PITTSBURGH PENGUINS DEVELOPMENT CAMP 2013
SCRIMMAGE ANALYSIS: FORWARDS
By Dave Fryer, Contributor to InsidePittsburghSports.com
*Tom Kuhnhackl, who had season-ended shoulder surgery during the season, was cleared to play prior to the scrimmage, much to his delight. “I’m playing… and I’m excited!” Kuhnhackl exclaimed while heading into the locker room to suit up. He performed well in the game, though he was clearly rusty in some facets of his skills. But he did not shy away from contact and was very active in the play. He engaged with Reid McNeill for the game’s first battle in the corner. Kuhnhackl is poised to have a very good season if he can avoid further injury because he has the tools and now the maturity to make an impact.
*Adam Payerl had the first good scoring chance of the game, trying to stuff a puck past Eric Hartzell from the side of the net. Payerl did not wow the crowd in the scrimmage, but that is not his game or his role. He did show that he can play the kind of game the team needs out of him: establishing a forecheck, hitting as many bodies as possible, and getting to the net. He also drew a penalty by driving the puck deep and fending off the defense with his size. Payerl was rewarded for his efforts this week by being placed in the shootout at the end of the game, where he converted on Tristan Jarry. However, the goal was largely a result of a botched move that threw Jarry off and allowed the puck to get by him. Payerl will surely go to Wilkes-Barre this year as he continues an ascent that he hopes leads to the NHL before long.
*Matia Marcantuoni did get a few responses from the crowd, particularly when he rifled a hard snap shot high to the corner for the game’s first goal. Marcantuoni generated a few stints of offense throughout the game, so there will be plenty of buzz about him in follow-up to the scrimmage. But unfortunately much of this will be based on the observations made in one game. Marcantuoni was rather quiet the prior days of the camp, and his 7 goals in 64 games in the OHL last year prove that he is not a proven goal scorer. Speed is valuable, though, and Marcantuoni has the kind of speed that will allow him to keep up with the play in the NHL. He will need to develop significantly in other areas to get that chance. “He does things well. He takes a lot of pride in his face-offs. You can look down the road and think he can be a top penalty-killer because of that speed and his tenacity,” said assistant to the GM Tom Fitzgerald.
*Jayson Megna will also receive a lot of attention in the coming days for his performance, which he certainly earned. Megna flashed NHL-level speed and made things happen with the puck, including a nice lead pass to spring Kuhnhackl on a breakaway. Megna converted his efforts into two goals to lead all scorers – though one was an empty-net goal that caromed in off his shinpads – then added another in the six-man shootout employed at the end of each half. He had a good showing in the post-season for Wilkes-Barre last season, getting 5 points in 12 games after collecting only 12 points in 56 regular season contests. So his game is clearly evolving. Megna will need a productive year in the AHL to get considered for a promotion. He could also add more physicality to his game to better fulfill a bottom-six role, particularly because he has the build to do it (6’1, 195)
*Dominik Uher showcased several different aspects of his game. He went to the net, getting involved in a post-whistle scrum in front of the net during the first half. He also scored a basic goal in the second half by taking the puck off the wall and using the quick, accurate shot he demonstrated earlier in the week to beat Tristan Jarry between the legs from the left hash. He also kept it simple to beat Jarry in the post-game shootout with a shot to the stick side. “I really enjoyed it. Lots of fans. It was a great feeling on the ice,” said Uher. “It was my first game in awhile, so it’s not always the best. But I tried to work hard.”
*Bryan Rust played the style that was exactly expected of him. He was consistently at the end when the puck was there, and when it was in the corners, he went digging for it. “I played my game for the most part – a hard forechecking game. I threw a few hits in there and took a lot of pucks to the net,” he said. Those facets of his game are the center of attention for Rust. “That’s what I’m focusing more of my game on this year. I’ve got to be more gritty around the net. That’s what these (coaches) here want me to do.” Rust also did well in his own end by positioning himself well and moving the puck well on the breakout. “I’ve taken pride in that – being a responsible player and knowing where to be positionally,” said Rust.
*Matt Lane grabbed the spotlight a few times after an otherwise non-descript week. His game was a simple, north-south style with some good speed to go with it. Lane was never drafted and has only completed his freshman season at Boston University. He has never been much of a points-producer at high levels of play, though he may be beginning to emerge as a late-bloomer.
*Troy Josephs scored one of the goals for the white team by going wide with speed then driving the puck to the net. His initial shot did not go in, but the puck eventually made it over the line as players crashed the net. Josephs was credited with the goal, but without replays available, it was difficult to distinguish whether his first shot was not handled or if he poked in his own rebound.
*Scott Wilson got the only goal for the white team in the first half on a penalty shot. He made a nice move to get Sean Maguire to go down then neatly flipped the puck high to the blocker side. Wilson led UMass-Lowell, who spent much of the season high in the NCAA rankings, in scoring last season, so there is sufficient proof of Wilson’s offensive production. This is the second development camp for Wilson after missing the camp in his 2011 draft year because of mononucleosis, and he performed like a player that had some experience behind him. Wilson now needs to make a bigger step in his development to become a valuable asset to the Penguins.
*Carter Rowney played the game on the wing despite being a natural center. Despite feeling uncomfortable at the position, he made several smart, simple plays with the puck. “I think I created some chances out there, but there was a lot I could tune up on,” Rowney said of playing the win. “I think it’s important to be versatile, being able to play both center and wing. I think you’re going to have an advantage if you can play both positions, it opens up a lot more opportunities. In an ideal world, I would love to play center because it comes more natural to me. I’m just going to keep working hard this summer and see where I end up.”
*Oskar Sundqvist often looked out of his element in the first half, seeming to lack the dexterity to do what he hoped he could do. But he got back on track at the intermission and had a much better second half. Sundqvist represents the forward with the biggest upside and will need to start pulling those tools together in the next year to give the Penguins a player to fill in future holes in the lineup.
*Teddy Blueger was drafted in the highest position of all the forwards at the camp (2nd round, 52nd overall), as the team has used a first-round pick on a forward just one time since 2008. Blueger was over-matched physically, often getting pushed around and occasionally getting knocked over. Blueger is desperately in need of a breakout season in his second year at Minnesota State.
*Jean-Sebastien Dea showed he can compete quite well in game situations. He is remarkably quick, especially through the neutral zone. He was rewarded for his efforts when he scored the third and final goal for the black team with 3:31 to go, burying the puck from in front.
*Garnet Hathaway had the first goal of the second half, scoring on a breakaway for the white team. He did nothing more to suggest that he can make a major impact anywhere in the organization, though he did not suggest in any way that he would be a liability in the line-up at the ECHL level. Hathaway has another year of eligibility at Brown University.
*Jake Guentzel flashed some offensive and skating talents but did not produce much deep into the offensive zone. He made a nice deflection on a Harrison Ruopp shot early in the game and was later stopped on a backhand attempt in the post-game shootout.