The Pittsburgh Penguins youth hockey camps are all about educating youngsters and having fun.
Plenty of both took place Wednesday at the Ice Castle in Castle Shannon as nine prospects from the Penguins’ rookie conditioning camp made appearances as guest instructors at the Penguins’ youth scrimmage camp.
Luca Caputi, Jonathan D’Aversa, Alex Grant, Dustin Jeffrey, Nick Johnson, Patrick Killeen, Mark Letestu, Nathan Moon and Casey Pierro-Zabotel all hit the ice to work with camp instructors Mike Yeo, Phil Bourque, Derek Schooley, Besa Tsintsadze and others.
“It’s great. It’s good to see a city like Pittsburgh so enthralled with hockey. It’s fun to help the kids out in any way you can,” Johnson said. “We don’t have to do a whole lot, maybe just pass the puck around to them, but I think it brings a smile to a bunch of their faces, so it’s a nice experience for us to get away from the weights and ice for a bit and come over, help out and have fun.”
It was the second-straight year Caputi helped out at the Penguins’ youth scrimmage camp.
“Coming back, it’s fun to see the kids having a good time,” he said. “When you’re young, you always dream of having guys from NHL teams come out on the ice with you and it’s fun to see smiles on their faces.”
The youth camp participants are going through a week filled with drills and scrimmages – and a lot of fun, too.
“This is my fifth year working at the camp and the turnout has been incredible. We have 140 kids out here in four different age groups. What’s great about the camps is you really get to see how much hockey has really grown in this area and how the talent level has become so much better,” Bourque said. “You have to find that fine balance of having fun, but also working your tail off. So, that’s one thing Mike Yeo and I try to do. The first part of the skates will be working on specific skills and working hard, but we always leave them with something fun at the end. That’s the key – their lasting impression from here is that they knew they had a good time and worked hard.”
Once again Yeo, a Penguins assistant coach, served as a lead instructor at the camp.
“I love it. It’s so different than what we do during the regular season,” he said. “Obviously, I love working with the professionals and world-class players we have, but to come out here is just a different experience because it’s so much fun for these kids. They love every minute of it. For me, also, to have my own kids out here and enjoying it is also fun.”
In between instructional sessions, the Penguins prospects signed autographs and posed for pictures.
The scrimmage camp concludes Friday. For more information about the Penguins’ youth hockey programs, click here.