Hard work pays off –
just ask Dustin Jeffrey
The Penguins’ sixth-round draft choice (171st overall) in June may have seemed like a long shot to appear in Pittsburgh this year, but the 19-year-old earned a spot at training camp with an impressive showing in the team’s rookie camp tournament.
“It was a lot faster. I was up in camp at Sault Ste. Marie with my junior team for a week and a half and that first game of the rookie tournament, it was a little different,” he said. “The first period was a lot faster, but it’s also a lot easier because the guys all play their positions and everyone knows what their job is, so it’s just a little bit of an adjustment and I am sure it will be once I get on the ice here.”
The 6-foot-1, 205-pounder adjusted well. He centered a line with Ryan Stone and Jonathan Filewich and led the Penguins prospects with five points (2+3) en route to helping the squad capture the Kitchener Rookie Tournament in Ontario.
“It was great. It was a great opportunity,” he said. “I got the chance to play with some great linemates in Stone and Filewich. They have been around the pro game for a little while, so it helped me adjust a lot as did some of the older guys. I just went in there and tried to play my game. I was told that I just needed to do what got me there, so I tried to play my game and it got me this far.”
It punched his ticket to Pittsburgh as the Penguins were so impressed with his play, they extended an invite to training camp, which started Thursday with physical testing.
“Absolutely. I was really excited when they told me I was coming to Pittsburgh for camp,” he said. “It’s going to be an experience being around all the guys and seeing how everyone carries himself as a professional. I think that is going to help me out a lot when I go back to Sault Ste. Marie or whatever happens, it will help me in the future.”
The Penguins prospects enjoyed huge success in their tournament championship run despite not really having much time to prepare for the tournament.
“It was tough. We all have a common goal, though. We’re all trying to get here. That’s what everyone is working toward and we all try to do our best to get here. That’s how it was easy for us to come together,” Jeffrey said. “The coaching staff put an easy system in and gave us a little bit of a game plan, so it was easy for us to do well in the tournament. They didn’t put a lot of pressure on us. They told us just to go out there and play because they knew we are trying to make our way up to here.”
Now that Jeffrey is in camp with the Penguins, he wants to take advantage of his surroundings.
“I am going to try to absorb as much as I can and talk to as many guys as I can and just see what it’s all about,” he said. “I am not old enough yet to go play in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton or anything, so it’s either here or back in Sault Ste. Marie, so I am just going to soak up as much as I can and just try to stay here as long as possible.”
Jeffrey had 92 points (24+58) in 68 games for Sault Ste. Marie in the Ontario Hockey League last season. While he can score, he prides himself on his two-way game.
“I am a two-way player. I play well defensively; I am not going to give up a lot of points,” he said. “If we play down low in the corners, I think I can make good passes and that’s what I think I can bring to this team. I can put the puck in the net as well, but I think I am more of a set-up man.”
Regardless of his role, Jeffrey is happy to be with the Penguins.
“This is one of the teams that’s on the rise. This team is already one of the best in the NHL and half these guys haven’t been in the league for more than three or four years, so the sky is the limit for this team and it’s a great organization to get in with,” he said. “Even in Wilkes-Barre – they had a great year last year. It’s just the entire organization that is winning right now; it’s just a great place to be.”