While the Penguins crop of prospects run through on-ice drills and off-ice workouts at his week’s development camp, defensemen Derrick Pouliot can only sit and watch.
Pouliot, 20, continues to recover from offseason shoulder surgery that is forcing him to miss this week’s camp and possibly the start of training camp.
“Everything is coming along good. Progressing as it should,” Pouliot said. “Hopefully it will be a speedy recovery.”
Pouliot, the reigning Canadian Hockey League Defenseman of the Year, underwent shoulder surgery on May 21. The surgery was performed by Dr. Dharmesh Vyas at UPMC and recovery time is expected to be 4-6 months.
“It’s tough to tell,” Pouliot said when asked if he’ll be healthy by training camp. “It’s only eight weeks or so. I’m just starting to get the rehab going. We haven’t had a lot of high tempo. It’s tough to say. Hopefully, (I’ll be ready) for training camp, but we’ll have to see.”
Pouliot is coming off of one of his finest seasons of hockey. Pittsburgh’s first-round pick (eighth overall) in the 2012 NHL Draft placed third among Western Hockey League blueliners during the regular season with a career-high 70 points (17G-53A) in 58 games with the Portland Winterhawks – while being coached by current Penguins head coach Mike Johnston.
In the postseason, Pouliot finished first among WHL defensemen with 32 points (5G-27A) in 21 games. Pouliot and the Winterhawks reached the WHL Final, but lost in Game 7 to the Edmonton Oil Kings and fellow Penguins prospect goaltender Tristan Jarry.
Pouliot played four-plus seasons with Johnston in Portland, so he’s very familiar with the type of coach the Penguins will have next season.
“He’s a very good coach, a very smart man,” Pouliot said. “He doesn’t show emotion too much. He doesn’t really get mad. He’s a very smart man and he gets his players to do what he wants.”
The Penguins are hoping that some of their blue chip defensive prospects will make the jump to the NHL this season. There are a few openings on the roster at defense. Pouliot is one of those players that could make the leap this season, but before that happens he’ll need to complete his recovery.
“It’s an opportunity for some of the younger guys to step up and earn their spots,” Pouliot said. “First and foremost (for me) I’m going to have to get healthy again.”