8:32am - Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 by DePaoli
Improved defensive play has some in the Penguins organization believing that 2012 1st round pick Derrick Pouliot, the 8th overall pick, is likely to emerge as a strong candidate for regular NHL action next season, sources say.
Pouliot made a strong impression on the Penguins coaching staff in training camp with his top end offensive skills but the Penguins and scouts outside the organization all seem to be in agreement that Pouliot is evolving into a more complete player.
That's what scouts coming out of the recent SuperSeries are telling me about Pouliot and if paired with a defensive minded defenseman at the NHL level, the Penguins could have two 20 year old defensemen in the lineup next season in Pouliot and Olli Maatta who has emerged as a regular already at age 19.
Pouliot has 7 goals, 25 points and a +13 rating in 24 games for Portland of the WHL. The Penguins are anticipating Pouliot to have a big role for Team Canada in the World Juniors, something the Penguins feel is going to be huge for his development.
Tough decisions loom for the Penguins brass as Brooks Orpik, Matt Niskanen and Deryk Engelland are free agents at seasons end, while top-5 prospects Scott Harrington and Brian Dumoulin project to also be pushing hard for NHL time next season.
Meanwhile, Simon Despres will be waiver eligible for the first time in his career next season. The Penguins hands will be forced on Despres to make him a regular or trade him for a forward as he would never clear waivers.
UPDATES ON TOP-5 PROSPECTS
1. D Olli Maatta / Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL) | 28 GP - 1 Goal - 4 Assists - 5 Points - +4
2. D Derrick Pouliot / Portland (WHL) | 24 GP - 7 Goals - 18 Assists - 25 Points - +13 (5 PPG)
3. D Scott Harrington / WBS-Scranton | 21 GP - 2 Goals - 6 Assists - 8 Points - +5
11:55am - Thursday, July 18th, 2013 by Dave Fryer
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS DEVELOPMENT CAMP 2013
DAY 3 ANALYSIS: SKATING SESSION
By Dave Fryer, Contributor to InsidePittsburghSports.com
â€˘ The first portion of Day 3 was dedicated to a power-skating session. Skating Coach Marianne Watkins took to the ice to lead the group, which had been condensed into one large group for today.
â€˘ Watkins focused heavily on technique, trying to reel in some of the common skating flaws seen by athletes trying to develop into professional hockey players. â€śI just hoped to show them a few things and give them things to think about,â€ť Watkins said afterwards. â€śA lot of these guys just need to undo a few bad habits to help their game.â€ť
â€˘ Skating skills tend to separate the men from the boys, as many a hopeful hockey player has never reached the NHL because of poor skating, despite a wealth of any other ability.
â€˘ Olli Maatta performed well in the drills centered around edge work. Just as he had shown over the first two days, Maatta has improved his skating tremendously since being drafted into the organization last year.
â€˘ Reid McNeill exhibited very good lower-body agility, showing why he has impressed this week and why he is capable of being more than just a tall body.
â€˘ Jake Guentzel, as hyped, is quick and shifty. He showed a very good ability to change direction quickly in drills involving tight turns in the neutral zone. He is also able to get back to top speed in just a few strides.
â€˘ Derrick Pouliot failed to impress in the skating drills, which was the opposite of what many may have expected coming into the week. His lack of lower-body strength seems to be holding him back, and he does not seem to have a lot of determination to push himself in this area. He is a much better player when there is a puck involved in the drill.
â€˘ Tom Kuhnhacklâ€™s skating may not be a strong suit, but it will never hold him back from advancing up the ladder either. He is not fluid, but he has explosive movements. His finesse game will come from his hands, which gives him a nice combination of lower-body power and upper-body grace.
â€˘ Oscar Sundqvist had some of his flaws exposed in the drills. He needs to develop a better knee bend, as he does not stay low through his sharp turns. Any time he needs to change direction, he opens up his stance and rises up his torso.
â€˘ There were only more positives for Adam Payerl today. He demonstrated good strength in his skating, getting up to top-end speed quicker than most would expect. He was certainly not the best skater on the ice at making sharp turns, but he held his own in that area. He also showed that he could drive his legs coming out of turns and get right back to the straight-line style that suits him well.
â€˘ The session ended with Reid McNeill being the demonstrator of acceleration techniques. Watkins explained to the players how the best way to get to full speed is to start facing straight ahead, rather than the common practice of standing sideways and beginning with crossover steps. McNeill revealed this quite well, as it was very evident that he was able to get to his top speed in far less space by following Watkinsâ€™ instructions. The demonstration also served as witness to McNeillâ€™s true ability to mix speed and agility with his natural size and strength.
â€˘ The skating session lasted just 30 minutes, but it tore up the ice pretty well and got some of the legs burning. A few players took some extra time with Watkins as the ice cut began, while the rest sought the nearest water bottle.
Day 2 Analysis Scouting the defenseman: McNeill starting to grab some attention, Harrington flashing all-around ability
1:48pm - Wednesday, July 17th, 2013 by Dave Fryer
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS DEVELOPMENT CAMP 2013
DAY 2 ANALYSIS: DEFENSEMEN
By Dave Fryer, Contributor to InsidePittsburghSports.com
Much of the spotlight in this yearâ€™s Penguins Development Camp is heavily on the defensemen. The Penguins are loaded with defensemen that are the strength of their farm system right now, and many of those players are pushing towards time at the NHL level within the next two to three years. Unlike the first day, which was filled with drills that focused on passing and shooting, Day 2 put the defensemen on display by introducing game-type scenarios, regroup drills, and even a little bit of physical play.
*Reid McNeill was not a name many people had on their radar coming into the camp, but the defensive-minded blueliner is starting to grab some of the attention. He showed good skills with the puck in several drills and has much better hands than expected out of a defensive defenseman. He is 6-foot-4, 204 pounds as a 21-year-old, and he is only looking to get stronger. He has arranged to work with the legendary Gary Roberts. Bill Guerin stated, â€śReid is one of those guys whoâ€™s very dedicated, very committed to giving himself a chance to play in the NHL. And heâ€™ll do whatever it takes. So we got together, and Gary was definitely the best option for Reid.â€ť With a year of pro hockey â€“ including a cup of coffee with Wilkes-Barre â€“ already under his belt, McNeil could be in a position for a breakout season.
*Derrick Pouliot stood out as the best defensemen in a few drills and struggled in a few others. Poulioutâ€™s skating, while not at an elite level, does not drop off much when he is in possession of the puck, which is not the case with most of the other defensemen. He is able to move the puck quickly in both passing and shooting situations, and his shot is very well-placed, instinctively knowing where to put the puck to create a rebound or get a deflection instead of trying to beat the goaltender from a low-percentage area. However, Pouliout did not fare as well against the rush when faced with one-on-one and two-on-one situations.
Philip Samuelsson is very opposite of Pouliot, to the point that the two could make for a very effective pairing because of how they make-up for what the other lacks. Samuelssonâ€™s offensive abilities are lagging behind the rest of his overall development, but he defends the attack exceptionally well and creates a physical presence without actually needing to make contact. Samuelsson will never be looked to as an offensive catalyst at the AHL or NHL level, but his offensive shortcomings are not of major concern. Todayâ€™s game still requires a good first pass from every defenseman, though, so he will need to hone in on that skill to push himself further along.
*Scott Harrington was one of the most-consistent defensemen across all the drills in Day 2. He is potentially the best among the defensemen at facing the two-on-ones, and he jumped out as having a very strong skating ability and awareness of the ice during a dump-and-chase drill, skills that were far superior to any other player in the drill. When Harrington beat Maguire with a quick release for a goal in the small-area game, he left little to find in his game that does not make him a strong candidate to log big minutes in the AHL this season and garner some consideration for NHL time in the near future.
*Olli Maatta got a much-anticipated opportunity to showcase his defensive talents in todayâ€™s session. He owns exceptional puck skills â€“ soft hands, accurate passing, and an effective shot (which he used to score a goal in the two-on-two game). He is noticeably a much stronger player from a year ago, and his skating has gotten better, as a result. He is deep into his knee bend and uses his edges really well. There is very little doubt that Maatta has the potential to reach the NHL and make an impact shortly after becoming a full-time professional, which is still at least another year away because he is ineligible to play in the AHL until his junior eligibility expires with the London Knights of the OHL. â€śI donâ€™t mind playing another year in London. That would be a good experience at getting better and getting stronger there,â€ť said Maatta. He did get a small taste of AHL action last year, though, by playing in 3 playoff games for Wilkes-Barre after his OHL season had ended.
6:47pm - Tuesday, July 16th, 2013 by DePaoli
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS DEVELOPMENT CAMP 2013
DAY 1 ANALYSIS
By Dave Fryer, Contributor to InsidePittsburghSports.com
The first day was broken into 2 sets of identical practice sessions, with 2 goaltenders and a mix of forwards and defensemen in each session. All drills were primarily centered on the basic skills of passing and shooting, with no contact, 1-on-1 play, or small-area games employed today. It was clear from the nature of the drills on the instructions being shouted by the on-ice staff that there is a strong emphasis on teaching the players how to better support the puck, getting to the right spot with speed, and communicating more to the player with the puck.
The players collectively looked a bit nervous and out-of-sync at the start of each session, especially the fresh faces to the organization. As Assistant to the General Manger Tom Fitzgerald phrased it, â€śItâ€™s still summer hockey.â€ť But the tempo and crispness of the drills picked up progressively as the players became more comfortable and more focused. The overall skill level on the ice seems well above what the average has been over the past few years of this camp.
*Goaltender Tristan Jarry, the teamâ€™s second-round pick in this yearâ€™s draft, immediately showed a lot of similarities to Marc-Andre Fleury, outside of the obvious distinction of wearing #29 at this camp. Like Fleury, Jarry stands rather upright as the play develops in his direction and sets quickly once the play is established in the zone. He is very apt to making an athletic save, despite joking afterwards with General Manger Ray Shero by asking, â€śIs the puck smaller here?â€ť
But aftermath of the shot may not always be so consistent or predictable, as was extremely evident with Fleury in his early exposure to the team and still lingers today. In the shootout at the end of his session, Jarry exhibited a strong tendency to retreat quickly after getting into his initial stance, often putting him right on the goal line as the shot was taken. His athletic nature has likely masked this habit during his early development, but that will be an area of his game he will need to improve upon as he reaches the critical stages of his career.
Manning the other net in the first session was Eric Hartzell, who is in his first development camp with the team but had the luxury of practicing with the NHL club over the final few weeks of last season. Hartzell is much more fundamental in his approach than Jarry, and the weakness in his game seems to be loose pucks around the crease. He doesnâ€™t seem to find the puck quickly, and while he looks to put himself in a good position in these situations, he is often not able to align himself properly to where the puck and potential shooter are coming from. At 24 years of age, Hartzell is easily the oldest goaltender in the camp (and 2nd-oldest overall), so his limitations have a lot less potential to be resolved. Still, he adds value to the strong corps of goaltenders Shero has now assembled in the system.
Bryan Rust showed good, simple skills around the net, which could translate into a third-line role at the NHL level down the road. Rust has steadily progressed since being brought into the organization through the draft in 2010. As a junior at Notre Dame last season, he led the team with a +25; tied for the team lead in assists, power-play goals, and game-winning goals; and was second in goals and points. He played the wing on the teamâ€™s top line with 2 other junior forwards, so Rust has the opportunity to be in a familiar situation and take another step forward in his game this coming season.
Tom Kuhnhackl shows a lot of skill with the puck on his stick, but may struggle to find his place in pro hockey due to the inability to win battles on the boards. He finished up his groupâ€™s on-ice session by working directly with Bill Guerin on that very thing. Kuhnhackl quipped afterwards about those battles with Guerin that, â€śHe didnâ€™t get [the puck] today!â€ť His lanky stature is still going to require some more strength, but he has a good frame at 6â€™2â€ť to gain some leverage already. If he can add to his lean 172 pounds, which he has struggled to do the past few years because of multiple injuries, he could progress along the same lines as Beau Bennett did over the past few seasons. Although Bennett is far-more gifted offensively, Kuhnhackl could find his niche by gaining a grittier component to his game.
The second on-ice group immediately offered a contrast in goaltending styles. Matt Murray and Sean Maguire were both drafted last summer, so that and the position they play is nearly the limit to their similarities. Maguire is very technical in his stance and movements, but he lacks quickness in his reactions and recovery ability to bring his game to an elite level. Even though Maguire is 6â€™2, Murray is actually visibly taller in the net at 6â€™4â€ť.
Murray goes a good job at getting set then reacts very quickly to the first shot and the rebound opportunity. Murray expressed afterwards that he has gotten stronger over the past year to improve his quickness and aid in making a few extra saves. â€śTo combine the size and the movement, if I can get in the right position, a lot of pucks are going to hit me,â€ť Murray added.
Philip Samuelsson has come a very long way since being drafted in the second round in 2009, particularly in his skating. Heâ€™s just a few days shy of his 22nd birthday and seems to be maturing accordingly with his size, skills, and poise. This will be an important season for the big defenseman as he looks to solidify his place among the plethora of talented defensemen in the Penguinsâ€™ system.
Derrick Pouliot has been hyped as a swift, explosive skater, but he did not show that as an elite strength on the first day. His stride seems a bit short and his recovery does not find his feet getting completely back underneath him. At merely 19 years of age, those are flaws that can easily be corrected, especially as the player continues to mature physically. The power-skating session scheduled for Thursday morning should serve as a great stage for gauging Pouliotâ€™s true abilities and shortcomings in this area.
At age 20, Scott Harrington already has the build to establish a presence on the ice at the professional level. Those physical numbers are impressive at 6â€™2â€ť and 205 pounds, but his offensive production was not where it was hoped to be last season in the OHL (19 points in 50 games). This is already his third development camp, and he seems ready to make the leap into pro hockey due to his size, skating ability, and quick release of the puck.
Jean-Sebastian Dea put up huge offensive numbers in juniors last season with 45 goals and 85 points for Rouyn-Noranda of the QMJHL. That failed to get his named called at the recent draft â€“ likely due to his small stature â€“ but it did earn him an invitation to the Montreal and Pittsburgh camps as an undrafted free agent. On Day 1 in Pittsburgh, the young centerman seemed a little out of his element in the early stages, often struggling to control the puck and make a crisp play.
But it takes a lot of skill to post 45 goals in the Quebec league, and he seemed to find his game as the session progressed. He should be an interesting player to watch as he continues to settle in over the course of the week as the only French-Canadian in the camp. â€śMaybe Iâ€™ll earn a contract over the summer. If not, Iâ€™ll keep working hard to have a good season again,â€ť commented Dea.
8:30am - Monday, July 1st, 2013 by DePaoli
The Pittsburgh Penguins 2013 draft class is highlighted by the selection of goaltender Tristan Jarry in the second round with the 44th overall selection. Pittsburgh moved up six spots in round 2, trading the 50th, 89th overall selections to the Columbus Blue Jackets for the 44th pick.
To get into the second round, the Penguins traded Tyler Kennedy to the San Jose Sharks for the 50th overall pick.
Overall the Penguins made six selections, three forwards, two defensemen and one goaltender.
Several years down the road when it's time to evaluate this draft, it's going to be all about how Jarry develops. Will the Penguins four to five years from now be saying they traded a role player in Tyler Kennedy who became too pricey and who they didn't want, for a long-term No. 1 goaltender? They strongly believe that could end up being the case.
â€śWe really liked this goaltender," GM Ray Shero said Sunday night. â€śOur guys had him rated very high and itâ€™s the direction that we wanted to go.â€ť
Jarry, 18, went 18-7-0 with a 1.61 GAA and .936 save percentage in 27 games for the Edmonton Oil Kings of the WHL. Jarry had 6 shutouts this season, tied for 2nd in the WHL. He is listed at 6-foot-2, 181-pounds.
Scouts regard Jarry as having excellent athleticism and very good lateral movement. Penguins Assistant Director of Amateur Scouting Randy Sexton called Jarry a potential No. 1 goaltender when speaking to reporters. "We see a potential starting goalie. Heâ€™s got very good size and he moves well," Sexton said.
Two officials tell me the Penguins had a first round grade on Jarry.
ANALYZING THE DRAFT CLASS
Center Jake Guentzel (5-9, 153), 3rd round (77th) - Had 29 goals and 73 points in 60 games for Sioux City of the USHL. A smallish player but the Penguins feel he is still going to grow a few inches. Plays a well rounded game, has some leadership qualities. Great vision with the puck, makes plays for his teammates. One scout tells me the feet need to improve but has a good first burst. Guentzel is committed to the university of Nebraska-Omaha.
Defensemen Ryan Segalla (6-1, 184), 4th round (119th) - Penguin scouts have made a priority the last two drafts of adding some denters in the middle rounds, selecting Clark Seymour in the 5th round of the 2012 draft and like Seymour, Segalla fits the mold and is a better prospect. Segalla is a hard hitting defenseman who makes it hard on the opposition and the Penguins really like his skating style for a physical minded defenseman. Segalla will be attending the university of Connecticut.