It may be summertime, but it’s hockey season in Pittsburgh – at least for a week.
The Penguins’ rookie camp is all about bringing the organization’s top prospects together for a week of bonding. However, there is some serious hockey going on when the players hit the ice at the Iceoplex at Southpointe or go through physical testing at Mellon Arena.
For Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach Todd Richards, who is running the camp along with assistant Dan Bylsma, things are going well as they work toward achieving their goals in the week-long camp.
“For us, it’s three things. I think the first thing is to get all these guys in here and get them stronger. I think we can get a base for them for their training, so when they leave here, they can grow off that,” he said. “It’s to teach them the proper techniques, the proper lifts – the things that we want to do.
“That kind of leads into the second, which I think is educating, teaching and assessing. I think all three of those things go together. From teaching them how to eat, to getting the proper rest; we brought in a mental trainer who we used in Wilkes-Barre last year that we really like. She talked about how to think, attitude and ways you can prepare, visualization – just different techniques that players can use nowadays. We always talk so much about training the body, but so much of it is also training the mind.
“We’re teaching and assessing, too. We’re seeing some guys for the first time. Through training off the ice and on-ice sessions, hopefully we can pick out strengths and weaknesses,” he continued. “We’ll probably focus more on their weaknesses and get them to focus on this. Hopefully, it gives them something they can learn from and take home and make them better players or at least give them a better chance to succeed.”
Also, Richards and Bylsma stress the importance of bonding.
“I think the very last thing is to create bonds. A lot of these guys are coming together for the first time and they haven’t met each other and they don’t know the coaches,” Richards said. “Down the road, three, four or five years from now, hopefully, a lot of these guys will be playing with each other – hopefully playing in the NHL with the Pittsburgh Penguins. They may be playing with us down in Wilkes-Barre and some will move on, but the goal is to create those bonds. I think if you can create that family atmosphere right away, that is something that is very, very powerful when you have a group who really cares for each other. That all starts in situations like this.”
The Penguins prospects return to the ice Thursday for a 3 p.m. practice at the Iceoplex at Southpointe. The session is open to the public – as is Saturday’s scrimmage at the same time and location.