Pens Development Camp Scrimmage

Saturday, July 19, 2014
Penguins prospects took to the ice in front of a crowd of fans at Consol Energy Center for the annual Development Camp scrimmage this afternoon, with Team White holding off Team Black for a 6-4 win.

Troy Josephs will be heading back to Clarkson this summer, but not before he turned some heads this afternoon. Josephs tallied two goals in the win for Team White and added the winner in the shootout as well. His speed, feistiness and creativity could be seen in the AHL down the road.

Jospehs' linemates - Adam Payerl and Matia Marcantuoni - also made an impact today.

The first nine minutes were kind of a feeling out process but that quickly changed in middle part of the first period. Marcantuoni used his blazing high-end speed to burst past Brian Dumoulin and feed a centering pass that Payerl was able to direct past the netminder to put Team White in front 1-0.

About three minutes later, Ryan Segalla sent a stretch pass off the boards and Nick Lappin caught up to it, beating Stephen Mastalerz with a quick wrist shot low to the glove side to even things at 1-1.

Halfway through the first frame, Conor Sheary drew the game's first penalty and made no mistake on the penalty shot, undressing his former college teammate at UMass (Mastalerz) and finishing the play with a backhand to forehand goal. That goal put Team Black ahead 2-1.

On the next shift, Scott Wilson stole a puck on the offensive blue line and let loose a laser of a wrist shot wired to the top shelf on Mastalerz to extend Team Black's lead to 3-1.

Team White narrowed the gap to 3-2 before the first frame ended with Bryan Rust centering a puck to Blaine Byron, who with a defender on his back impressively found the handle on the puck and found a way to beat Jake Hildebrand in tight.

The physical play picked up in the second period as guys like Harrison Ruopp, Ryan Segalla and Reid McNeill delivered some punishing body checks for an intra-squad scrimmage.

Jospehs tied the game at 3-3 with his first of the contest, being rewarded for his hard work throughout the afternoon. Payerl got credit for the assist with a beautiful pass in tight from down below the goal line out to Jospehs, who buried it past Jarry to even the score. Credit Marcantuoni, who took a big hit behind the net to get the puck to Payerl and allow the play to happen.

Team White continued to pile on goals midway through the second frame, as a hard wrist shot from the point by Nick D'Agostino trickled through Jarry's legs to put White in front 4-3.

Oskar Sundqvist was clipped by an errant stick of Dumoulin a few minutes later and Sundqvist finished off the penalty shot with a nice move and goal to put White ahead. 5-3. Joseph's added his second of the game on a shot through traffic with about six and a half minutes left to kind of seal the deal at a 6-3 game.

Local product Sam Lafferty got Team Black within two at a 6-4 count in the final four minutes but that would be as close as they would get.

The event concluded with a shootout, which saw only three shooters score. Penguins 2014 first round pick Kasperi Kapanen started things off with a forehand to backhand roof job on Matt Murray, but it was Team White's Jake Guentzel and Troy Josephs responding to give White the clean sweep this afternoon..




Penguins Development Camp - Day Four

Friday, July 18, 2014
The Penguins didn't have any on-ice practice yesterday, but both groups were back on the ice at Consol Energy Center this morning for their final practice before tomorrow afternoon's scrimmage.
The scrimmage tomorrow is free and open to the public and begins at 3:00 p.m. ET at Consol Energy Center.

Everyone skated on the ice in a 90-minute session focused primarily on pre-game warmup activities such as line rushes followed by two sets of mini 3-on-3 scrimmages going on simultaneously. They were broken down into four teams today before finishing with a team shootout.

Several guys stood out in the mini scrimmages, but Anton Zlobin was most impressive to me in the way that he not only was making people miss and picking corners on the goaltenders, but back-checking and showcasing some good defensive traits as well.

Another guy who was creating offense and scoring goals was Jean-Sebastien Dea. Dea is certainly known as an offensive guy who can hit the back of the net (he scored 49 goals with Royun Noranda of the QMJHL last season).

Dominik Uher was playing his regular feisty and around the puck style of play and even scored on a penalty shot in one of two penalties called throughout the seven mini-periods. Uher seemed to be in a bit of discomfort after taking a slash and dropping his stick. The hunched over Uher battled through and finished the session but you could tell he wasn't skating at 100%.

Tom Kuhnhackl was another guy who stood out. His quick release and sharp shooting allowed him to pick corners whenever he had space to shoot. Another big forward who made some nice plays was Oskar Sundqvist, who was on the winning team of the mini scrimmages along with Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, Reid McNeill and Harrison Ruopp among others.

After the 3-on-3's and some 4-on-2 power play situations, they finished up the practice with a full team shootout. Alternating between Team White and Team Black, only 11 shooters scored in the first round and only Blaine Byron was able to go 2-for-2.

Byron was the star of the shootout, doing the patented Peter Forseberg move in his first attempt and scoring after what seemed like a dozen dekes, toe-drags and other moves in his second shot.

Talking with Penguins assistant general manager Tom Fitzgerald after the practice, some early insights to what tomorrow's scrimmage will entail. Expect two-30 minute running clock periods with potential stoppages after goals/saves etc. in the final five minutes of each period. Also expect a shootout of sorts to take place sometime during the event.


Penguins Development Camp - Day Two

Wednesday, July 16, 2014
Today's sessions at camp were split up by position, with the forwards going first under the direction of WBS Penguins head coach John Hynes followed by the defensemen led by WBS assistant coach Alain Nasreddine. The goaltenders took part in both sessions, and were the first on the ice getting work in with goaltending coaches Mike Bales and Mike Buckley.

Forwards

The forwards started out with a passing and puck control drill, which saw guys cycling the puck in the offensive zone with no net or goaltender in 4-on-2 and 5-on-3 fashion, with the defending forwards mostly plugging up the middle and forcing the play around the perimeter.

Kasperi Kapanen and Tom Kuhnhackl stood out in the drill. Both showed good vision and awareness on the ice while sending crisp passes to guys all over the offensive zone.

The second drill saw goalies at each end of the ice facing shots after the forwards deked through a neutral zone filled with mini nets and other obstacles. A lot of guys were getting caught up in the neutral zone, but Jean-Sebastien Dea had some pretty nifty dangles and picked corners on the goaltenders.

After that the group was split into two and they alternated taking turns shooting and working pucks out of the corners, taking some hits from the assistant coaches - probably assistant coach Rick Tocchet's favorite drill.

It was also a good drill for Adam Payerl, who's size and physicality in the dirty areas of the ice suited him well in the drill. What was most impressive were his first shots coming into the offensive zone.

Forwards finished with a 4-on-2 drill in the offensive zone, split in half with two goalies in nets.

Defenseman

The defensemen came out second under the direction of Nasreddine and they focused mainly on skating and puck control in the first part of practice.

Brian Dumoulin stood out not only because he's one of the bigger defenseman at camp, but because of how he seemed to effortlessly move around. He's a good, fluid skater for a guy his size. Scott Harrington also looked good out there which should come as no surprise as both of these guys are more polished than the younger prospects at camp.

The defenseman also worked extensively on playing the puck behind the net and breaking out of the defensive zone with quick, short passes. This drill separated the men from the boys so to speak as the more experienced guys had better first touches and crisper passes out of the zone.

The second session ended with the blue liners taking shots from the point. One guy who stood out in that segment was Nick D'Agostino, who has a great shot. D'Agostino didn't shoot the puck often last season in his rookie year, but with more confidence and adapting to the pro game he should be shooting more regularly this season.



Boak's Back, Seymour Signs & Fearless Fan Favorite Farnham Returns

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Fan favorite Bobby Farnham is back for another season. Photo credit: @ItsJacki

A lot has happened since I took a week hiatus to cover the Florida Panthers Development camp in sunny Coral Springs, Florida, this past week but to start let's take a look at the latest Penguins related news today.


The WBS Penguins signed a pair of defenseman - Alex Boak and Clark Seymour - to one-year standard AHL contracts. 

Boak, 24, finished up his fourth season at Clarkson before turning pro with the Pens' ECHL affiliate Wheeling Nailers. The 6-1 defenseman is listed at a rather solid 210 pounds.

Boak went pointless in eight games with the Nailers while adding a plus one rating and 24 penalty minutes, but offensive production isn't what Boak brings to a blue line core.  Boak aims to be a steady defender at the pro level that plays with a chip on his shoulder.

Nailers beat writer Sean Rine offered this comment about Boak shortly after the announcement from the team:
 "Alex Boak back in the Penguins pipeline. Really liked his game last year with Wheeling. Kid plays nasty."
The defensive depth on the AHL roster got a lot tougher today as the Pens also signed big Clark Seymour to an AHL for next season.

Seymour finished his fifth season in the OHL tallying 23 points (6G-17A) in 61 regular games with the Peterborough Petes. The 6-3 defenseman also tallied five points (2G-3A) in 11 postseason contests last season too.

Like Boak, Seymour is also a big body that looks to bring a shutdown, stay-at-home presence in order to be successful at the pro level.

Chalk these up as depth signings for the AHL Penguins. These guys will get a look from the WBS staff at Development Camp and likely the rookie camp/tournament in addition to AHL training camp later in the fall. At the very least, they will get ice time and develop in the ECHL with Wheeling and be ready for a mid-season call up when injuries/trades arise.

The Penguins' restricted free agents (RFA's) are re-signing and staying in the organization.

The latest RFA to re-sign was Bobby Farnham, who inked a one-year, two-way contract with the Penguins earlier this afternoon. The Penguins re-signed defenseman Philip Samuelsson and forward Jayson Megna last week, leaving Brendan Sutter and Nic Spaling as the last two unsigned RFA's for Jim Rutherford and staff.

Farnham, 25, finished his second season with the AHL Penguins in a much improved sophomore season tallying 14 points (7G-7A) in 64 regular games and playing a more controlled, systematic game of hockey while using his speed and willingness to throw himself into people to terrorize his opponents.

He was a much more effective player last season and you can't teach the heart-and-soul type of player Farnham has shown to be in his pro career.

Samuelsson, 22, made his NHL debut last year in his third season at the professional ranks, appearing in 5 games with Pittsburgh in 2013-14. While in the AHL, Samuelsson was a top-pairing defenseman who thrived on shutting opposing teams' top players down and playing a solid two-way game.

Samuelsson tallied 22 points (3G-19A) while also adding a plus 17 rating in 64 AHL games. He was a bit rusty in the Calder Cup Playoffs, having come off a six week absence with a knee injury, but the son of Ulf Samuelsson looks to graduate to the NHL with a good showing in training camp this fall. If Samuelsson doesn't make the NHL Pens' opening night roster, he must clear waivers before being eligible to play for the WBS Penguins in the AHL.

Megna, 24, enjoyed a fast start to his sophomore season in the AHL and made his NHL debut and then some, appearing in 36 games with Pittsburgh last season. In those 36 games, Megna tallied nine points (5G-4A) while in primarily a bottom-six role. In the AHL, Megna put up decent numbers with nine goals and six assists in 25 games in Wilkes-Barre.

Most were in doubt of Megna's NHL potential after his rookie season, but he quickly quelled that with a solid start in the AHL which transitioned into making the most of an opportunity to play in hockey's top professional league. Megna will certainly challenge for an NHL roster spot in 2014-15, but if he doesn't secure one out of camp, he can come to the AHL and aim to be a difference maker on what looks like another deep WBS Penguins roster.

What's Coming Next?

The Pittsburgh Penguins annual development camp starts today and concludes on Saturday with a 3 p.m. scrimmage at the Consol Energy Center that is open to the public. For the second straight summer, I'll be live from Pittsburgh with updates and features all week long. I won't be at this afternoon's practice, but will have coverage of Day Two on through to Saturday's scrimmage.

A lot has changed here too if you hadn't noticed the lack of posts last week, a slight re-design to the website and my tweets being split between two Twitter accounts:
For Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins news, follow @H_P_Hockey. For Lehigh Valley Phantoms (new AHL affiliate of NHL Flyers) coverage, follow @TonyAndrock_TCG.
Be sure to check the Town & Country Gazette for features on the new AHL team, Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
You can also find my broader scope of AHL coverage on Hockey's Future.

Zach Sill Re-Signs With The Penguins

Thursday, July 3, 2014
Sill has been a member of the Penguins organization for five years.
The Penguins announced this afternoon that they have re-signed forward Zach Sill to a one-year, two-way deal worth $550,000 at the NHL level. Another depth signing for the Penguins' bottom-six, which has seen the additions of Nick Spaling, Blake Comeau, Marcel Goc and Steve Downie this week.

Could this be the year that Sill makes the NHL club out of training camp? His natural position is at the fourth line center role, which seems to be taken by Marcel Goc, but he could easily play on the wing on a physical hard-checking 4th line. If he doesn't make the NHL roster, Sill has to clear waivers in order to be sent to the AHL for the 2014-15 season.

Sill, 26, saw his first NHL call-up of his five-year pro career this season and appeared in 20 games for the Pittsburgh Penguins in the middle of the 2013-14 season, going scoreless with 12 penalty minutes and a minus four rating.

Upon being re-assigned back to the Penguins AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Sill's wrist was cut by the skate of an opposing player on a road trip in Norfolk, limiting him to just 18 regular season games at the AHL level with three goals and three assists to go along with 34 penalty minutes in plus three rating.

Sill also appeared in all 17 of the WBS Penguins playoff games this postseason, tallying three points (1G-2A) and playing a crucial role in the face-off department, penalty killing and defensively shutting down the opponent's top lines.

With Sill re-signing, here's an updated list of the Penguins in-house free agents:

UFA's

Forwards - Chuck Kobasew (signed overseas with HC Bern), Brian Gibbons, Zach Sill (re-signed one-year deal with Pens), Nick Drazenovic (re-signed with Pens), Harry Zolnierczyk (signed with Islanders), Tom Kostopoulos (re-signed to one-year AHL deal with Pens), Spencer Machacek, Denver Manderson, Carter Rowney, Christiaan Minella and Mike Carman

Defensemen - Brendan Mikkelson, Dustin Stevenson, Peter Merth and Barry Goers.

Goaltenders - Jeff Deslauriers and Peter Mannino.

RFA's

Forwards - Jayson Megna and Bobby Farnham

Defensemen - Simon Despres and Philip Samuelsson.