The Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League are three weeks into their training camp but top defenseman Simon Despres, the Penguins first round pick in 2009 has yet to show up.
Despres is focused on making the Penguins roster and is currently training in Pittsburgh.
“We’re actually three weeks into camp up here; home opener is next Friday, ” Rick Bowness of the Saint Johns hockey club told Inside Pittsburgh Sports this morning.
“Simon chose to stay down in Pittsburgh instead of coming to Sea Dogs camp this year so we haven’t seen him at all yet, ” Bowness said.
Despres who is coming off an excellent prospect camp is preparing for the Penguins upcoming rookie camp in Kitchener, Ontario and Penguins training camp which opens on September 17th.
Despres had an excellent 2009-2010 campaign with Saint Johns. He had 9 goals and 38 assists for 47 points, including an impressive plus-26 rating in 63 games during the regular season.
In the playoffs he took his game to another level. In 21 playoff games, Despres had 19 points and a +14 rating.
There’s some sense that Despres’ development is at the stage where it would be beneficial if he leaves the junior ranks but it’s not that easy.
The 19 year old defenseman either has to make the Penguins club or be sent back to juniors. He is not eligible to play for the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League.
Despres opening up the season with the Penguins on the nine-game window that Kris Letang played under in 2006-2007 has not been ruled out inside the organization.
The Penguins top-5 spots are locked in with Brooks Orpik, Kris Letang, Paul Martin, Zbynek Michalek and Alex Goligoski. The Penguins though have plenty of compeition for their No. 6 and No. 7 spots.
Despres will get a look early on in camp to see if he can get his feet wet at the NHL level. If Despres makes the roster, the Penguins will then have to decide whether to send him back to juniors after nine games.
The vibe right now is that Despres will be sent back to the juniors. There have been scenarios in the past where a top draft pick has played himself onto the roster earlier than initially thought.
In 2006-2007, Jordan Staal opened the season under the assumption that he would be sent back to juniors after nine games but Staal played his way onto the roster.
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound defenseman is widely regarded inside the organization as the Penguins consensus No. 1 prospect. He projects to be a regular at the NHL level by the 2010-2011 season.
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