Penguins prospects look to shine during development camp
One of the most tumultuous offseasons in Penguins' history is two months old.
The foundation for the 2014-15 season, however, begins Tuesday.
Prospect development camp will take place this week at Consol Energy Center, and it doesn't only represent an opportunity for young players to strut their stuff. This week also figures to showcase the first glimpse of how the new Penguins coaching staff and front office intend to nurture the team's finest prospects in an organization that could use a youth injection.
“I know I'm excited for this week,” coach Mike Johnston said. “I'm not handling the on-ice stuff. Honestly, the biggest thing for me during this week is going to know these young guys as people. That's big for me.”
Off-ice instruction has become every bit as important as the on-ice work this week. Prospects will use this time to familiarize themselves with the city, off-ice training and aspects of being a professional.
“There were already a lot of good things in place from the previous staff when it comes to this week,” Johnston said. “We'll add some wrinkles as well.”
Plenty of qualified individuals will handle on-ice work. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach John Hynes, who was interviewed for the coaching job in June, will run the camp.
New Penguins assistant coaches Rick Tocchet and Gary Agnew will be on hand. Also, assistant general managers Bill Guerin and Tom Fitzgerald — instrumental in player development in recent years — will provide tutelage.
“I'm really looking forward to it,” Agnew said. “I think these weeks are important for young players, and it will be good for me to get a look at these players.”
Players will skate Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Fans will have an opportunity to see the team's prospects at 3 p.m. Saturday, when the Penguins will host the prospects scrimmage at Consol Energy Center.
Players on hand include:
• First-round pick Kasperi Kapanen, 17, will be spotlighted this week. Many members of the Penguins' brass believe he can contend for a roster spot during September training camp. To give himself a chance to make the team this fall, he likely needs to stand out during prospect development camp.
• Goaltender Tristan Jarry, a second-round pick in 2013, has positioned himself as the team's future goaltender. He led Edmonton to the Western Hockey League title (Memorial Cup) in May.
• Oskar Sundqvist, a 2012 third-round pick, has emerged as one of the team's best forward prospects.
• Defensemen Brian Dumoulin saw action in Pittsburgh last season and is a candidate to play on the blue line for the Penguins this season.
• Defenseman Scott Harrington, a second-round pick in 2011, could be ready for the NHL this season.
The former regime, headed by then-general manager Ray Shero, strongly favored drafting and acquiring defensemen. As a result, most of the organization's more advanced players are the puck-moving blue-liners Shero preferred.
“I'm definitely looking forward to getting a look at some of these defensemen,” Agnew said. “It sounds like there is a lot of talent there.”
Johnston intends on observing the prospects during this week. But he won't be watching casually.
“I think weeks like this are very important,” he said. “I'm very excited to get going, to see where these kids are.”
Note: Former Penguins assistant coach Tony Granato was hired as an assistant coach by the Detroit Red Wings.