The Penguins defeated the New Jersey Devils, 6-2, in the second game of the 2017 Prospects Challenge at HARBORCenter in Buffalo. Thoughts, musings and observations…
- When talking about what he expected from the prospects this weekend, Pens assistant GM Bill Guerin said the biggest thing is for these guys to make an impact in their own way - and to "get out there and do something." Jordy Bellerive has clearly taken that to heart. The youngest player on the roster, here on an amateur tryout contract after being invited to Pens development camp earlier this summer, scored a hat trick to give him four goals and an assist in two games. This weekend has been a dream come true so far for the 18-year-old, who went undrafted this summer. "My agent called me with a couple options for teams that wanted me to go to camp," said Bellerive, who plays for Lethbridge in the Western Hockey League. "Obviously it was an easy choice when Pittsburgh asked me to come to camp, the best organization there is. It's pretty special for me. I had a good feeling about Pittsburgh and glad I made this decision." While he was disappointed to not get his name called, he used the motivation of coming here to have a strong summer.
He's not the biggest guy at 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, but he uses his smaller, thicker frame to his advantage to win battles in the corners, use his speed on the outside to get pucks toward the net. "He's a very talented guy," Donatelli said. "Works extremely hard. He's not the biggest guy but he wins his 1-on-1 battles and he's just got to continue doing that. We like to play with pace and play fast and he seems to really enjoy that. He really fits into our system and you can see the results from tonight."
- After being held off the scoresheet in Friday's 3-2 overtime loss to Boston, Daniel Sprong got on the board Saturday. While WBS head coach Clark Donatelli was pleased with the chances Sprong got on Friday, the staff still wanted to see more from him offensively. They told him to be more assertive and not pass up any chances to use his release. Saturday, he did that - letting the puck fly whenever he got the chance, especially on the half wall on the power play. He got got rewarded when his one-timer flew into the back of the net. "Today, I stuck more to my game," he said. "I played a lot better that way creating a lot of chances for myself and for my team and try to build off that." He's still going through that process of being responsible defensively but also playing his game offensively.
- After Friday's game, Thomas Di Pauli said that he felt fantastic after dealing with numerous injuries last season that limited him to just 21 games. And while he was happy with his performance, he joked that he needed to start scoring, because he had about 10 chances and couldn't bury them. Today, Di Pauli put his words into action as he found the back of the net. He followed Adam Johnson up the ice, who decided to shoot instead of dropping a pass. And while that got blocked, Di Pauli picked up the loose puck and his shot banked off a defenseman and in. He was again impressive with how he can get the puck up ice and protect it on the way. "Now he's healthy, you can see the difference in him," Donatelli said. "He's got a little more jump, he's a little quicker."
- It's kind of funny using the term 'veteran' at a rookie tournament, but the Penguins are looking to the players who have been here before and spent time in the pros - whether it be Pittsburgh, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton or Wheeling - to use their experience to be leaders. That's certainly the case for Teddy Blueger, who has worn the "C" for both Friday and Saturday's games and scored a goal this afternoon. The center, who Donatelli called "a great human," has been on another level this weekend with how he thinks the game. He's not the fastest skater, but he's one of the smartest, and uses his hockey IQ to make sure he's always in the right position and making the right play. His game reminds me a little bit of Nick Bonino's, and I wouldn't be surprised if Blueger sees time in Pittsburgh this year being more of a responsible that can handle that side of the game at the NHL level. "He came in out of college as an offensive guy. He came into Wilkes-Barre and we made him a defensive guy playing against top lines," Donatelli explained. "But when he does force those turnovers and plays good solid defense, he can create offense and he can make really nice, nifty plays and he can score.
"He has that real offensive ability and is real solid defensively, he's one of our best penalty killers, and his skating has improved. It looks like he's gained half a step. He's going to be a good one."