Adam Payerl played in his first two NHL games last season, and there’s a definite possibility we could see him in more this year.
With his blend of size – 6-foot-3 and 218 pounds – and skill, Payerl is somebody that the Penguins staff continually singles out as someone who can potentially make an impact at the highest level of hockey.
“Adam’s nickname is ‘Beast,’ for good reason,” Penguins assistant general manager Bill Guerin said of the 23-year-old winger. “He’s a mountain of a man. The more he can be in front of the net, the less goalies are going to see. He’s got a good skill level. We push him to have a good mix between a physical game and being able to make plays. Adam’s a very capable guy.”
Payerl’s size is certainly his biggest asset, but like Guerin said, learning how to finesse the rest of his game has been key. And that’s something he’s been working on.
“I think I’ve just got to consistently play my game every shift, every game; in training camp and stuff like that. Just show that I can be a big power forward every game,” Payerl said. “(The coaches) want me to prove every shift, every game that I can be physical, I can get over pucks in the offensive zone, I can create offense and make smart plays, skill plays around the net when I have to.”
Elaborating even further on that, Payerl said that in order to translate his game to the NHL level as a bottom-six forward, he has to be able to do what it takes to grind other teams down in the offensive zone.
“I think I just have to improve puck protection down low,” he said. “Going with that, you have to get better with puck placements on your dumps so you can get to the puck first, beat your D-man to the puck and use my size to my advantage to create offense around the net.”
Overall, Payerl’s biggest takeaway from his short time in the NHL last year was how much faster everything is compared to the American Hockey League.
“It’s a lot quicker decisions with the puck, a lot more execution is required to play at this level,” Payerl said. “I think I’ll just try to build on that and use that experience to my advantage this year.”
Payerl has come a long way since going undrafted and eventually signing with the Penguins as a free agent following five seasons in the Ontario Hockey League. But he’s determined to go even further.
“Playing those two games, it’s just unbelievable,” he said. “It’s like, this is where I want to be. It’s just an eye-opening experience for sure. It was a dream come true and I want to build on that this year.”