulation time.
“It was fun,” Josephs said. “Pittsburgh’s a first class organization, and it was unbelievable to see the fans there. It just shows how much they really care about the program. It’s really fun to be out here and to play in front of the big crowd and with future teammates.”
In addition to Payerl and Josephs’ goals, Blaine Byron, Nick D’Agostino, Oskar Sundqvist, Nick Lappin, Conor Sheary, Scott Wilson and Sam Lafferty all had goals during regulation time. Jake Guentzel and first-round draft pick Kasperi Kapanen also scored during the shootout.
“It was a big goal, to show all the fans that I can score and just get the crowd into it a little bit,” Kapanen said. “Of course, there’s a little pressure being the first-round pick and shooting first, but I’m glad it went well. I think I was more of a playmaker that game. Scoring chances didn’t come to me as much, but it felt good to score in front of the crowd, showing them that I can score goals, and maybe they will be more excited for me in the future.”
Assistant general manager Bill Guerin said that overall, the week went well and Kapanen, Payerl and Marcantouni were among the players that stood out to him on Saturday.
“I thought it was good,” Guerin said. “I thought it was very productive. The best thing that I got though was the feedback from the kids, and they all had a good time. They thought it was competitive, but most importantly fun and they got a good understanding of what we’re all about here in the city of Pittsburgh.”
Guerin added that he liked the scrimmage and the way the prospects handled themselves and the puck. And when it came to the 17-year-old Kapanen, Guerin was especially thrilled with what he saw.
“He’s even better than I thought he would be,” Guerin said. “So I was very happy. He’s just high-end talent, high-end speed. He’s a very, very mature kid for his age, obviously with his father (Sami) playing so many years in the NHL and playing with him and bringing him up that way, he’s already a pro. So he’s ahead of the game in that department. You got a little screenshot of what’s to come and he’s not even 18 yet, which is kind of cool.”
It’s still to be determined whether or not we will see Kapanen at CONSOL Energy Center this season, but that didn’t stop the fans from coming to see the prospects play and getting to know the players. Fans, young and old, packed sections of the area and cheered on the future of the organization for some hockey in July.
“I’m probably the closest kid to Pittsburgh, so a lot of my friends and family made the trip out,” said Lafferty, who’s a native of Hollidaysburg, PA (which is located about an hour-and-a-half away). “It was awesome. Skating off the ice at the end of the game, I looked down at the one end and it seemed like half my town was here, which isn’t too many people. It was nice to see everyone.”
Self-described lifelong Pens fan and season ticket holder Gary Smith said he came here to see some pucks in July.
“I wanted to see one of the younger players,” said Smith. “Matia Marcantuoni, I wanted to see how he’s looking, to see all the young guys that just came up, Kapanen, the first-round pick. I had no idea there would be this many people here. I thought we could sit wherever we want pretty easily, but I came in right when the puck dropped and I had a hard time finding a seat, so it’s nice seeing this many people out.”
And although the camp is over, the prospects learned a lot and will be ready for the next step, whatever that may be.
“I think I took away a little bit of everything,” said Kapanen. “Just being in the Penguins’ locker room, talking with the staff, talking with these guys, I had never met these guys before and they turned out to be some really great guys so I’m happy that they are and they’ll be my buddies forever.”
* Team White was coached by goalie development coach Mike Buckley and Wheeling head coach Clark Donatelli, while Team Black was coached by WBS assistant coach Alain Nasreddine and player development coach Mark Recchi.
The Team White roster included goaltenders Stephen Mastalerz and Matt Murray, defensemen Reid McNeill, Alex Boak, Nick D’Agostino, Jeff Taylor, Scott Harrington and forwards Jake Guentzel, Anthony Angello, Matia Marcantuoni, Tom Kuhnhackl, Bryan Rust, Blaine Byron, Josh Archibald, Adam Payerl, Troy Josephs, Matt Murray and Oskar Sundqvist.
The Team Black roster included goaltenders Jake Hildebrand and Tristan Jarry, defensemen Ryan Segalla, Dane Birks, Brian Dumoulin, Clark Seymour, Harrison Ruopp and Daniel Renouf and forwards Teddy Blueger, Nick Lappin, Dominik Uher, Brad McClure, Scott Wilson, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Kasperi Kapanen, Aton Zlobin, Conor Sheary and Sam Lafferty.