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Penguins top prospect Pouliot eyes quick recovery from surgery

| Tuesday, July 15, 2014, 9:27 p.m.
Philip G. Pavely | Tribune-Review
Derrick Pouliot blocks a shot during the Penguins' development camp on Wednesday, July 17, 2013, at Consol Energy Center.

Almost halfway through the low-end projection of recovery time from shoulder surgery, Penguins top prospect Derrick Pouliot remained hopeful he could return to the ice during training camp.

But Pouliot, the defenseman selected No. 8 in the 2012 draft, said it was too early to tell whether that goal was realistic.

“Everything is coming along good,” said Pouliot, whose May surgery repaired a labrum torn during the Western Hockey League final. “(The shoulder) is progressing as it should, and hopefully, it'll be a speedy recovery.

“It's tough to (give a timetable), especially since it's only been (eight weeks). I'm just starting to really get the rehab going, so it's tough to say but hopefully training camp.”

Limited to an exercise bike other than his rehab, Pouliot could only observe the Penguins' development camp sessions Tuesday at Consol Energy Center.

When Pouliot had surgery May 21, the team announced he would require four to six months of recovery time. Training camp begins in mid-September.

Whenever Pouliot is given the green light, he'll have the comfort of familiarity. Mike Johnston, Pouliot's coach with his junior team in Portland the past four-plus seasons, is now the Penguins' coach.

Also, Pouliot will be joined by Olli Maatta, another top Penguins defenseman, in his recovery. Maatta, taken by the Penguins 14 picks after they selected Pouliot, had labrum surgery a day after Pouliot.

“At least when I get back here in Pittsburgh, I won't have to rehab by myself,” Pouliot said.

Pouliot hopes to follow Maatta in earning a job with the Penguins. Maatta landed regular work in the NHL as a 19-year-old last season. It didn't go unnoticed to Pouliot, 20, that the Penguins lost veterans Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen via free agency this month.

“It's an opportunity for some younger guys to maybe step up and earn their spots,” said Pouliot, who was the Canadian Hockey League Defenseman of the Year in 2013-14. “But you're going to have to earn it — and first and foremost get healthy again.”

Pouliot said he recognized some of the drills that prospects were going through Tuesday, and he predicted “a smooth transition” for the organization from Dan Bylsma to Johnston.

“He's a very smart man, and he really knows the game,” Pouliot said of Johnston. “He's been around it for a while, and he makes those (in-game) transitions very well. He can see what the other team's doing, and he'll come up with a plan to counter it.”

Chris Adamski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at cadamski@tribweb.com or via Twitter @C_AdamskiTrib.

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