Penguins notebook: Kapanen shines in scrimmage
Close to 7,000 fans attended the Penguins' annual prospect camp scrimmage, many of them intent on seeing the team's first-round pick.
Kasperi Kapanen did not disappoint.
The 17-year-old didn't score a goal during the scrimmage but produced plenty of sizzle on every rush, illustrating why many in the organization believe he can make the NHL roster this fall.
“He's even better than I thought he'd be,” assistant general manager Bill Guerin said. “He's a high-end talent, high-end speed. He's a very, very mature kid for his age. He's way ahead of the game in that department. We got a little screenshot of what's to come.”
No one disagreed with Guerin's assessment. Kapanen's quick strides and slick hands — he wasn't afraid to show off his one-on-one game during the scrimmage — stood out as 37 of the Penguins' best prospects staged a 60-minute, running-clock scrimmage Saturday.
Defenseman Scott Harrington, who will have an opportunity to make the Penguins' roster in September, had the task of playing against Kapanen during the scrimmage.
“He's a great hockey player,” Harrington said. “It's pretty obvious to see why the Penguins made him their top pick at the draft. Just a serious amount of skill.”
Kapanen has looked different than his teammates all week during prospect camp because of his skill level. The Penguins selected him with the 22nd pick in the draft last month but had him rated as the seventh-best player in the draft.
That physical skill, however, isn't the only thing the Penguins like. Kapanen has seemed unusually comfortable all week off the ice and was easily the most outgoing personality in the locker room during camp.
Kapanen's father, Sami, was a longtime NHL player. According to Guerin, it shows.
“Having his father play so many years in the NHL and bringing him up that way, he's already a pro,” Guerin said.
Kapanen didn't shy away from attempting to put on a show during his first live hockey action in front of a crowd at Consol Energy Center.
Although he didn't score during the game, he had a goal thanks to a backhand move during the postgame shootout.
“I think I'm good at shootouts,” he said. “I like being put under the pressure. It's not a problem for me.”
If Kapanen occasionally comes off as brash, the Penguins aren't complaining.
Guerin said Kapanen “definitely” has a chance to earn a roster spot.
“You come and try to take peoples' jobs,” Guerin said. “That's what pro sports is all about. He's already thinking like that. I love it.”
Mark Recchi, the Penguins' new director of player development, met with the media following the scrimmage.
Recchi recently received a call from Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford, who wanted to know if the former Penguins' star — Recchi helped Rutherford win a Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006 — would be interested in the job.
“I'm really excited about this,” Recchi said. “Jimmy contacted me. I showed interest. He thought it would be a good fit as well.”
Team White defeated Team Black, 6-4, in Saturday's scrimmage. Even though most of the blue-chip prospects on the ice were defensemen, some forwards enjoyed the spotlight.
Forwards Adam Peyerl and Troy Josephs were prominent. Peyerl, who will be given an opportunity to make the Penguins' bottom-six this fall, used his size to generate a number of opportunities. Josephs was among the scrimmage's best players and ended the shootout with a goal.