Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach Todd Reirden, one of the main instructors at the Penguins prospect development camp, took time on Saturday to talk to reporters about the week.
On the evaluation and skill level of the players at this year’s camp:
I am really excited about the talent level. I think our most recent draft class brings a lot of different skill levels to our organization. I think this has been the hardest-working group we have had at development camp. We did take it up another level in terms of what the expectations were this year from the guys. It’s been a difficult week on them. They have been full days but fair days. In terms of my basic overview of how camp went – I was really surprised by the work ethic from these guys. Sure, the execution in practice drills wasn’t always perfect and sometimes the ice conditions weren’t always great, but one thing that never lacked in anything that they did was their work ethic this week. I was really impressed by that. It is different – particularly for the 18-year-olds coming into a situation like this – because these are full 12-hour days by the time they come to the rink to get their workout in and the seminars that we have that continue to build them as overall people.
On needing to accelerate prospects’ development due to the salary cap and other factors:
I think the last two years we have really put an emphasis on making sure that we are giving them all the tools and resources that they need on and off the ice to make sure they are prepared when they come into camp. The way the salary cap structure is in our organization, we are going to need these guys to play for us. We can start to put the thoughts in their minds systematically in terms of how things are supposed to look and with the terminology we use. An 18-year-old, we might not see him here in Pittsburgh for another four or five years. That’s fine because even though he hasn’t been with us, he still spent a full week here getting on board with what we are all about. For a college player, if they have to spend time with Wheeling or Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before they get here, to me that is all about the process of preparing these guys to come up here and have success. I think it certainly helps to create the brand that we are creating here. It allows the players to be set up for success when they do one day earn the chance to be in the Penguins locker room. They are not uncomfortable and they know exactly what is expected out of them. They are able to just come in and show us their skill level instead of second-guessing themselves and feeling a little bit out of sorts. This is where it all starts for me. I think the best number I can share with you guys is that from our past three camps, 16 guys from these development camps have gone on to play National Hockey League games. That just shows what the success of the whole process is. I am really a strong advocate of camps such as these.
I think the best number I can share with you guys is that from our past three camps, 16 guys from these development camps have gone on to play National Hockey League games. That just shows what the success of the whole process is. I am really a strong advocate of camps such as these. - Todd ReirdenOn helping players eliminate bad habits:
I think that what happens is that we are getting the best players from every team for the most part. Whether it’s high school, college or junior hockey, these guys are among the top-three players on their team. Sometimes the tendencies from youth and amateur hockey coaches is that you give you best players a little more leniency in terms of attention to detail because their skill level is so much better. I think that this week they got a little reminder that they aren’t the best player anymore. We talked about the habits that they have to instill in themselves to build the proper foundation for themselves as a player. Some of that is recreating a different way to play or a different role that we see them filling down the road as an NHL player. They might have had success in junior hockey playing a certain way, but how does that translate when they become a professional. That’s what I mean when I talk about our brand and the way that we work. We play a certain style of hockey – an aggressive, fast-paced game. You can be aggressive and fast-paced, but if you are not going to the right areas and you are not doing it with the right mindset then you are never going to do it at the level we want. That has been instructed quite a bit this week on the ice. We have also showed them video on that and given them handouts. We are trying to get that image and thought into their minds so they can take advantage and showcase their talents when they get an opportunity.On the competition signing a defenseman such as Corey Potter brings:
It creates a lot of competition for us along the blue line. I think it puts us in a situation where – as an organization we have always had the believe that we want to give our young players the best chance to play in the National Hockey League, but we don’t want to force them to be there. There are too many cases where people are put in the NHL at an early age and then they stumble a little bit. Then they have to come back (to the AHL) and regroup a little bit. This way you create competition and the best player will be able to come up and fill in depth-wise. Potter is a guy who comes to us highly-recommended. We did a lot of scouting work and made a lot of phone calls. He can move and play a two-way game. He can shoot the puck well and provide some offense. I think he is going to be in that competitive situation for a five, six, seven or eight spot – however that shakes itself out between Ben Lovejoy
, Deryk Engelland
, Andrew Hutchinson and Steve Wagners. Then you also have Brian Strait
and Robert Bortuzzo
. It’s a great situation to have. That pushes everyone to get better. Now we have signed everybody. There are players on two-way contracts who will have a chance to play in the National Hockey League. If they are playing the best then they will be rewarded. That was exactly how it worked last year. We had 13 different guys come up. I think Corey is an interesting guy because of his status. He is just below that veteran status – you can only have a certain number of veterans in the AHL – and he is just below that level. He is five games below that level so you get the most-veteran player who was a leader in Hartford. He is somebody that we are looking to compete for a spot in Pittsburgh. We will be lucky to have him if he comes down to WBS.