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Nasreddine Tutors Talented Group of Defensemen

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins
The Takeaway:

> Alain Nasreddine's five years in Pittsburgh's organization is helping ease his transition into coaching.
> Nasreddine's experience earns respect of young defensemen.
> Penalty kill has excelled in London under Nasreddine's watch.
> Nasreddine excited to work with talented group of young d-men in WBS.

LONDON, ONTARIO – Alain Nasreddine spent four-plus seasons in the Penguins organization. In fact, he called his days in the black-and-gold the best days of his professional career.

That made the decision to join the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ coaching staff an easy one to make when Penguins management presented him with the opportunity to work alongside first-year WBS head coach John Hynes in late August.

Nasreddine’s coaching career began this weekend as he and Hynes have led a group of Penguins prospects during a rookie tournament in London, Ontario. Thus far it’s been all roses for Nasreddine, whose defensemen have given up just four goals in two games as the Penguins have gone 2-0 heading into Monday’s finale against the Chicago Blackhawks at 2 p.m.

“It has been a lot of fun so far,” Nasreddine said. “I am really enjoying it and we’ve had a great start here at rookie camp. I am learning a lot – there is a lot to be learned. I have a great teacher in Hynesie. Dan (Bylsma), Todd (Reirden) and Tony (Granato) came down and have been giving me advice. They have been a great help.”

While there can be initial struggles for young coaches as they transition their mindset from that of a player to a coach, the 35-year-old Nasreddine has had an easier time because he is familiar with the mentality and concepts the Penguins employ as an organization.

“What is helping my transition is that I spent five years in this organization and it was just two years ago when I left,” said Nasreddine, who spent the past two years playing for the Thomas Sabo Ice Tigers in Germany. “It’s the same system that I played in when I was here. That is making it easy for me because it is easy for me to see what we are doing right and wrong.”

Penguins defenseman Robert Bortuzzo, who attended training camp with Nasreddine as a rookie in 2007, is a believer that Nasreddine’s recent playing experience is going to pay huge dividends as he relates with the younger players.

“There are a lot of little facets that come up that a guy who has just recently played the game will know and be able to help you both on and off the ice,” Bortuzzo said. “There are going to be grinds during the season that he is going to know about from having gone through. It’s all part of that experience he brings to the table.”

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Nasreddine also brings plenty of experience as a penalty killer – which was an area where the Montreal, Quebec native excelled as a player.

In London, Nasreddine has been in charge of directing the Penguins penalty kill, and although the execution hasn’t been pretty, his unit has played with great passion while posting extraordinary numbers, killing off 12 of 13 opponent power plays.

Because he didn’t have much time to implement all of his PK concepts, Nasreddine has kept things simple, preaching to his guys that a strong work ethic will help get the job done.

“The first thing we talk about on the PK is hard work,” Nasreddine said. “We want to work harder than the opposing power play. Our execution hasn’t been perfect – we still have to work on that – but the work ethic is there. Guys have been paying a price and blocking shots to help out our goaltender.”

When it comes to work, Nasreddine figures to have a promising group of defenders to work with at WBS this season. He won’t know which seven or eight blueliners he will have at the outset of the season for a couple of weeks, but three of the candidates who figure to headline that list – Bortuzzo, Brian Strait and Carl Sneep – have stood out to Nasreddine in London.

Alain Nasreddine's experience has shown itself during practices in London, Ontario.
“You can tell that they are going to be good AHL players when they come back from this tournament,” Nasreddine said. “They are proving that they are a step above at this tournament and that is what we like to see. I am really impressed with those three guys.”

Bortuzzo said the players have been equally as impressed by Nasreddine, who served as the Baby Penguins captain during his tenure in WBS.

“Well, he is undefeated at this point in his coaching career, which is pretty good,” Bortuzzo joked. “In all seriousness, he has done a great job with everyone in his first coaching gig. He has done a great job helping both the younger and older guys. In practice he has been working with us on an individual basis trying to help further our personal skills and the details of the game.”

This rookie tournament is only a small sample size for Nasreddine, but from the looks of his first week on the job, the Penguins have added another talented coaching prospect into the organization. 

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