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Penguins Notebook: Camp Special Experience For London Native McNeill

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins
LONDON, ONTARIO – Each of the 23 prospects who made the trip to prospect camp in London, Ontario with the Pittsburgh Penguins were happy to have the chance to throw on a National Hockey League jersey and begin the process of impressing management.

Perhaps nobody was more excited than defenseman Reid McNeill, the Penguins’ 2010 sixth-round draft pick (170th overall).

McNeill, 18, not only hails from London, Ontario, he also plays for the Ontario Hockey League’s London Knights, who play their games in the John Labatt Centre where the rookie tournament was held.

McNeill had several family members and friends present throughout the week, including his parents, which he said helped make his first professional training camp an even better experience.

“Being at home is obviously an advantage,” McNeill said. “It was a great experience being able to play here and I had a lot of fun doing it.”

During the Penguins’ three games, where the team posted a 2-1 record, McNeill experienced the usual rookie ups and downs that are expected with first-year players, but for the most part he was happy with the way he played.

“I think I started off strong, but along the way had a roller coaster of ups and downs,” said McNeill, who finished with two assists in three games. “Overall, I am pretty happy with my play being that this was my first NHL camp. I am just going to take the good experiences and move on with it.”

Alain Nasreddine, the newly-appointed Wilkes-Barre/Scranton assistant coach who ran the team’s defensemen in London, was pleased with the effort from McNeill. Nasreddine especially praised McNeill for the way he and fellow 2010 sixth-round draft pick Joe Rogalski played in the Penguins’ opening contest – a 5-3 win against the Ottawa Senators – when they were thrown into the fire with only five defensemen following Alex Grant’s injury.

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“I was impressed with how they responded,” Nasreddine said. “They worked hard and played well. We tried to implement our system during these games, and they were pretty good at executing within that framework, which I was impressed with.”

McNeil is likely to return to London following prospect camp in time to suit up for the Knights when they open the regular-season opener on Friday. He says he took a lot out of the camp to work on this season so that he can perform even better next year.

“The coaches have already told me some things that they want me to work on so I will take those back to London and work on them in practice and during games throughout the season,” McNeill said. “Hopefully then I’ll be able to come to next year’s camp stronger and more fit for the pro game.”

Considering the hard work McNeill has put in the past two seasons just to get to this point, it’s hard not to expect him to come back significantly mproved in 2011.

Pens Drop Finale

Chicago’s Igor Makarov notched a hat trick and Blackhawks defenseman Brian Connelly added five points (1G-4A) as the Blackhawks defeated the Penguins, 9-5, in the final game of the 2010 rookie tournament on Tuesday.

Chicago jumped out to a 3-1 lead after one period and an 8-3 advantage after 40 minutes before Casey Pierro-Zabotel and Eric Tangradi scored for Pittsburgh in the third period.

Pierro-Zabotel led the way offensively for the Penguins, scoring twice and adding an assist, while defenseman Simon Despres picked up a goal and an assist.

“It was nice to get a couple of goals there, but not so nice the way that we ended the tournament,” Pierro-Zabotel said. “We definitely didn’t want to give up nine goals against like we did.”

Geoff Walker scored his second goal in as many contests to account for the fifth Pittsburgh goal.

Mattias Modig made the start in goal for the Penguins. He stopped 11 of the 17 shots he faced before being replaced by Patrick Killeen at 9:34 of the second period. Killeen made 15 saves on 17 shots the rest of the way.

Scoring Summary

CHI, Ben Smith, 4:37, 1st period
PIT, Geoff Walker (2), 5:20, 1st period
CHI, Igor Makarov (1), 9:22, 1st period
CHI, Kyle Beach (1), 17:04, 1st period
CHI, Brandon Pirri, 1:41, 2nd period
CHI, Igor Makarov (2), 2:02, 2nd period
PIT, Simon Despres (1), 5:04, 2nd period
CHI, Brian Connelly, 6:12, 2nd period
CHI, Igor Makarov (3), 9:34, 2nd period
CHI, Kyle Beach (2), 15:20, 2nd period
PIT, Casey Pierro-Zabotel (1), 18:47, 2nd period
CHI, Jeremy Morin, 4:15, 3rd period
PIT, Eric Tangradi (1), 6:36, 3rd period
PIT, Casey Pierro-Zabotel (2), 14:01, 3rd period

Final Offensive Statistics

Zach Sill 3 2 2 4
Geoff Walker 3 2 2 4
Dustin Jeffrey 2 3 0 3
Casey Pierro-Zabotel 3 2 1 3
Eric Tangradi 3 1 2 3
Tom Kuehnhackl 3 0 3 3
Simon Despres 3 1 1 2
Joey Haddad 2 0 2 2
Reid McNeill 3 0 2 2
Keven Veilleux 2 1 0 1
Taylor Peters 3 0 1 1
Ryan Schnell 3 0 1 1
Carl Sneep 3 0 1 1

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