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Penguins Report: Bon Voyage!

by Jason Seidling / Pittsburgh Penguins

Twenty-three Penguins prospects have boarded a bus and are headed to London, Ontario to participate in the team's annual prospect camp. We will be with them throughout the ride up and during the week to provide behind-the-scenes updates and camp reports.


8:41 PM:
Following practice at Western Fair Sports Centre we were able to catch up with a couple of the Penguins to talk about Friday night's practice, the bus ride up and what the guys are expecting over the next few days.

Tom Kuehnhackl

On the bus ride up and getting a practice in:
It was a pretty long ride up. I’m not sure if the other teams have quite as long of a ride as we had. We had a pretty good skate out there. Hopefully it allows us to have a pretty good game on Saturday.
On being at camp as a first-time participant:
I’m 18-years-old and a lot of people just dream to be here so I’m happy to have this chance. I am going to try to play my best hockey this weekend and help the team the best that I can.
On what the team worked on at practice:
We worked on getting the legs going again. We have a few new guys like me and a couple others so we have to work on our breakouts, the system and those types of things.
On what he expects from himself at camp:
I think they are going to be pretty hard-fought games against the other NHL teams. I am one of the younger guys so I am just going to try playing my game and not make mistakes. I am on a line with (Dustin) Jeffrey and (Eric) Tangradi so I will try to do the easy things to stand out like be the third man back and apply pressure. I am going to try to limit my mistakes and turnovers – especially in the neutral zone.

Brad Thiessen

On the bus ride up and getting a practice in:
It felt good to get the testing out of the way on Friday morning at CONSOL Energy Center and then get the bus ride up here. It’s now time to go to work so guys are ready to get after it out there on the ice. It was fun to get out there.
On going up against another team instead of an intra-squad scrimmage:
During the summertime you play a lot of shinny hockey as a team like we did in July. I’m looking forward to seeing another color on the other side going up against the good competition we will see up here.
On wanting to see a lot of shots this weekend to get ready for main camp:
It will feel good just to get out there and feel in the swing of things. I am sure there will be some nerves for everyone, but I’d love to get some shots in and get the feel of game action.
On what he is trying to get out of the next five days:
I just want to go out there and get my timing back because it has been a while since we have played games. I want to get a feel of game speed.

6:53 PM:
Now that the bus rides and warmups are over, the players are on the ice at Western Fair Sports Centre. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes, WBS assistant coach Alain Nasreddine and Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald are running the squad through a series of drills which are focused on re-implementing the Penguins system.




5:29 PM:
We have reached London, Ontario! The bus has arrived at Western Fair Sports Centre and the players have grabbed their gear and headed into the rink. The guys are now stretching in anticipation of their 6 p.m. practice.

On a side note, there is a pretty decent-sized fair right across the street. At 5 p.m. when we arrived it was already quite crowded. I provided a picture for everyone to see.





3:23 PM:
Are we there yet?!?! No, not quite. But according to our bus driver we are now just a little over an hour away from our destination: London, Ontario. To pass the time we have been watching movies.

We began the day by watching "The Dark Knight." We just concluded "Law Abiding Citizen" and put on movie No. 3 as Simon Despres (above) threw "Beerfest" to take us down the home stretch.

1:47 PM:
We just got back onto the bus after making a brief pitt stop along the way to stetch our feet and grab some coffee and snacks. Some of the other travelers who were at the rest area were Penguins fans and they noticed a couple of the players and wished them luck this weekend.

I think we have a little less than halfway to go, so we are getting closer to crossing the U.S.-Canada border. Here are some pictures from when we stopped a couple minutes ago.



12:29 PM: Well, I guess outside of updating a blog, there's not really a whole lot that you can do on a six-hour bus ride from Pittsburgh to Ontario, so many of the Penguins are taking this time to catch up on their sleep prior to hitting the ice for a 6 p.m. practice tonight.


12:22 PM:
First-year Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes and newly-appointed WBS assistant coach - and former Penguin - Alain Nasreddine will run the Penguins through prospect camp this weekend. They took a couple minutes earlier today today to speak to reporters at CONSOL Energy Center.

John Hynes

On his expectations of camp:
I think this camp is a great experience for the younger players to come in and be able to get familiar the culture and get re-acquainted with the systems that they will see at the main camp. For them to be able to come in and compete against players who have had similar experiences before they get to main camp is huge.
John Hunes speaks to reporters on Friday morning at CONSOL Energy Center.
On what the players have to do to set themselves up for main camp:
We try to provide a structure to how we want to play. It’s going to be the habits and things we want to teach the players. This is going to be a tournament where we want to see guys learn and develop throughout the week. It’s not just who they are on Day One but how they are after Day Four. Do they have the attributes we want to see at the main camp and where do we go from there.
On who stood out during physical testing:
Nobody stood out in particular. Everybody did great – the numbers were up from development camp in July. Everybody looks great and the body fats are down.
On how much the prospects can get from the development camp:
The development camp was more of a teaching environment for us because it wasn’t such a competitive environment. However, we did structure it so that we did work on our systems because we don’t have a lot of practice time and we did want to implement some of our systems so that when the players did come back now they would be more familiar with how we do things so that would set them up for success this week.
On the leadership at camp:
We have a couple of guys like (Eric) Tangradi and (Dustin) Jeffrey who had success in WBS last year and saw games in Pittsburgh. (Brian) Strait and (Robert) Bortuzzo are very familiar. We feel like we have great leadership that can help the players that are new.

Alain Nasreddine

On coming back to the organization:
It’s different to be on the opposite site of the fence. There is a lot for me to learn. The good thing is that I was here in the organization for five years. I know the system and I know management. That is always a big help. Everyone has been so supportive so far.
On having familiarity throughout the organization and how that appealed to him:
I think it makes a lot of sense that we teach the same thing in WBS that they are doing in Pittsburgh. It helps when a player gets called up so there so no surprise to him. I think that is good for everybody.
Rookie WBS assistant coach Alain Nasreddine spent five years in the Penguins organization as a player.
On the purpose of these camps:
I think it is good for the younger players to get more comfortable. I would have liked to have had a rookie camp like this when I was younger just to get into the facility and meet some of the players so that you don’t get into camp and sit next to a Sidney Crosby it won’t be as overwhelming. This will also help them learn the system a bit too before main camp.
On being a first-year assistant coach:
I have to go back a long ways because it was about when I was 26 or 27 that I thought about coaching. It’s not something that I decided overnight. It’s always something that I knew I was going to do after I was done playing. I just didn’t know when the timing was going to be right. Everything fell into place at the right time this summer and I got the opportunity.
On the biggest challenge of becoming a coach:
I think the biggest thing was to say that I am done playing hockey. I talked to a lot of my friends and family because once you make this decision there is no turning back. I talked to my wife a lot and I knew at the end of the day this was the right decision.

11:36 AM: Here are the first pictures of the Penguins inside the locker room at CONSOL Energy Center:




11:20 AM:
Several prospects were made available to the media earlier this morning in the locker room prior to leaving for London. One of the questions that was asked of most players was their impression of CONSOL Energy Center. Read to find out what the players had to say about the Penguins' gorgeous new home.

Eric Tangradi

On his impressions of CONSOL Energy Center:
It’s pretty nice. This place in unbelievable – probably the nicest sports facility I have ever seen. To see the locker room and the behind the scenes things – this is a really exciting place and I hope to play here some day.
On the differences between this prospect camp and July’s development camp:
I think it is going to be very competitive in London. Last year was really competitive and there was a lot of emotion in every game. I think us older guys have to take on a leadership role and show the young guys the way because there are a lot of new faces within the organization. For me personally, I am going t o carry on a leadership role and I want to get that game shape in. I haven’t played five-on-five hockey yet this summer. I think I am going to use this week to get myself ready for main camp.
On what the Penguins expect from him:
I just have to play my game – which is to be a power forward. Up in London I’m going to get to the front of the net as much as I can and play a power forward game. I am not going to change just because it is a rookie tournament. I’m going to do the things there that are going to make me successful here and try to get that mindset ready for next week.
On looking at the potential roster:
At this point no. Maybe during the summer I looked at the depth chart and said this could be my year. I used that to motivate me during the summer. I worked extremely hard during the summer and I feel like I am in the best shape of my life. All that I can ask of myself is to lay it all on the line and if it goes well that’s great and if not, I’ll learn from the experience.
On the forwards the Penguins added over the last month:
If I do my thing and I am successful here at camp then everything will take care of itself. I am looking forward to the opportunity and laying it all on the line. You always want to improve your team. That is something that Pittsburgh has done in the past. They want the best possible team they can on the ice at all times. Being a prospect you can’t look too much into that. I just have to do my thing and everything else will take care of itself.
On where he has improved the most:
I think my skating has come a long way. Last year when I played the last game of the season against the Islanders I thought my speed and size were there. After this summer I think those are areas that can be even more effective for me.

Dustin Jeffrey

On the mindset he needs to get to Pittsburgh:
This is the start of camp for us. A lot of the older guys are still skating and working out, but for us it starts for us right now. The coaches, Ray Shero, Tom Fitzgerald – everybody is coming up here so this is our time to make an impression.
On the competition that is going to exist at camp:
I think it is going to be very tight. Obviously they signed Arron Asham and Mike Comrie. They don’t have a lot of spots for young guys so it is going to have to be something that we earn. We are going to have to make them open a spot for us. For young guys, that is usually how it is.
On playing prospects from other teams:
This is a chance to really get into the systems and really get into the mindset of how Pittsburgh wants to play. It’s the same system that we used during the development camp in July and in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last year. It’s a chance to get back into the swing of things in a game that means something instead of a shinny game after a skate.
On his experience at past camps helping him:
It’s something that I hope I can use, but I haven’t been able to crack the lineup yet so I still have to work hard. I have to do better than I have before to stick in the lineup.

Brian Strait

On his impressions of CONSOL Energy Center:
This building is unbelievable. It’s more unbelievable than anybody thought it would be. Just walking in here for the first time yesterday and seeing what you are working towards – playing in a place like this – it’s definitely something for everyone in this room to work for.
On how important this camp is:
You have to start building now. I know what my foundation as a player is and what they are expecting from me. I have to put my pedal on the gas and start playing some hockey here and show them what I can do for this organization. I hope to carry what I practice into the games this weekend and then into main camp next week.
On what the organization is expecting from him:
That I can be a solid defender and a smart player out there. I have to be a good player on the penalty kill. I also have to make good decisions with the puck. That’s what I expect out of myself and that is what they told me is going to make me a Pittsburgh Penguin, so that’s what I have to do to make it.
On playing the numbers game in his head:
I did that a lot last year and it is mentally draining. This year I am coming in here relaxed. That is something that I have learned. You just have to come in here and play your game. You have to be confident, know what you are doing and just have fun out there.

Simon Despres

On what he is expecting during the tournament:
I just want to gain some confidence because I haven’t played a real game since last year during the playoffs for my junior team.
On what he hopes to get from camp:
This going to help us kind of learn to play together as a team. I think that the games are going to be very physical and gritty. That’s going to help get you ready for the big camp.
On what he did workout-wise this summer:
I tried to get more powerful and work on my flexibility.

Alex Grant

On his summer:
I had a great summer. I went home for a month or so, I was in August for a month and now I have been in Pittsburgh skating for the past month or so with the guys. These have been good workouts here so I am looking forward to camp for sure.
On the CONSOL Energy Center:
It’s an unbelievable facility. It’s massive. The dressing room is outstanding. Just to sit in here is special. Hopefully I’ll be sitting here some day.
On offseason additions:
I don’t have control over the moves the team makes. I just have to go out there and play my game and play the best that I can so that I give myself an opportunity to earn a spot. I am going to go into rookie camp like it’s the first time I have ever been there, try to make a good impression and go from there.
On what the team is looking for in him:
They are looking for me to play steady hockey and keep it simple. I have to make the first pass, join the rush and be very solid defensively. Basically just play my game.
On his rookie season last year:
I learned that it is a big jump from junior. I wasn’t ready right off the bat. I went down to Wheeling and got a lot better. Towards the end of the season I could really see myself keeping up with the pace a lot better.

11:10 AM:
Twenty-three Penguins prospects gathered in the Penguins locker room at CONSOL Energy Center this morning for a media session in advnace to their trip to London, Ontario for a five-day, three-game prospect camp against the Ottawa Senators, Chicago Blackhawks and Toronto Maple Leafs. Currently, the team is aboard a bus and en route up Route 79 heading to Canada.

The Penguins are scheduled to practice tonight at 6 p.m. in London at the Western Fair Sports Centre in advance of Saturday's 2 p.m. contest versus the Ottawa Senators. On Sunday the Penguins take on the Toronto Maple Leafs at 7 p.m. before concluding the tournament against the Chicago Blackhawks at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.

Click here to read our prospect camp preview with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes.
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