PITTSBURGH PENGUINS DEVELOPMENT CAMP 2013
DAY 2 ANALYSIS: FORWARDS
By Dave Fryer, Contributor to InsidePittsburghSports.com
While the forwards may lack the luster of the other two groups in the Penguins Development Camp, the intensity among those players is fierce because they all see an opportunity to springboard up a depth chart that is looking to add more NHL-level talent. Day 2 of the camp presented the forwards with more time to showcase their shooting, and the introduction of some rushes against a defenseman allowed a few players to stand out in situations where they were eager to battle.
*Adam Payerl is a name that has been repeatedly mentioned by the coaching staff over the first two days of camp. Payerl plays a simple, north-south game and offers the kind of power forward the Penguins have looked for ever since Bill Guerin retired. They hoped they had their man in Eric Tangradi, but after a several development camps and a few stints with the NHL team, that project was finally scrapped. Jarome Iginla was brought in last year to try to fill that void, but the all-world player never found his stride with the team. There is no possibility that Payerl will ever be as good as Guerin or Iginla, and he may never even reach the potential seen in Tangradi. But at the very least, Payerl is making enough strides that he may some day become the replacement for Craig Adams. As stated by Guerin himself today, “He can definitely play a physical game. He’d be a great guy to have as an F1 first in on the forecheck against other teams’ defensemen. That’s just one of those that stood out at me. From the beginning of last year to the end of last year, he was one of the guys that made the biggest steps.”
*Tom Kuhnhackl was the first on the ice among his group of skaters again today, obviously excited for the simple opportunity to get back on his skates and get past his shoulder surgery. Even while skating alone with a puck, Kuhnhackl shows that he has great hands and stickhandling skills, and the first shot he got to take in live action zipped into the upper corner past goaltender Eric Hartzell. Kuhnhackl commented yesterday, “I was just happy to be out there again. It’s been a long seven months for me without playing hard or playing actual hockey… It was just nice to be out there with the team, skating, shooting, having fun.”
*Dominic Uher emerged as a forward that supported the puck well and transitioned very quickly, particularly in a drill involving two players in a breakout sequence. He refrained from over-handling the puck, which allowed him to either build speed upon receiving a pass or make a quick lead pass when in possession of the puck.
*Oscar Sundqvist, a third-round pick in 2012, stands out immediately among the forwards for his size. At 6’3”, he equals Payerl as the tallest forward in the camp. But unlike the bulky Payerl, Sundqvist weighs in at just 182 pounds. That is obviously his biggest weakness, figuratively and literally. He has yet to experience the North American game, though, so once he comes to the states, he will need to put on mass and learn how to use it. On the upside, he possesses a powerful shot that he is able to release quickly and accurately, looking more like a goal-scorer than a playmaker.
*The first visual impression of Jake Guentzel is his lack of size. He owns the dubious distinction of being the shortest (5’9”) and lightest (153 pounds) player on the camp roster, although he is also the second-youngest. But he is not short on offensive abilities, blasting shots at a rate that belies his frame. Guentzel put up 73 points in the USHL last year, and will advance to the University of Nebraska-Omaha, where he will join Penguins prospect Josh Archibald and have the opportunity to continue to work on his defensive game. “I feel like my defensive game improved over the year,” Guentzel said. “Obviously at first I struggled, but I just felt like my coaches stuck with me. They helped me in the D zone, which made me a better player overall.”
*Jayson Megna left a lasting impression with onlookers at last year’s training camp, but that did not exactly translate into a memorable season in Wilkes-Barre. Megna posted just 5 goals and 12 points in 56 games in the AHL. He has the size and skating ability to compete for a third-line role at the NHL level in future seasons, should the other areas of his game improve and his contributions increase on the scoresheet. “They’re going to have higher expectations of me this year,” said Megna. “I took a lot of positives from last year, I learned a lot, and I battled through some adversity. Those are all learning experiences, and I’ll just come back, ready to go next year,” said Megna following today’s skate.
*Jean-Sebastien Dea got noticed yesterday for his abundant puck skills. The game is completely different once defenders and physical play is added to the mix, though, especially for someone of his small size. But Dea did not seem to be overly deterred by either when he jumped in the two-one-two game at the end of his session. He showed he has a good nose for a puck and aggressive style despite his size. Dea noted yesterday, “Last year I gained 10 pounds during the summer, and now I’ve gained another 10 pounds. I’m skating (well).”
*Blaine Byron, a sixth-round choice from last month’s draft, drew the biggest reaction from his peers today with a pretty goal in the two-on-two game.
*The top scorer for the day was Scott Wilson, a UMass-Lowell product picked up in the seventh round in 2011. Wilson netted back-to-back goals on the same shift during the small game and was the only player to score twice.