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Penguins Report: Rookie Tournament

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

There are 26 Penguins prospects here (14 of them NHL draft picks), and many of them are in different situations. So I decided to ask 6 different players one question that I figured they may answer differently depending on their status: how do they view this tournament? What do they hope to accomplish?

Unsurprisingly enough, the word that was used the most was "opportunity." See what they said below...

Nine players have appeared in the AHL - forwards Bobby Farnham, Tom Kuhnhackl, Jayson Megna, Adam Payerl, Dominik Uher and defensemen Philip Samuelsson, Brian Dumoulin and Reid McNeill. We wrote a story earlier this summer about how the Pens are expecting a lot from Payerl, Megna, and Kuhnhackl. And honestly, I believe the Pens are expecting a lot from all of their forwards that played in the AHL. They all have a chance to make an impact.

Three defensemen are looking to make the transition to professional hockey this season. Scott Harrington (London, OHL), Harrison Ruopp (Prince Albert, WHL) and Nick D'Agostino (Cornell, NCAA) do not have any more eligibility remaining with their respective college and junior teams.

A few of Pittsburgh's high-end draft picks will be competing in the rookie tournament for the first time, including this year’s top draft pick, goaltender Tristan Jarry, and previous first-round selections Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta, who were chosen eighth and 22nd overall, respectively, in the 2012 NHL Draft.

As I was standing behind one of the nets taking these pictures, an unexpected wave of happiness washed over me... because photographing Penguins hockey players means the start of the season is near. Yay!

Cool view of the ice

I swear to God the Penguins players are doing a flying V in this photo

Billy G. calling for a pass

London Knight Olli Maatta curls up the ice during a drill

Like Maatta, Scott Harrington played for the London Knights. But he has to turn pro this upcoming season.

It's a bird, it's a plane...

Like Harrington, defenseman Nick D'Agostino is also turning pro after four years at Cornell.

Tom Kuhnhackl called me out for taking pictures of everyone. I told him I would only put a flattering one of him up.

Notice something missing?...Pouliot's long hair, or as the kids say, "flow." He said he had to cut it when he went to Team Canada's national junior team evaluation camp.

Matt Murray is one of three goaltenders at this camp. He signed an entry-level contract along with Tristan Jarry this morning.

Speaking of Tristan Jarry...

Coach Hynes demonstrates a drill

Wonderful to see all these Penguins jerseys

Brian Dumoulin winds up for a shot

It looks like Eric Hartzell may be talking smack to Scott Harrington across coach Hynes

Philip Samuelsson retrieving a puck while Jayson Megna becomes an outlet

Dom Uher and Tom Kuhnhackl whisper while Billy G. looks serious

Group shot!

While we wait for the guys to start practice, here's some info about the tournament. Pittsburgh’s roster has 14 forwards, nine defensemen and three goaltenders and includes a trio of defensemen who have played for the Knights in Scott Harrington, Reid McNeill and Olli Maatta.
A few roster notes...
  • During the past two seasons, Harrington and Maatta (who is eligible to play for London again during the 2013-14 season) have been key contributors on the blue line while leading the Knights to back-to-back Memorial Cup berths. In addition to playing for the Knights between 2009-11, McNeill is also a London native.
  • Pittsburgh’s rookie tournament roster features 7 players who spent a majority of the 2012-13 season playing professionally with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton – forwards Bobby Farnham, Tom Kuhnhackl, Jayson Megna, Adam Payerl and Dominik Uher, and defensemen Brian Dumoulin and Philip Samuelsson.
  • Also scheduled to dress for the Penguins is goaltender Tristan Jarry, Pittsburgh’s 2013 second-round draft pick whose 1.61 goals-against average led the Western Hockey League (WHL) in ’12-13, and 2012 first-round draft pick (8th overall) Derrick Pouliot, who averaged better than a point per game in the WHL with 45 points (9G-36A) in 44 regular-season contests.
  • Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes and assistant coach Alain Nasreddine will oversee the tournament.

While waiting for the prospects to load onto the bus this morning, our assistant GM Jason Botterill jokingly told me to keep the guys in line. Well, it turns out he didn’t have to worry as they were quiet and behaved for the entire trip. And none of them brought any movies – sigh.

I ended up with my own seat (score!) but all of the prospects had to double up. And there was some debate over whether the rookie-rookies sit in the front or in the back (they all do it differently with their junior/college/pro teams), but it ended up that the youngest guys sat in the front. Meaning I had 2013 second-round pick goalie Tristan Jarry, who signed an entry-level contract this morning, right behind me.

All of the prospects were on time for our 9:30 a.m. departure, but we ended up leaving slightly later as we had to wait for Jimmy John’s to get here with our boxes of sandwiches for lunch. We ended up driving straight to London without stopping once for food or bathroom breaks, but Billy G. being the guy that he is checked with me first to make sure I was okay with that or if I would need to stop. He is seriously the greatest.

Other staff members on the bus were assistant to the GM Tom Fitzgerald, WBS head coach John Hynes, WBS assistant coach Alain Nasreddine, WBS strength and conditioning coach Joe Lorincz and Penguins trainer Pat Steidle. At the beginning of the trip Joe was going over the results of the physical and medical testing with the coaches, which was cool hearing them debate.

We got to the arena around 4 p.m. and the guys are scheduled to be on the ice for practice at 5 p.m.

All loaded up and ready to go

Doing my homework on the bus

Gotta have the traditional "getting off the bus" pic!

That's Olli Maatta, Gatorade, water and banana in hand. The blonde hair is a dead giveaway.

And there's London native Reid McNeill.

Derrick Pouliot cutting his stick after we arrived


Before we left, WBS head coach John Hynes, who will oversee the Penguins prospects in London with his WBS assistant coach Alain Nasreddine, talked to our new intern for the fall semester Dave Uhrmacher about what this rookie tournament is and why it's important. Full story here.

Hello from a bus full of prospects, Penguins fans! We are currently making the trip to London, Ontario for the 2013 Rookie Tournament. I’m not sure how long the drive will be; Google Maps said it could be either 5 hours, 37 minutes or 6 hours, 16 minutes. We will see, I guess. Either way, we’re going to be here for a while, so hopefully the guys pick some good movies to watch and we stop at least once for food.

Our staff was kind enough to let me ride along with the players, so thank you to them for that! It may be a long ride, but at least player development coach Billy Guerin is on the bus (he is the absolute best). I’ll try and have updates from the trip here in the Pens Report and then we are driving straight to the arena for practice at 5 p.m., so I’ll have more from that.

The Penguins invited 26 players to participate in this three-game tournament, where they will be competing against prospects from the Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks at Budweiser Gardens – home of the two-time defending Ontario Hockey League (OHL) champion London Knights. And home, of course, to Penguins prospects and Knights defensemen Scott Harrington and Olli Maatta.

Our organization last went to the tournament back in 2011 in Oshawa, Ontario, but PensTV and the website were able to travel to London last fall to visit Scott and Olli (see the Pens Report from our visit here). We fell in love with the city and the arena while we were here, so I’m thrilled to be back.

Here’s their schedule for this week…

Wednesday, September 4, 2013
5:00 p.m.         Practice at Budweiser Gardens
Thursday, September 5, 2013
2:00 p.m.         Game vs. Ottawa
Friday, September 6, 2013
9:30 a.m.         Practice at Budweiser Gardens
Saturday, September 7, 2013
11:30 a.m.       Morning skate
7:00 p.m.         Game vs. Toronto
Sunday, September 8, 2013
2:00 p.m.         Game vs. Chicago

Stay tuned for our coverage throughout the next few days! And enjoy.
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