(Day 1 video 700K )
Training camp is a week away for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
However, some players will get an early chance to crack the NHL roster as the Penguins prospects will take part in a camp in Kitchener, Ontario.
The camp runs through Sept. 11 and the young players will have several practice sessions together before competing in a series of games against teams of prospects from the Maple Leafs, Senators and Panthers.
“For the first step for those young guys, there’s no doubt this is a good format – to be able to compete against other young players as well,” Penguins head coach Michel Therrien said. “There are going to be kind of two different categories of players: the guys who are taking their first steps in a professional camp and guys who are going to be fighting for jobs in Wilkes-Barre and then guys who are going to try to fight for a job in Pittsburgh. So, it should be interesting. It’s always fun to be parts of those kinds of tournaments. I have been there before and those types of tournament games are good games.”
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach Todd Richards and assistant coach Dan Bylsma will direct the prospects on the ice. Yet, the entire Penguins hockey staff, including general manager Ray Shero and assistant general manager Chuck Fletcher as well as Therrien and his assistants, will be on hand.
“Hockey is a team concept. The coaches from Wilkes-Barre – Todd and Dan – are going to try to establish something to have the people perform together, but there are some guys who know a big part of our system for a few years – [Ryan] Stone, [Jonathan] Filewich and [Tyler] Kennedy and [Kris] Letang, who was with us last year – those are the candidates to play in Pittsburgh,” Therrien said. “So, we’re going to pay attention to those guys and how they perform there and we’re expecting that they do well in that type of tournament. It is always a challenge for a coach to put something together to make sure the team performs. In the meantime, the players have to focus on their game. They have to focus about what they do well and try to make the best out of it.”
The Penguins prospects take on Toronto at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Florida at 2 p.m. on Saturday and Ottawa at 2 p.m. Sunday. They will play again Monday against an opponent and at a time to be determined. The unique event gives the young players a chance to show what they can do in actual game situations.
“There’s no doubt,” Therrien said. “Sometimes in training camps, some guys will put on the brakes because they don’t want to hurt a Crosby or a Malkin, but in the tournament games, they can go out and play their games – that’s why it’s a good evaluation.”
The tournament follows a week of meetings for the Penguins’ scouts as well as coaching staff.
“There were two different meetings: the scouts sat down together and the coaching staff had a meeting for the upcoming season,” Therrien said. “We like to do that every year. We go through everything. We pay attention to detail regarding our system, not only on the ice, but off the ice as well – the traveling, the team bonding and what type of practice we’re going to look for. This is something that needs to be done before the season. Once we start the season, we have to be ready and we’re ready right now.”
Therrien is eager to for the Penguins to open training camp Sept. 13.
“We’re all excited, coming off an exciting season last year,” he said. “I think the confidence with our players will be there compared with last year, they probably didn’t know where we were standing, compared to this year where it will help our confidence. It’s going to be a demanding season. If you look in our division, some teams really upgraded like Philly and the New York Rangers and we all know what New Jersey is able to do and the way Brodeur can perform. The schedule is going to be really demanding.”
Penguins Prospects Camp Roster
Defensemen: Robert Bortuzzo, Tyler Cuthbert, Jonathan D’Aversa, Alex Grant, Kris Letang, Ben Lovejoy, Jake Muzzin, Jean-Philippe Paquet
Forwards: Aaron Boogaard, Luca Caputi, Matt Caria, Jonathan Filewich, Kevin Henderson, Brian Ihnacak, Dustin Jeffrey, Joe Jensen, Tyler Kennedy, Mark Letestu, Kyle Rank, Ryan Stone, Tim Wallace
Goaltenders: David Brown, John Curry