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Prospect Camp: Zlobin on building off AHL playoff performance; Dumoulin, Payerl eye NHL spots


*There was no on-ice session today.  The players return to the ice Friday morning at 10:00 a.m. The prospect camp wraps up Saturday with a scrimmage open to the public at 3:00 p.m.
The following is some additional info from Wednesday’s session and player reactions:
Veteran forward Pascal Dupuis was all smiles when he got to lace up the skates again on Wednesday. It was the first time Dupuis was able to skate after having his right ACL surgically repaired on February 12. Dupuis expects to be ready in time for the Penguins training camp in September.


  • On the prospects at the camp: “It looks good. We think we have a good mix of players coming in, where we have some younger defensemen that are going to be able to make an impact here, I think. Whether that’s in Pittsburgh or in Wilkes-Barre. And then in particular, this is one of the years where we’ve had a quite a few draft picks now up front that we’re really excited about. We’ve had the opportunity to work with several of them in Wilkes-Barre at the end of last year. So it looks good.”
  • On what he learned by interviewing for the NHL job with the Penguins: “I think it’s a situation where there wanted to be some change. Not just in the way that we play, but culturally and how things went on. It was a real thorough process. And I think those are the biggest things. It’s not broken, it’s just some slight things that I think management and the ownership is looking for.
  • On the expected cultural change in the organization: “It’s real important within the organization that we all get on the same page quick. As we said, there’s not a lot of things that were broken. There’s a lot of positivity to build off of. Now it’s just really getting everyone on the same page, whether the coaching staff or management, not only in Pittsburgh but in Wilkes-Barre.
  • On changes to the hockey systems: “That’s still in its infancy stages right now. I think we need to spend a little bit more time together. This camp is more about establishing what it means to be a Penguin and just some certain things that Mike [Johnston] wants. Some of them are very similar to what we had done in the past. But as far as the in-game adjustments, the system things, we’re going to sit down as a coaching staff and really look at things we did in Wilkes-Barre, things we did in Pittsburgh, and things that Mike wants to add into it, and really kind of iron it out as the summer goes on.”
  • On the players adjusting to new systems: “It’s not that the system is going to change so greatly. And year-to-year, we made adjustments even to the system, the last 4 or 5 years. Every summer there was a new tweak or something that was different that we wanted to bring to the organization. So that won’t change as much, and players are usually adaptable. So it’s more-or-less us as coaches doing a real good job at teaching it to the players so they understand it. And then everyone’s on the same playing field.”
  • On Dumoulin and Harrington progressing towards the NHL: “They want to show that they’re the best players here, just in their skill set and understanding of how we want to do things. And how they practice and play. And it’s really consistency for them. They’ve proved it in the American Hockey League that they’re ready to play in the National Hockey League. Now the big thing for them is going to be their ability in training camp – and then particularly when they get their exhibition games – that they get a long hard, look and give themselves the best chance to stay around as long as they can, if not make the team.”

  • On his progression in WBS over the past few seasons: “I think I got tougher to play against in the D zone. Not necessarily big hits, but ending plays in the corner. Coach Hynes has really pushed me in that aspect. And also, towards the end of the season this year, I really got involved in the offense, and I know that’s something Coach Johnston really stressing.”
  • On possibly benefiting from the changes in the organization: “It’s always an opportunity, even last year and coming into this year. Coming into training camp, I just want to prove to them that hopefully I can make that team. I’m going to do everything from now to that point to put myself in the best position to have an opportunity. So I’m looking forward going into this training camp.”
  • On competing for a roster spot: “There are some openings, but they’re not just going to give it to me. There are a lot of good, quality D here, so it’s going to be a challenge. We’re all going to be pushing each other for those spots. So it’s going to be a challenge, but it’s going to be fun.”
  • On the competition among the defensemen: “It’s causing me to push myself this summer even harder and work as hard as I can, knowing there’s an opportunity for me. It’s what I do from now to training camp that’s going to determine if I have a better opportunity or less of an opportunity.”
  • On Mike Johnston’s new systems: “I just saw out there (on the ice) that he wants the D jumping up and getting involved in the rush. And that’s good to see. I’m sure we’ve got a lot of mobile defensemen here, so they’re going to like that strategy. It’s going to take a lot of execution, but (with) the quality of players that are here, it’s going to be good fitting into Coach Johnston’s system of getting the D involved.”
  • On GM Jim Rutherford, who drafted him while with Carolina: “He gave me an opportunity to be a part of Carolina at that time. That was one of the happiest moments of my life, when they called my name up in Montreal (at the draft). But now it’s good to see him, and if he drafted me, he must have liked me then. It’s good to be back reunited with him, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”

  • On recovering from shoulder surgery last summer: “It was a tough year for me. I was sitting for 8 months without skating. When I started skated, Coach Hynes helped me a lot with that. He started teaching me systems, and when you know the systems well, it’s a good thing to help me come back.”
  • On his strong post-season performance: “[Chuck] Kobisew and [Andrew] Ebbett helped me a lot. When those kind of guys help me, you need to play better. They helped me with simple plays, like getting out of the defensive zone and how to play on the power play. When you have confidence – and I have confidence right now after a great year and a great playoff time – it’s easier to play.”
  • On his strengths as a player: “I think I’m a goal-scorer. I need to still practice my shot to make my play better.”
  • On teammate Tom Kostopoulos: “He’s a great captain. He helped me a lot with my conditioning and everything. He’s a guy who’s played like over 600 games in the NHL, so he knows everything I need to make me improve to make the NHL. He always tells me things I need to do better, so I tried to make those steps.”

  • On making his NHL debut with the Penguins in 2014: “I got to play two games last year here (in Pittsburgh), and it was a dream come true. It’s hard to explain. It was a great feeling. It was in the middle of the season, the season’s going pretty quick, you don’t have time to reflect on it. But at the end of the year, I had a little bit of time to reflect on the season, and I was pretty happy to be able to get those games.”
  • On striving to make the NHL again: “Playing in those two games, it was just an unbelievable feeling. It was like, this is where I want to be. It’s an eye-opening experience, for sure.”
  • On overcoming an upper-body injury: “I had to adjust my game a little bit. But I think in adjusting my game, I kind of learned to play different. I rounded my game out a little bit more than I had before, and I think just adjusting to play with an injury was also a good experience for me.”
  • On the adjustments he made this season: “I had to improve my puck protection down low. So going with that, you have to get better puck placements on your dumps so you can get to the puck first, beat the D-man to the puck. I used my size to my advantage to create offense around the net.”
  • On seeking an NHL roster spot this fall: “There’s definitely spots for somebody. And I think I’m going to come into camp with the attitude that I want to earn that spot and show that I can play there. I want to make it a hard decision for the coaches. I gotta consistently play my game every shift, every game in training camp. Just show that I can be a big power forward every game. They [the coaches] want me to prove every shift, every game that I can be physical, that I can get open pucks in the offensive zone, that I can create offense and make smart plays, skills plays around the net.”
— Dave Fryer is a contributor to Inside Pittsburgh Sports. You can follow him on twitter at @DaveFryerJr

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