The summer sun is slowly fading and that means one thing.
It is hockey season once again.
It is less than two weeks away from the first preseason contest for the Penguins, but the hockey season has officially begun as the team’s prospects travel to London, Ontario Tuesday for a three-game rookie tournament that includes matchups with Ottawa, Toronto and Chicago beginning on Thursday and culminating on Sunday.
Twenty-six of the Penguins top prospects, coached by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes and assistant coach Alain Nasreddine, will have one more opportunity to prove themselves before training camp opens next week.
“In this situation, these guys are competing against other prospects from other organizations, which intensifies the competition,” Hynes said. “Also within your own team you have players that are competing for opportunities within our organization come training camp.”
The Penguins prospect development camp in July offered the opportunity for players to be exposed to the Penguins’ system and how things are done on and off the ice at the professional level.
The 26 players headed to London have a chance to execute what they learned two months ago and prove to management and coaches they deserve serious consideration to move up the ranks.
“It’s the first opportunity for a lot of the players to understand how we do things as an organization and it’s a great opportunity for the younger prospects to come in and make an impression on really our whole staff,” said Hynes. “It’s one of the few times in the year when really you have all of the management, coaches and scouts in one place and to be able to compete against prospects of similar experience. It also gives them a good chance to play live competition, do a lot of the practice drills and understand how we want to play before they get themselves into the main NHL training camp.”
All 26 represent players in the Penguins system who are either playing at the major junior level or have begun their professional careers and will compete for spots with Wheeling, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Pittsburgh in the coming weeks.
This year’s top draft choice, goaltender Tristan Jarry, headlines a roster that also includes 2012 NHL Draft first-round selections Derrick Pouliot and Olli Maatta. Forwards Tom Kuhnhackl, Jayson Megna, Adam Payerl, Dominik Uher and Bobby Farnham all spent the majority of the 2012-2013 season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and will be suiting up for the Penguins in London.
Due to the early September tournament date, the Penguins top prospects still playing at the collegiate level such as Scott Wilson, Jake Guentzel and Teddy Blueger will have to wait to prove themselves in the rookie tournament format until they turn professional.
The on-ice action is not the only thing the collegians will be missing, but the opportunity to operate as a professional during the four-day span off the ice allows the prospects to begin to acclimate to life as a pro at the highest level.
“That is one of the things we try to take pride in is having an identity of not only how we want to play on the ice, but how we want to be as a team and a organization,” Hynes said. “It is really important for our guys. Although they are competing for different positions, the most success you can have is when you are on a good team and your team is doing well. That promotes individual success. So we do spend a lot of time on who we want to be as a team off the ice and making sure the guys get along and we have a good environment.”
The Penguins oppose the Ottawa Senators in Game 1 of the rookie tournament on Thursday, Sept. 5 at 2 p.m. The final two tilts include matchups with Toronto on Saturday, Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. and versus Chicago on Sunday, Sept. 8 at 2 p.m.
All three games can be heard live on Penguins Radio 24/7 with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton broadcaster Mike O’Brien handling play-by-play duties.
Click for a full rookie tournament roster and game schedule:
Thursday, September 5, 2013
2:00 p.m. Game vs. Ottawa
Saturday, September 7, 2013
7:00 p.m. Game vs. Toronto
Sunday, September 8, 2013
2:00 p.m. Game vs. Chicago
Be sure to follow www.pittsburghpenguins.com for the latest news throughout the week and weekend on the rookie tournament.