The Penguins prospects had another busy day at the office for Day 2 of Development Camp. The players had an early practice/workout session at 9 a.m. Half of the group hit the ice for drills and scrimmages while the other half hit the gym. Then the groups switched.
After lunch, the players headed to Children’s Hospital to do some community work. It was an element that Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald wanted to incorporate for this year’s camp to show the prospects the way the professionals act.
“One thing we try to instill in these kids is what it’s like to be a Penguin in all aspects,” Fitzgerald said. “One thing we added this year was the community work. You give back to your community. They’ll go around and play games with the kids to give back in that way.”
Below is the rundown on Day 2 of camp…
It was only about two weeks ago that defenseman Derrick Pouliot visited CONSOL Energy Center for the 2012 NHL Draft. On that day, host city Pittsburgh traded for the eighth-overall selection from Carolina, which the team used to pick Pouliot.
The 5-foot-11, 186-pound blueliner is back in the Penguins’ beautiful new building, but this time he’s lacing up the skates and hitting the ice with fellow prospects for development camp.
“It’s a new experience and a lot to take in at first,” Pouliot said. “It’s exciting, too. I’m having fun and learning a lot. It’s overall a good thing.”
Pouliot finished a stellar season with Portland of the Western Hockey League in 2011-12. He posted 59 points (11G-48A) in 72 games for the Winterhawks.
Pouliot also saw a lot of time on Portland’s top power-play unit, alongside teammate and fellow Penguins prospect Joe Morrow. The Penguins envision Pouliot as a future power-play quarterback in the NHL.
But Pouliot’s concentration for the summer and development camp is to get himself ready for Pittsburgh’s training camp in September.
“It’s starting all over. I’ve got to make a new team,” he said. “It’s back to square one for me. I’m looking forward to that moving ahead. That’s what I’m focused on.”
Pouliot, who said he is trying to add muscle and strength this summer, isn’t concerned about earning a roster spot in Pittsburgh in camp. Instead, he’s concentrating on putting together his best effort and letting everything work itself out.
“That’s up for the coaches and scouting staff to decide if I’m ready or not to play (in the NHL),” he said. “I’m going to come in with the mindset that I want to make the team. If not, I’ll be happy to go back to Portland for another year, develop and be ready as soon as I can.”
Penguins defenseman Scott Harrington has had quite a year. It began last summer in Minnesota when Pittsburgh drafted him in the second round (54th overall) at the 2011 NHL Draft.
Harrington went on to produce one of his best junior seasons with London of the Ontario Hockey League, leading the Knights to the league championship and finishing runner-up in the Memorial Cup. Harrington also played for Team Canada at the 2012 World Junior Championship, earning a bronze medal, and will participate in the upcoming Canada-Russia Challenge in August.
“It’s been a whirlwind, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” Harrington told the media Wednesday. “Starting last year at the draft, coming to development camp and training camp. Back in London we had a successful season, winning the OHL and then falling short in the Memorial Cup Final.
“I’m back in Pittsburgh this summer and heading over the Russia in a couple weeks. It’s been busy, but I’ve enjoyed it. As a hockey player, that’s what you want to do, be successful and be on the ice as much as possible. I’m looking forward to the rest of the summer.”
Harrington’s remarkable season all started with the time he spent in Pittsburgh last year for development camp and training camp. The things he learned during that time helped him elevate his game over the course of the year.
“It’s helped my confidence,” Harrington said. “Everything I learned in Pittsburgh and gaining confidence playing with such good players, I took that back with me to London. I thought I made a pretty smooth transition. I used the techniques and skills they taught me in London. I feel like I’m playing with a lot more confidence. I think it shows in my game.”
It’s hard to argue with the results.
Harrington was named an OHL First-Team All-Star after posting 26 points (3G-23A) and a plus-26 in just 44 games. He chipped in seven points and a plus-11 in 19 playoff games as London won the OHL championship.
Harrington added four points and a plus-7 rating for Canada to claim bronze in the World Junior Championships. And his crazy year concludes in the Canada-Russia challenge, which will be used to determine Team Canada’s roster for the 2013 WJC to be held Dec. 26, 2012 to Jan. 5, 2013 in Ufa, Russia.
But Harrington doesn’t mind the workload.
“The more hockey you play, the more your skills develop and the better you become,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate to play a lot of hockey this year and I think it’s helped a lot.”
I had a conversation with defensive prospect Philip Samuelsson, 20, and he brought up an interesting point about his 2011-12 season.
To briefly recap, Samuelsson started the year by deciding to leave Boston College after two seasons and one NCAA national championship. But his transition to the pro game wasn’t always smooth.
Samuelsson, Pittsburgh’s second-round pick (61st overall) at the 2009 NHL Draft, split the season between Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League and Wheeling of the ECHL.
Samuelsson, who is the son of former Penguin and two-time Stanley Cup champion Ulf, had to overcome adversity that he hadn’t yet experienced in his young hockey career.
“I’ve never really been forced to fight to get into the lineup,” he said. “I’ve taken that for granted almost. This put that into perspective. You have to go out and earn your ice time everyday. That’s something I improved on a lot the entire year.”
It was a valuable lesson that should only help Samuelsson as he moves forward in his career. After all, mental toughness is just as important as having the physical tools to play the game – and possibly even more important.
“I went through a lot of ups and downs during the season. You’ll have those in pro hockey,” he said. “I think I did a good job of handling that and kept working hard trying to get better.”
That mental toughness will be a key asset as he battles with other highly-regarded defensive prospects in the Penguins organization. But as Samuelsson pointed out…
“Competition is good. It makes you want to be better. This is a great place for defensemen. There are a lot of good D-men. It makes you work that much harder just so you can advance in the ranks.”
GUERIN REMAINS RETIRED
The media surrounded Penguins development coach Bill Guerin in the locker room. A reporter started asking a question by bringing up the fact that the Penguins were looking to fill a hole among their top-6 forwards.
Guerin quickly responded, “I’m retired.”
The reporter finished his question, asking Guerin if he believed a player of Shane Doan’s age, 35, had the speed necessary to keep up with a player like Sidney Crosby.
“Absolutely. If I could, he can,” Guerin joked. Adding, “I don’t know if Sid would agree that I kept up with him. I was last in line, I just didn’t want anybody to be left behind.”
Guerin did give Doan some accolades.
“I don’t know what’s happening, but any team with Shane Doan is a better team,” he said. “The guy’s a proven leader. He’s a warrior. He’d be a nice fit for us.”
The Penguins brass certainly holds defenseman Olli Maatta in high regard. The club was elated when the London Knight’s top-scoring blueliner fell to them with the No. 22 pick in the 2012 NHL Draft in June.
In fact, Maatta’s London teammate and fellow Pittsburgh prospect Scott Harrington gave him a ringing endorsement.
“The Penguins definitely got a steal where they got him,” Harrington said. “I definitely thought he’d go top 10 for sure. He’s just an all-around two-way defenseman. He does everything really well. He plays with a lot of poise and confidence.”
The prospects play a little 2-on-2 scrimmage.
Players gather around coach Hynes.
Goaltending development coach Mike Bales talks to Matt Murray.
Photo assist: Greg Fernandez
The players gather for off-ice workouts.
Pouliot works on his upper back.
Morrow showing good balance with the Warrior 3.
Dumoulin and Pouliot working the squat rack.
Zach Sill displays perfect form on his Warrior 3.
Unreal hops by Dumoulin to land atop the crates. Kris Letang, a fan of this particular workout, would be proud.
The prospects work on their quick release with strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar.
Velischek leading the pack.
Archibald buries a shot while the fake crowd goes wild.