Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes is heading up the Penguins 2011 prospect development camp at CONSOL Energy Center, which runs from July 11-16. Here are a few points of interest that Hynes has shared with the media over Days 1 and 2 on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Before the first practice of the week began on Tuesday, Hynes outlined the mindset of the Penguins staff members running the camp.
“One of the things we like to do is really educate the younger players on what it takes to be a Pittsburgh Penguin and really what our culture is as an organization,” he said. “It’s really a holistic approach to the camp. There’s not as many competitive situations as far as daily scrimmages – it’s more about educating them on how we want to practice, the types of drills that we run and things that we want to implement systematically. So when the players come back for rookie camp or training camp, they’re on the same page and they know what to expect.
“Their workouts throughout the week will really mirror what they would do if they were in Pittsburgh or in WBS. Off the ice, the team building and team camaraderie exercises are all things we want to be able to challenge them with. With competitions and having them work together and getting them outside of their comfort zone. It’s a great situation for the guys to really get a feel for how we do things as an organization, and really, what to expect in the coming months, whether they’re going to go back to their college programs or to junior programs. They’ll know what we expect and the things we want to see from them in the future.”
Last summer marked Hynes’ first Penguins prospect development camp, as he had just finished his first season with the organization as WBS assistant coach.
Hynes is now WBS head coach, meaning he’s the man in charge this week at CONSOL Energy Center, and he appreciates how his role in last year’s camp helped him prepare for this one.
“The whole transition is enjoyable,” he said. “It was nice that I was able to come into the organization and really go through everything for one year just to see the philosophy of how things get done and get to know people a little bit better.
“This year’s been great. We’ve taken a lot of the ideas that we’ve had from last year and just kind of continued to build on them. There’s really a model that’s been put in place, so we kind of just follow that up and we kind of tweak things here or there.”
Hynes couldn’t say enough about the impact that Bill Guerin, the Penguins’ new player development coach, is already having on the organization in his new role.
“He’s got an excellent personality with the players,” Hynes said of Guerin. “He’s an outgoing, funny guy. He’s really got a good relationship with the players. It’s not just his reputation.”
Hynes noted that Guerin, who retired on Dec. 6, 2010 as a Pittsburgh Penguin with 18 NHL seasons under his belt, had already began working with him and his staff in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton at the end of the regular season and through the playoffs,
“He was a great resource to the coaching staff, because the great thing is that he just got done playing,” Hynes said. “He really understands what the players are going through.
“The thing I’ve been the most impressed with is his willingness to work. He’s so approachable to the players and to the staff that he’s going to be a great asset for everybody because of his knowledge and personality.”
After quelling the initial nervousness of the first day of camp and gaining some familiarity with each other, Wednesday’s practice flowed much more smoothly than Tuesday’s.
“It was the second day, so they felt a little bit better,” Hynes said. “They know each other a little bit more. We had a bowling tournament last night where they loosened up a little bit there, and we had a good time with that.”
Wednesday’s practice concluded with a lively, intense 3-on-3 scrimmage played on one end of the ice. While this week is all about development, Hynes explained that the Penguins have incorporated an element of competition into most of the activities, as one of the organization’s most prized values is compete level.
“One of the things we have done at the camp is we have a running competition,” he said. “So when the players get here, we split them into two teams and we have an individual champion at the end of the week. They had a nutrition lecture Tuesday, so at the end of the lecture they get questions. And if the guys get questions right, they get a point. We have it on the standings board in the locker room.
“Every day on the ice – Tuesday was the shootout and today was a 3-on-3 scrimmage – the winning team gets points. That's why today’s scrimmage really became competitive. … That is part of the camp. We talk to them about how we want to have guys that can compete and enjoy that process. We do develop throughout the week with a lot of activities, but everything almost has a competitive element to it.”
The purpose of this prospect development camp is to teach the attendees what it takes to be a Pittsburgh Penguin and what the organization’s culture is.
But for those prospects that aren’t making the jump to the professional ranks just yet, how do they balance what the Penguins are trying to teach them with the demands of their junior or college clubs?
Well, Hynes and the rest of the staff are certainly teaching them the details that make the Penguins’ systems and philosophies unique. But they believe the messages the Penguins prospects take back with them to their respective teams can translate into any system.
“When they go back to their teams, it’s more taking back the identity of how we want to play,” Hynes said. “We want guys who have great work ethics. We want guys that are going to play physical, are going to be aggressive and are going to play fast. Those are things they can take in any system that they play.
“One of the things we do is give them a foundation of what our systematic structure is, and over the course of 1-3 years – by the time they either turn pro or are going to be in Wilkes-Barre or Pittsburgh – they have a really good idea of how we want to play all of our systems. But when they leave and go back to separate teams, it’s more about the attributes of how we want to have our players play, which is relentless, fast and physical, playing both sides of the puck equally hard. Those are things we would expect them to do whether they’re in our organization playing with us or if they’re in juniors or college.”