PITTSBURGH PENGUINS DEVELOPMENT CAMP 2013
DAY 3 ANALYSIS: 3-ON-3 GAMES
By Dave Fryer
• A cross-ice game was used for the majority of today’s ice slot, featuring a mini-tournament of three-on-three play in each zone. Rink dividers were placed across each blueline to isolate the play within the defensive zone, and a net was placed near each side board within the zone. The group was dividing into four teams, and each mini-game between teams lasted 7 minutes, with a coach blowing a whistle to signal a line change every 30-40 seconds. Bill Guerin served as an honorary member of the ice crew, taking the shovel to the zone after each game to sweep away the built-up snow.
• These games provided the first real contact opportunities because more of the boards were involved in the playing area, as opposed to just having end-boards in yesterday’s neutral-zone scrimmage. The players were very willing to bang into each other and battle along the boards, but not many true body checks were dished out, likely to keep the game injury-free. But Reid McNeill blasted Philip Samuelsson with the best check of the event when Samuelsson held on to the puck too long, putting Samuelsson on his wallet along the boards.
• Dane Birks jumped out for the first time this week because of his puck-moving ability. Birks is the youngest player here at age 17, but he was draft-eligible this year because his 18th birthday is shortly before the September 15th cutoff for the draft. Birks certainly looks really young, but he flashed the potential that caused the Penguins to select him in the sixth round last month.
• Teddy Blueger, who has been rather quiet most of the week, used the game to show off some of his skills. He has good hands, as evidenced by a nifty shootout goal between games, and he is developing a better shot. But he also got pushed around in tight spaces and had trouble finding separation from aggressive defenders. Blueger is still just 18 years of age, so he is just starting to reach the critical stages of maturation. He may fare better in Saturday’s full-ice scrimmage because of the extra space to work with, but it will be the battle drills and small-area competitions that will gauge his true progress in years to come.
• Tyler Barnes is still looking for a place to play next year as an undrafted free agent. He has not wowed anyone with his finesse skills this week, but he did show today that he is very willing to bang and battle with anyone. Barnes went hard to the net, initiated contact along the boards, and fought for loose pucks. His career will never take him to the NHL, but he does possess the ability to contribute at the professional level in the AHL or ECHL.
• Oskar Sundqvist was the best player on the ice in the games. He played with good hockey sense – moving to the right areas, supporting the puck, and generating shots. He also showed some ability to fight along the boards by using his tall frame and being aggressive. He was rewarded for his efforts when he scored the game-winning goal in the sudden-death overtime of the so-called championship game. He also scored a few other times and clearly has the traits of a natural goal scorer.
• Reid McNeill kept on grabbing attention by being aggressive and making plays in the three-on-three action. Even beyond his hit on Samuelsson, McNeil put himself in the middle of everything without running around carelessly. His stickwork forced a turnover in the overtime, and he quickly moved the puck ahead to Sundqvist to create the game-winning goal.
• Tom Kuhnhackl looked a little bit rusty in the game, which was certainly to be expected out of him. But he was very active all over the ice and often found the puck on his stick. He scored a nice shootout goal and made a lot of good passing plays. When the games were over, he went right back to work by finding a few players willing to battle with him in the corner, including the big body of Brian Dumoulin.
• Scott Wilson has not stood out much in the routine drills of the first few days, but once there is game-type action going on, Wilson makes his mark. He scored a very pretty backhand goal and generated a lot of other scoring opportunities. Wilson presents himself as a steady player that can make things happen when the puck is on his stick.
• Adam Payerl has earned all the praise he has gotten this week, and he will need to solidify his place on the Penguins’ radar by carrying that performance into game action. He used today’s competition to show a good ability to protect the puck with his body. But Payerl does not always keep his feet moving and was a little reluctant to feed the puck to the net. Through his hard work, all the tools are in place for him, though, to continue a rapid development phase.
• Eric Hartzell was the best of the goaltenders today. He was consistent in his play and required a good effort to get a puck by him. Sean Maguire got beat high a few times, particularly when he needed to move laterally to cover the net. Matt Murray was very steady early but then fell off his game. It seems as if once he is off, he has trouble getting it back, getting beat by three consecutive shots at one point. Murray also struggles when players are in tight around him. Tristan Jarry’s first instinct is clearly to drop down when a shot is taken. That is a common habit with athletic goaltenders, but he is a little too predictable with it. And once he does go down, he is often reluctant to get back to his feet until the puck is far from the net again.
• Olli Maatta performed exceptionally well in game action. He made smart plays with the puck, knowing when to shoot it and when to pass it. He also made good decision in his shot, often looking to place it in an area for a deflection instead of trying to pick a corner. On the defensive end, Maatta was very aggressive on the puck. When he was not near the puck, he used good awareness to find a man and stick with him.
• The game time gave Brian Dumoulin a chance to show that he has some of the “extra” skills needed to compete at the pro level. He knows when to engage a player versus when to protect an area instead. He also knows how to use his stick to his advantage, utilizing his reach or applying the right amount of stickwork on the body of another player without being penalized.
• Dominik Uher scored on a very nice one-timer off a cross-ice pass, shooting the puck with a lot of power and accuracy. Uher only put up 4 goals in 53 games in Wilkes-Barre, but he seems to be developing the size and strength to be a more-effecting player this coming season.
• Jean-Sebastien Dea is possibly the best puckhandler here. His control of the puck and quick hands is very impressive, so it is becoming more and more difficult to understand why a team did not select him in the later rounds of the draft. He will be a player to watch in Saturday’s main scrimmage to see if he really does have the talents to play at the next level.
• Richard Nejezchleb has the most-interesting surname at the camp (edging out Kuhnhackl and Marcantuoni). But until today, nothing else stood out about him. However, he was impressive during the three-on-three game, flashing some offensive ability that rivaled any other player except Sundqvist. Nejezchleb seemed to gain confidence in himself as the session progressed, as he asserted himself more and continued to make plays with the puck.
• Jake Guentzel did a good job at constantly keeping his feet moving, but his game seemed to be limited largely to the perimeter of the zone. Power and physical play are never going to be a forte for him, but he will need to learn how to create opportunities for himself closer to the net if he wants to continue being a goal scorer in college and the pros. His skating skills give him the ability to create such space.
• With game action to prove it, Philip Samuelsson is clearly not where he needs to be in his puck skills. He has a tendency to hesitate in his decisions, and his passes do not always spring a forward to open space. But Samuelsson loves to make the front of the net his marked territory, and he uss his stick well for defensive purposes.
• Bryan Rust scored the prettiest goal of the day, making a nice play in tight to go top shelf and propel the water bottle into the air. Rust does plenty of good things when he gets the puck, especially as a lethal shooter. His challenge, though, is that he did not find the puck on his stick often enough. Rust clearly has the potential to be a power forward at the professional level, and he has already shown a gift for finding the back of the net.