Living in a hotel for weeks at a time can be quite an adjustment. In the case of a professional hockey player, the lack of a kitchen in said hotel is a challenge. Adam Payerl found out quickly in September that eating out day after day presents a new obstacle, one that is probably free of French fries.
“We try to get some groceries and fill up the fridge in our hotel room,” Payerl said of the nutrition situation for he and fellow Penguins rookie Joe Morrow, his training camp roommate. “We have to go to the salads on eating out all the time. It’s a bit of an adjustment.”
An abundance of leafy greens are just one of the adjustments that Payerl is making, as the Kitchener, Ontario native is looking to get his first full season of professional hockey on his resume.
A forward turned defenseman turned forward again, Payerl split time between Barrie and Belleville of the Ontario Hockey League over the past five seasons before the undrafted center signed a three-year entry-level deal in March with the Penguins organization. He couldn’t be more pleased with that decision.
“I talked to a couple of teams, but Pittsburgh showed a lot of interest,” Payerl said. “Pittsburgh is one of the best teams in the league and it’s a great organization. I couldn’t be happier to be here.”
Payerl, 21, began the season with Wheeling of the ECHL before getting recalled by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League on Oct. 12. Payerl appeared in five games for WBS – scoring his first professional goal on Oct. 28 vs. Hershey – before getting re-assigned to Wheeling on Nov. 5.
At 6-foot-3, 216 pounds, Payerl’s got some size. He put up 22 goals and 47 points along with 106 penalty minutes in his final season in Belleville. The self-described power forward believes that the Penguins’ style meshes well to the type of game that he enjoys playing.
“I like that (the style is) always go, go, go,” Payerl said. “(There’s) a lot of aggressive skating and being physical on the forecheck and stuff like that. I think that caters to my style of game so I’m pretty happy about it.”
WBS head coach John Hynes expects Payerl to exude all of the elements that a typical power forward possesses. Hynes likes what he sees in the center’s ability to not only drop the gloves from time to time, but show up in the point column as well.
“(Payerl is) a guy that we had brought in here as a power forward,” Hynes said. “He has a fighting element, he has a grit element and an element of physicality. To go along with those, he does have an excellent shot.
“He’s a guy that we’re going to look to be able to get in, be very gritty, be very difficult to play against in and around the net with his physicality, but also be able to chip in offensively at times.”
Payerl is excited to develop under the coaching staffs in both WBS and Wheeling, especially with coaches like Hynes and WBS assistant coach, Alain Nasreddine. Growing as a player and a person are key for Payerl, and he believes he’ll be able to do both with their help.
“I’m really looking forward to working with them,” Payerl said. “They really care a lot about the development of the players. They work well individually and they give you a lot of feedback. I’m pretty excited to work with them this year.”
The first-year pro enjoys the way that Boston’s Milan Lucic and Los Angeles’ Mike Richards play the game. Payerl knows that he’s got some work to do to reach that stature, and is keeping it simple when it comes to his expectations from the outset of the season.
“I just want to make an impression, do as well as I can and get better everyday.”
What was your favorite team growing up?
“I don’t know if I had a favorite team, but living close to Toronto, I guess I was always a bit of a Toronto fan even if they weren’t the greatest team.”
When did you start playing hockey?
“I started when I was four. I was playing in Kitchener (Ontario) growing up and just loved it from the start. I think everyone skates in the outdoor rinks and stuff like that, so it’s kind of Canadian heritage.”
What’s an interesting fact about yourself?
“I played junior lacrosse in my hometown until last summer. Hockey’s my main priority now, but I always played lacrosse growing up.”