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Insider Only Penguins Development Camp: Day 4 Analysis Scouting the Defensemen

By Dave Fryer, Contributor to
*Scott Harrington executes defensive drills in a near-effortless fashion. He is graceful on his skates, gets into the right positions, and handles the puck extraordinarily well. He is ready for a greater challenge, and he assuredly will get that in the Penguins’ training camp later this year. “You look at a guy like Harrington, he’s played on the biggest stages in hockey,” said Wilkes-Barre assistant coach Alain Nasreddine. “Yeah, he’s a rookie. But you probably look at him as a rookie for maybe two weeks. After that, you realize that guy is a good player for your team.”
*Derrick Pouliot once again performed well in drills involving a puck on his stick. His awareness of the ice is exceptional, and he is about as fluid a passer as anyone the Penguins have had on the blueline since Paul Coffey. There really does not seem to be a limitation to Pouliot’s offensive game. “A little of it’s natural, I think, but you have to work on all your skills to some extent. Some stuff’s learned, and I’m still learning. I’ll be learning throughout my whole career,” said Pouliot. The talented defenseman knows he needs to apply that to his weaknesses, too. “You’ve got to be able to play in your own zone, so I can’t be a liability. I think I just need to get stronger and a little bit quicker,” Pouliot expressed. “I think my skating is pretty good, but it can still always improve. I’m going to do everything I can to come in here and push for a spot on this (Penguins) team.”
*Nick D’Agostino is a solid, all-round defenseman; he really just needs an identity. He does not jump out with any particular skill, in neither a positive nor negative direction. That is a double-edged sword, though, since it is therefore difficult to project him into a particular slot in any line-up. He is tall but not particularly strong or physical. He is an adequate skater and responsible with the puck. And the numbers he posted in college at Cornell were steady but not spectacular for four-straight years. He has graduated from Cornell, so he will look to find his place in the professional ranks next season. Wheeling will probably be his first stop, where he may be given plenty of opportunities to mold that identity.
*Harrison Ruopp probably will not get to show off much of the punishing edge to his game this week unless the physical intensity picks up in Saturday’s scrimmage. In the meantime, he appears to be short on the finesse skills needed to find a good spot among all the team’s defensemen. He plays the role of a shutdown defenseman, but his skating and puck skills are not up-to-par to contribute offensively. He is has adjusted his physical frame this off-season to become leaner, which may aid in improving those skills. “I don’t want to mention the number that was for his body fat, but he dropped 4 or 5% this year,” said Wilkes-Barre assistant coach Alain Nasreddine. “So it tells you that the guy’s a professional. This guy wants to make a hockey career.”
*Alex Boak is the only undrafted, unsigned defenseman at this camp. He is going to have a difficult time earning a contract with the Penguins organization because of the depth they have at his position. He probably does not play the game at a fast enough pace to change anyone’s mind on that just yet, but he would be a good candidate to land on the ECHL roster as a serviceable defenseman.
*The coaches arranged for a unique, individual competition this week, as well. Players are awarded points for accomplishments and contributions made on and off the ice throughout the camp, including the physical testing, paintball, and three-on-three tournament. Reid McNeill and Adam Payerl are currently tied for the lead in the contest, with Philip Samuelsson trying to rally from third place. “There are more points on the line for tomorrow’s scrimmage, so I’m going to make sure my team wins it,” said McNeill with a smile. Payerl countered by saying, “McNeill’s pretty big into that, so we’re definitely going head to head.”
*Ryan Segalla was picked up in the fourth round of the draft this year. At only 18 years of age, he already has good size (6’0”, 190 lbs.). He pulled off the rare feat of recording more goals last year (10) than assists (8) as a prep school defenseman. His game is still very unrefined, but he has a lot of good tools to work with. When paired with Pouliot for a passing/regroup drill today, he looked very sharp in moving the puck and transitioning with his partner. Segalla will forego a year in the USHL, where he was drafted in the first round by defending league champion Dubuque, in favor of going straight to the University of Connecticut as their first-ever scholarship player. Dubuque scout Rich Michalowski was disappointed that Segalla will not be joining the Fighting Saints this fall but knows that UConn is going to land a quality blueliner. “He’s a good two-way defenseman,’ said Michalowski. “He’s very good at gaining and maintaining gap control. He’s not overly physical, but he closes quickly and forces turnovers. That said, he will play with an edge, if he needs to, and takes on other teams’ top players.”

*Clark Seymour is a tall, lanky blueliner who will move into pro hockey this season. He got his first taste of the professional level by practicing with Wilkes-Barre during the AHL post-season in the spring, but he did not crack the lineup for any games. He may have some difficulty cracking the AHL lineup again for the coming year, but his booming shot and 6-foot-4 frame could get him some consideration for that level if he performs well in Wheeling.
Brian Dumoulin exerted himself as a leader among the group of defensemen. He was very active vocally during drills and in encouraging teammates while observing drills. Dumoulin’s agent has arranged for skating coach Marianne Watkins, who worked with the team on Thursday, to fly to Maine later this month to work one-on-one with the big defenseman. “Yesterday went well. It was a little tough because I wasn’t skating like that in a little while over the summer. But I’ve worked with her before, and I’m looking forward to what she has to bring in a couple weeks,” he said on Friday. Dumoulin looks poised to make his mark with the organization at training camp in a bid to earn playing time in the NHL this year.
*Olli Maatta did a superb job in the shooting drill at the end of the session. He is able to shoot the puck accurately and, in particular, with his head up. When the drill was changed to one-timers from the point, his consistent technique landed the puck in the net far more often than any other of the defensemen.
Once the media availability concluded after the workouts, the players were treated to a lunch in Suite 66. For the afternoon, the group was to make a unique trip to a local grocery store to learn more about nutrition and cooking for themselves, something many of the young prospects had never had to put much thought or effort into. The day was scheduled to conclude with a team activity at a bowling alley.

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Dave Fryer

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