The Penguins held a player development camp this past week at Consol Energy Center to give them a little taste of what playing in Pittsburgh is all about. With minor-league prospects and non-roster invitees included, the prospects had a week full of training with the Penguins brass. Highlighted by Eric Tangradi and first-round draft picks Joseph Morrow (2011), Beau Bennett (2010) and Simon Despres (2009), as well as Robert Morris defenseman Andrew Blazek, the Penguins were working hard with the players of the future.
The prospects worked closely with new player development coach Bill Guerin and strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar throughout the week. Kadar wanted to instill the same regimes the current Penguins go through to the prospects at camp this week.
“I think the biggest thing is how to become a professional hockey player and how to do the proper things correctly,” Kadar told Michelle Crechiolo of the Penguins Ice Crew. “That all stems from how we lift, how we present ourselves and how you come in and test. All of those things are going to play a part, as will the on-ice activities where they’re learning the systems and learning the Penguin way.”
Although the Penguins prospects knew they would be hard at work all week, the countless hours of working out would pay off on the final day of camp, as they broke into two teams to scrimmage each other. The Penguins opened the scrimmage to the public and upwards of 4,000 fans showed up to support the team, many more than the Penguins expected.
Team black was highlighted by Bennett, Keven Veilleux (who stole the show in the post game shootout), Blazek, Phillip Samuelsson (son of former Penguin Ulf Samuelsson) and Sean Whitney (younger brother of the former Penguins 2002 first-round pick Ryan Whitney). Team white was highlighted by Tangradi, Despres, Morrow and Scott Wilson. The scrimmage started off five on five and very slow until Tangradi found Scott Harrington on a three-on-one break for the first tally of the game.
Things quickly changed however as the teams went four-on-four for the majority of the remaining time, with some three-on-three mixed in. While the score doesn’t really matter, the white team did in fact win, 8-5, but how the players played is more important than the final score of a scrimmage. The player on the ice that most impressed me was Morrow. Morrow had two assists in the game and showed off an impressive shot from the point early on. He did a good job protecting against the dump in the defensive zone and worked very well with his line mate Despres. Seeing Despres and Morrow together on the ice could be a regular fixture in Pittsburgh starting in a few years.
While a lot of these players may never reach their ultimate goal on playing in the NHL, this past week was a good learning tool of what to expect.
“You’re not the strongest kid when you come into camp anymore like when you went to junior camp. It was a little bit eye-opening. It was fun to see. It kind of gives you a mark to work toward, and you can gauge yourself against everybody else,” Morrow told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Penguins training camp is only a couple months away and if over 4,000 showed up to support the Penguins prospects, I can only imagine the crowd that will be there for the open practices. With a strong nucleus already at the NHL level, the Penguins of the future are looking to continue the great tradition of hockey in Pittsburgh for years to come.
Photo Credit: Sean Montgomery
About the Author
Written by Michael Waterloo
I'm currently pursuing my Master's degree in Communication and Journalism from Clarion University. I currently work for Ohio Valley Athletics where I serve as the West Virginia Football Beat Writer and cover West Virginia Men's Basketball as well. I'm a big Pittsburgh Pirates, Philadelphia Eagles, Pittsburgh Penguins, Pitt Panthers and Oregon Ducks fan. Follow me on Twitter at @MichaelWaterloo or visit www.ovathletics.com