Day 2 Report
Wilkes Barre/Scranton head coach Todd Reirden ran a more uptempo practice through the first half of today’s skate. Practice began with 5-on-0’s in the zone followed by 1-on-0’s with a back checker. There was a strong emphasis on skating and puck movement in just about every drill early on.
Other drills included 3-on-1’s, 2-on-0’s with a center drive and 1-on-1’s that turned into 2-on-1’s.
The second half of the skate centered around more instruction. For about 25 minutes, the players were split into three different groups with defensemen working at one end, neutral zone, while the forwards were working with head coach Dan Bylsma at the far end. Practice ended with a 3-on-3 down low drill.
Day 2 Practice Notes/Evaluations
*- The offensive skills of 2010 1st rounder Beau Bennett have been on display this week. Bennett is a dynamic offensive player with outstanding vision and hands. Skill wise the Penguins don’t have another player in their system that resembles Bennett’s skill set.
Bennett had another strong day of practice but he’s a very raw prospect whose at least 2-3 years away. At 6-1, 173, becoming stronger and bulking up is a number one priority for Bennett as he will attend the University of Denver this fall.
Scouts contend one adjustment he will have to make in his development is to get away from trying to make a fancy extra move when defenders are closing in. There’s been some instances where that’s been noticable during the camp.
*-A surprise through the first two days has been undrafted forward Alex Smigelski out of Williams College. Smigelski (6-2, 195) is a high energy player with good speed and some offensive capabilities. He skated on a line today with Eric Tangradi and Keven Veilleux.
Smigelski showed good speed today to the outside and drives to the net hard. Smigelski was named the NESCAC Men’s Ice Hockey Player of the Year this past season.
Smigelski netted a NESCAC-best 17 goals and contributed 11 assists for 28 points. Undrafted rookies have been known to earn contracts out of the Penguins development camp. He’s a player that’s caught the eye of team scouts.
*-Dustin Jeffrey had a solid practice today. WBS head coach Todd Rierden mentioned after today’s skate he was pleased with Jeffrey’s work out there. Jeffrey has talked extensively this week how he believes he’s ready to make the jump to the NHL
*- In his second development camp, 2009 1st round pick Simon Despres is coming into his comfort zone. He had a good day on the ice.
Despres has made great strides with his decision making when pressured. Despres, Brian Strait and Robert Bortuzzo were very good in 1-on-1 situations.
*-A member of the Penguins hockey operations staff told me this week Despres will spend one more year in juniors but didn’t rule out Despres opening up the season with Pittsburgh before the nine-game window kicks in.
*-Joey Haddad has worked extremely hard on the ice through the first two days. He’s been one of the more noticable players out there. Haddad delivered a crushing hit on Alex Velischek during the 3-on-3 down low drill.
*-2009 3rd round pick Ben Hanowski has been quiet through the first two days. Just haven’t seen the skill set that some scouts were raving about when Hanowski was drafted.
*-2009 4th round Nick Petersen is an intriguing prospect to keep an eye on. At 6-3, 196, he has good size, speed and a scoring touch around the net. Petersen scored 39 goals last season for Saint Johns of the QMJHL.
2010 4th round pick Tom Kuehnhackl has not stood out by any means but he hasn’t been overmatched either. At 6-2, 172, he has good speed for a player his size but doesn’t do anything exceptionally well. There’s not an area of his that stands out, scouts have told me and that’s been evident this week.
Kuehnhackl was the No. 8 rated European skater.
A couple line combos from today
Tangradi – Veilleux – Smigelski
Jeffrey – Pierro Zabotel – Bennett
Hanowski – Sill – Agostino
Haddad – Gibbons/Kuehnhackl – Petersen
Despres – Bortuzzo
Strait – Grant
D’Agostino – Sneep
Velischek – Lamb
A few Quick Hits
– Head coach Dan Bylsma took part in today’s practice. Bylsma is big on taking players to the side and given them instruction. Today at least early on he spent time with Simon Despres on the side giving him instruction during a drill.
-Pens GM Ray Shero met today with Steve Reich the agent for Raffi Torres today. The two spoke for about 15 minutes I’m told. The Penguins have expressed some interest in Torres but have not made an offer.
Reich’s firm also advises Beau Bennett.