PITTSBURGH PENGUINS DEVELOPMENT CAMP 2014
SCRIMMAGE GAME ANALYSIS
By Dave Fryer, Contributor to InsidePittsburghSports.com
- The game was divided into two, 30-minute halves. The ice was resurfaced at the halftime break. There was a planned stoppage with 3 minutes left in the game. A scheduled shootout finished the affair.
- Slightly more than half of the lower bowl was filled with spectators when the game started, with empty seats scattered throughout. A few more sections became occupied as the first half progressed. A team-estimated 6,500 fans were in attendance, though that number seemed a bit high. Either way, it was a healthy crowd, which was aided considerably by rainy and dreary weather in Pittsburgh today.
- Mike Johnston sat next to Jim Rutherford in the stands throughout the scrimmage, while Rick Tocchet and Gary Agnew were in the area for most of the day. Jason Botterill, Tom Fitzgerald, Bill Guerin, and John Hynes also looked on, as well as a few of the team’s scouts. Mark Recchi and Alain Nasreddine worked behind the Team Black bench, and Wheeling Head Coach Clark Donatelli and Penguins Goalie Development Coach Mike Buckley coached Team White.
Jake Hildebrand started in net for Team Black, and Stephen Mastalerz began the contest in goal for Team White. Tristan Jarry took over in net for Team Black in the second half, while Matt Murray manned the pipes over the final 30 minutes for Team White.
Adam Payerl netted the first goal in exactly the manner the Penguins are hoping to see him do often. Matia Marcantuoni drove the puck hard down the right wing, using his speed to break open and gain a lane to the net. He then dished to the left for an easy tap-in for Payerl.
Nick Lappin knotted the score for Team Black a few minutes later. He used some good speed to gain an edge on Nick D’Agostino for a loose puck and had a lane to the net on the right wing. Mastalerz cheated a bit too much to his blocker side, and Lappin fired it over his glove hand side.
Team Black gained the first power play of the game after Alex Boak was called for tripping Conor Sheary. But power plays result in penalty shots in this format, giving Sheary a showdown against Mastalerz. A few short dekes later, Sheary buried the puck on the forehand.
Team Black scored again moments later. A bouncing puck in the neutral zone was misplayed by Boak, and Scott Wilson corralled it to get a partial breakaway the other direction. A hard wrist shot to the top corner went off the post and in.
A great pass by Jeff Taylor on a two-on-one found Blaine Byron open in front. Byron wasted no time getting it on net, shooting it off Hildebrand’s pad and up into the net.
Conor Sheary was tripped up by Anthony Angello, giving Sheary his second penalty shot of the game. He tried the backhand this time, but Murray was equal to the task with his long, extended leg. Still, Sheary displayed very smooth and slick stickhandling abilities on both penalty shot attempts.
A tripping call on Sam Lafferty sent Reid McNeill to the ice. McNeill was stopped on his shot, but he made a move that he was not likely even able to consider a season ago.
Troy Josephs got the first goal of the second half, tying the score for Team White. Hard work along the end boards by Payerl got the puck to Marcantuoni coming out from behind the net. Marcantuoni was not able to wrap the puck to the net, but Josephs quickly fired the loose puck high over the shoulder of Jarry.
Nick D’Agostino put Team White ahead, 4-3. After a tie-up around the Team Black net that temporarily knocked Jarry off balance, D’Agostino’s shot from the point trickled through Jarry’s legs. Jarry appeared to be set and square to the shot but just did not play it correctly.
Oskar Sunqvist got his chance to shine on a penalty shot after being clipped high by Brian Dumoulin. Sundqvist used a few short moves to get Jarry down, then used his reach to stuff the puck in on the forehand.
Troy Josephs struck for his second goal of the game to put Team White ahead for good with 6:43 left. A great cross-ice pass from Taylor set him up inside the right circle, where he got rid of the puck quickly. Jarry seemed to be in position to make the save, but another shot found its way through his legs and softly into the net.
A hit from behind by Angelo sent Sam Lafferty hard into the end boards. Lafferty was granted a penalty shot, where he responded with a goal. He simply skated straight at the net, pushed the puck forward, then fired it low to the glove side of Murray.
Team Black pulled their goaltender at the 3:00-minute stoppage while trailing, 6-4. Team White had several good long-distance chances at the open net – including one each by Bryan Rust and Josh Archibald – but could not put it in.
Tristan Jarry and Matt Murray stayed in their teams’ respective nets for the shootout, albeit switching ends.
Scorers in the shootout for Team Black: Kasperi Kapanen
Scorers in the shootout for Team White: Jake Guentzel and Troy Josephs
— Kasperi Kapanen showed his abilities with the puck early and often. He used some shifty moves and quick hands to create space, open up shooting lanes, and generate opportunities for his linemates. He was clearly the most-skilled forward in the group this week, and those skills were on full display throughout much of the scrimmage. Kapanen used this camp as a solid step towards the NHL training camp in September. The odds are still not quite in his favor to grab a roster spot in Pittsburgh, as he still needs some time to make some physical developments. But the skills, hockey sense, and maturity are all in place already
— Anthony Angello, who struggled to stand out all week, failed to make much happen today either. He has a poor habit of not keeping his feet moving, causing him to float slightly behind the motion of the play. He does possess excellent size, but it will take more work on other areas of his game to allow those skills to be effective.
— A forward line of Kapanen, Jean-Sebastien Dea, and Anton Zlobin looked quite lethal. The lines were mixed up a few times throughout the competition, but that collection of players put together several excellent shifts. Each player was effective in playing his style, which meshed well across the line. And for three players with tremendous offensive gifts, each showed that they are very capable of taking care of their own end. Dea, in particular, was surprisingly good as the low forward in the D zone.
— The gap control exhibited by Brian Dumoulin was clearly better than every other defenseman. He positions himself well early and uses his wide wing span and imposing size to stifle all action at the blue line. Dumoulin showed that he still could use some work in game situations in his own end, though, but most of his struggles there – all of which were minor – could be attributed to the free-flow style of the game instead of working within a defined system.
— Matia Marcantuoni made a lot of things happen with the puck all afternoon. For a player that under-produced this season, he showed that he is still capable of generating offense.
— Tristan Jarry came well out of his crease a few times to cut down the shooting angle. That kind of aggressiveness was not in his repertoire at this time last year. But Jarry also had his struggles, allowing two soft goals and even losing his footing once when trying to play the puck behind his net. Jarry spoke earlier this week of trying to eliminate those negatives from his game in order to be more consistent, and today showed that, despite his remarkable abilities, he still has several refinements to make.
— Bryan Rust has significantly improved his north-south speed over the past year. He is able to get to top speed much more quickly and, as a result, back off defenders a bit more on the rush.
— Scott Harrington reads the ice exceptionally well coming out of his own zone. He is able to start the breakout in a variety of ways by seeing the open man and executing short, simple passes to perfection. But otherwise, Harrington was rather quiet throughout the day. His style is to be unassuming, but a greater impact was expected of him in a game where he was one of the top talents on the ice.
— Matt Murray was not tested as much as his peers, but his steady play kept Team Black off the board during game action. A shootout goal was the only puck to get past him. His best save came when Zlobin got a quick opening to the net, but Murray turned the shot aside with smooth efficiency. Murray also allowed only one goal in the scrimmage-ending shootout.
— Adam Payerl and Marcantuoni found themselves on the ice together several times. The combination of Payerl’s size and Marcantuoni’s speed created a tough challenge for the opposing defensemen. The two were able to make a lot things happen together, even beyond the goal from Payerl. Payerl’s work along the boards and around the net is exactly what the coaches want from him and what the Penguins desire from a bottom-6 forward at the NHL level.
— There is still hope for Anton Zlobin to compete for a roster spot in the NHL, but his performance in the scrimmage showed that he may still need more time in the AHL to work on his overall game. He is good in all areas but not quite dominant enough among this group to be expected to make an impact in the NHL yet, especially if he is tabbed to play with someone like Evgeni Malkin. The long-term projection is that Zlobin can grow into that very role, though.
— A strong contingent of Sam Lafferty fans made themselves known when Lafferty was introduced for his shootout attempt. Lafferty is a native of Holidaysburg, PA. He was largely average all week, which is typical for a mid-round draft pick in his first development camp.
— Oskar Sundqvist was both good and disappointing this week. He performed well, but more was expected of him. Team management was said to be very high on Sundqvist’s progress this season, so they were surely expecting a more-dominant performance out of the big center. Sundqvist still seems to have the tools to make it to the NHL, and he will stay near the top of the list of forward prospects in the system, with hopes of acceleration in his development this coming season.
— Jeff Taylor capped off a strong week with a good showing in the scrimmage. His puck-moving skills are already at a very high level, and he is a better skater than he was given credit for in pre-draft scouting reports. His body of work caught the attention of the staff, who now have another name to add to their list of top-notch prospects on defense.
— Nick Lappin was one of only a handful of undrafted free agents in the camp, but he made a strong case for himself to earn a contract from the organization. While not ready to push for any NHL consideration, Lappin proved he can be a serviceable player at the pro level.
— Only Kapanen has a higher draft round than Teddy Blueger among the crop of forwards, but Blueger continues to lag behind his peers. A second-round pick in 2012, he simply lacks the dynamic skills to make an impact. Also taken that year were Sundqvist (3rd round), Marcantuoni (4th), and Zlobin (6th), and each of those players have now shown more promise than Blueger. Time is still on his side, since he is only 19, but a breakthrough season would pay huge dividends within an organization starved for impact forwards.
— Nick D’Agostino made several good plays in the scrimmage, but he also made several mistakes. Overall remains a work-in-progress.
— Josh Archibald was not a standout this week, but he showed good two-way skills and responsibility in his own end. Coveted for his goal-scoring knack, Archibald also showed that he can pass the puck well. A rookie season of pro hockey this coming season offers him a great opportunity to adjust his game and build his body strength.
— The aggressive style of Ryan Segalla allowed him to make several good plays, including forcing a few turnovers in his own zone. Segalla even took on the bigger Payerl a few times, including a shift where the two players battled multiple times for pucks along the boards.
— Troy Josephs put his name on the scoresheet the most, with 2 goals in the game and the winner in the shootout. Josephs is still a long-term project but was the player who seemed to improve the most over the course of the week.