Day One: Penguins Development Camp

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I was live at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh today for the first day of development camp and did not leave disappointed. I'll be in town all week for the annual prospect camp, which runs this week with daily practices and concludes Saturday with an open-to-public scrimmage.

Today's practice split the prospects into two groups (Team A and Team B). They ran some basic drills that focused on skating with the puck, some pass and shoot type drills and puck control in the neutral zone. Both practice sessions concluded with a shootout.

I spent today mainly focusing on past and potential AHL Penguins players such as goaltender Eric Hartzell, defensemen Scott Harrington, Brian Dumoulin, Philip Samuelsson, Reid McNeill and Nick D'Agostino and forwards Tom Kuhnhackl, Dominik Uher, Adam Payerl and Jayson Megna.

After the jump, some thoughts from those mentioned above as well as my own insights on who did what and who stood out.

To no one's surprise, Tom Kuhnhackl was the first on the ice for the first session. Kuhnhackl separated his shoulder in the beginning of December with the AHL Penguins and needed season-ending surgery to repair it. Having only skated a few times since then and not at all this offseason while visiting his native Germany, I'm sure Kuhnhackl was anxious to get back on the ice and get into the regular flow of things.

"It's nice to be back on the ice," Kuhnhackl said. "The shoulder feels pretty good."

Kuhnhackl added that he felt good today, but that he wouldn't participate in Saturday's scrimmage if there were any setbacks this week. That being said, he said he expects to play Saturday.

"I'm looking forward to the season. I think I'm in the best shape I've ever been," Kuhnhackl said. "I can't wait for the season to start."

If he can stay healthy, I'm expecting big things from Kuhnhackl in 2013-14. He looked pretty good today and while he says his shot isn't 100% back, Kuhnhackl was picking the corners on both goaltenders in his group.

Another guy picking corners with ease in the first session was forward Jayson Megna, who will be entering his second year of pro hockey in the fall. With the NHL lockout and slow start to his rookie season, some began to perceive doubt with Megna. But no worries, Megna finished his rookie season being more consistent and looked much more confident, playing a solid two-way game creating offensive chances and killing penalties on a PK unit that was tops in the AHL most of the year.

"I only took a week and a half off," Brian Dumoulin told me when I caught up with him post-practice.

While he didn't take much time off, Dumoulin saw it as a positive, coming into camp after a long postseason run and with a good attitude about being one  of the "older" guys in the room.

"I'm one of the older guys here so definitely a leadership aspect is important," Dumoulin said. "It's very important for me to build on, kind of re-vamp my habits and things that I have learned throughout last season."

Dumoulin didn't really stand out today but not because he's doing anything lackluster. As with most defensemen today, the focus in practice benefited the forwards showcasing their talents than a guy like Dumoulin, who while he has good offensive instincts, can showcase his talents in more defense-oriented drills later this week.

In a post-practice interview with assistant GM Tom Fitzgerald today, it didn't take long for the question about which forwards to keep an eye on relative to filling out Pittsburgh's 3rd and 4th lines. What surprised most was the first forward Fitzgerald mentioned to keep an eye on:

"I think you first have to look at American Hockey League (AHL) players. A big body like Adam Payerl, who we signed last year, a guy who spent some time in Wheeling. He's big, he can skate and he can shoot the puck. He bangs, he crashes. He's a guy that we believe can fill a role on our club."

Fitzgerald also mentioned Zach Sill, who isn't at camp this year, as a viable option to help out the NHL club and a guy who can come in and contribute. Sill has been to development camp numerous times in past years.

I was intrigued to see goaltender Eric Hartzell today and after watching him today, a few things stuck out about him. First off, Hartzell is big. At 6-4, he towers in the net and is just simply a big body in the net. Bill Guerin might have ripped a shot off the crossbar and in past him today, but you could see the poise of Hartzell while facing shots from his fellow Pens prospects. Hartzell was particularly impressive in the practice-ending shootout.

At 24, he's much older and more experienced than 18 year-old Tristan Jarry and it showed (at least to me) today. Nothing against Jarry, but Hartzell is further along in his development and could potentially be the backup goaltender to Jeff Zatkoff in Wilkes-Barre come this fall.

So there you have it. A lot of information and analysis, but trust me there's plenty more where that came from. Stay tuned here and on Twitter (@H_P_Hockey) for all the latest from Penguins Development Camp this week.


mackenziesu said...

Thanks. I love reading your write-ups and look forward to hearing more as the week goes by. I'm disappointed to say I'm working Saturday, so I can't attend like I did last year.

TonyAndrock said...

Thanks for the kind words. Today was certainly an experience for me. Met a lot of good writers today, got a ton of interviews and there's still four more days of camp. Should be a good week.

Robert Clarke said...

Great stuff as usual. Thanks!!

TonyAndrock said...

Thanks Robert! I always enjoy reading comments on my posts. Would love for everyone to join in on the conversation. Nothing better than talking hockey with other fans of this sport.

Dom Kay said...

Great read...I think Hartzell has a decent chance to beat out Zatkoff in the cage for WBS

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