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Hockey Season Arrives As Penguins Begin Prospect Camp Friday

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins
Ninety-degree days are occurring less frequently, the leaves will soon be changing colors and the Penguins’ top prospects have their skates sharpened, sticks taped and bags packed.

Yes, hockey season is upon us once again.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes will run the Penguins through prospect camp in London, Ontario this weekend. Credit - Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
The Penguins kick off the 2010-11 campaign – their first at CONSOL Energy Center – by leaving for a five-day prospect camp in London, Ontario this Friday morning.

In addition to practices and meetings, 23 of the Penguins’ brightest prospects, including forwards Eric Tangradi and Dustin Jeffrey, and defenseman Simon Despres, will partake in three exhibition games against prospects from the Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks at the John Labatt Centre in London.

First-year Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes will direct the camp with the help of his freshly-appointed assistant coach, former Penguins defenseman Alain Nasreddine.

“I think it is a great situation for the players that participate in it,” Hynes said. “It’s a good preparation for the main camp as far as playing competitive hockey and getting re-acclimated to our systems. It’s a good preparatory exercise.” will be your No. 1 source for coverage during prospect camp as we will post running live blogs with behind-the-scenes highlights, player features, live in-game updates and video interviews daily.

The Penguins are scheduled to play the Ottawa Senators at 2 p.m. on Saturday; the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7 p.m. on Sunday; and the Chicago Blackhawks at 2 p.m. on Tuesday, September 14. 

Because prospect development from within is so paramount in today’s National Hockey League, prospect camp is yet another avenue for teams across the league to use in an effort to give the best on- and off-ice training to its future stars.

When the Penguins’ prospects hit the ice in London, they will notice that Hynes and Nasreddine will be using the same structure, drills and terminology that the players were exposed to at development camp in July – and the same things they will also see when the Penguins’ main camp begins next week. Such continuity only helps to accelerate the learning curve.

“(Penguins assistant coach) Todd Reirden had a good plan that we began implementing this summer,” Hynes said. “We set the table at our development camp as far as the types of drills we are going to do and the system implementation we plan to use at rookie camp. It’s the exact same thing they are going to see at the main camp – it’s going to be almost identical.”

Some of the players on the prospect camp roster – Tangradi, Jeffrey, Robert Bortuzzo and Brian Strait – are candidates to fight for NHL duty at some point this season, so Hynes plans to move those guys around a bit during camp to expose them to different situations in an effort to help further prepare them if and when that call comes.

On the flip side, the younger players who are attending camp for the first time – among that group are 2010 draft picks Tom Kuehnhackl, Joe Rogalski and Reid McNeill, and 2006 second-round selection (32nd overall) Carl Sneep – will be put into situations where they can quickly become acclimated to professional hockey.

“We might use a more veteran guy who is a right-handed shot defenseman, and maybe we’ll give him a look on the left side to see how he reacts,” Hynes said. “It’s a situation where some of the older, returning guys can show that they can play multiple situations in multiple positions. For the younger first-year guys, we want to put them into positions where they are playing with people who can make them feel comfortable and help them have success.”

Hynes, who is in his second year with the Penguins organization after serving as Reirden’s assistant coach in WBS last season, also sees another benefit to the camp for some of the guys who have spent time in the American Hockey League the past few years.

“This is a good chance for some of the more experienced young players to show some leadership as far as knowing the system, showing other players how the drills are run and showing the younger draft picks how we do things as the Pittsburgh Penguins organization,” Hynes said.

A big part of how the Penguins do things as an organization is development at WBS – which includes the coaching staff. This will be Hynes’ first go-around as a head coach in the professional ranks, while Nasreddine is stepping behind the bench for the first time at any level.

Hynes says that he and Nasreddine having the chance to run the players through games, practices and meetings during the five-day camp will allow them to get acquainted with each other as a coaching staff.

“It will be great for Alain and me to work towards getting on the same page,” Hynes said. “We will be able to work on preparing for meetings and preparing for practices. I think it will really benefit us to have the chance to get in sync together in a developmental situation and will help lead to greater success for our team in WBS this coming season.”


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