When describing his first professional season, Pens goaltender Tristan Jarry admitted there were a lot of ups and downs.
He wasn't kidding…
* The 21-year-old, who won the Memorial Cup in 2014 with the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League, started as Matt Murray's backup in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League.
* The second-round pick (44th overall) in 2013 became the starter when Murray got called up to Pittsburgh.
* He ended up being Jeff Zatkoff's backup for the first two games of the Stanley Cup playoffs when Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury both got injured.
* He went back down to WBS for their playoff run…
* …Before coming back up to Pittsburgh to be a member of the 'Black Aces' taxi squad during their championship run.
Now, with Murray out the first 3-6 weeks of the season with a broken hand sustained while playing for Team North America at the World Cup of Hockey, Jarry could find himself back in Pittsburgh as the backup to Fleury.
"I think it's one of those things they said might happen throughout the summer and it's something that you want to work for," Jarry said. "If someone gets hurt you could be backing up. So it's one of those things you have to take into consideration going into the summer and you have to work your hardest. So if that does happen, you're ready for it."
Pens general manager Jim Rutherford said they'll discuss their options over the next few weeks, and there's a chance they would want Jarry to return to the AHL and continue to develop.
But Rutherford added that Jarry was "very good" at the 2016 rookie tournament in London, Ontario and has carried that into the first days of camp. I've been watching Jarry through all of that, and agree with Rutherford - the young netminder has been impressive.
"I think coming in from last year, the coaching staff and all the head staff wanted me to elevate my game to another level," Jarry said. "I think over the summer, that was my goal. Coming into camp, I feel that I've been able to do that."
Video: Tristan Jarry speaks with the media after practice
I think what's stood out the most is how refreshed he looks. After getting off to a strong start in the first part of last year, Jarry struggled somewhat in the second part in terms of handling the workload and dealing with fatigue. But even though it was a short summer, it looks like he got rid of all that. He's moving quick, his positioning is solid, his puckhandling is great, and most importantly of all, he looks calm, steady and comfortable.
"Going into last year, you might have a little bit of extra nerves because it was my first year going from junior to pro," he said. "But this year going in, you're comfortable with all the guys and you've known everyone and played with them last year, so it's just one of those things where you're comfortable and able to do what you do best."
His best game, said head coach Mike Sullivan, is what Jarry needs to bring every night if he does want to be here in Pittsburgh.
"I think he's had a solid couple of days here," Sullivan said. "Tristan is a very talented goalie. I think he has good habits. I think he's a guy that as he matures, he'll gain a better understanding of the game and just the consistent compete level that it takes to play at the NHL level. My experience of coaching younger players, both at the American League level and those that are trying to establish themselves at the NHL level is trying to bring your best game every day. That's what NHL players do, and it's hard. It's hard to do that. That's why it's hard to play in this league.
"I think Tristan is a guy that as he matures, he's going to learn and understand how important that compete level and that commitment to consistent focus is each and every day so that he can rely on his practice habits, his habits in general, to carry him throughout the course of the season. He had stretches down in Wilkes-Barre last year where he was terrific. Was a difference-maker on a lot of nights. I think the important thing from his standpoint is just understanding the expectation is from our standpoint is consistency of that effort and that focus. And we believe he's growing in that area."