Penn State vibe strong at Penguins development camp
The sunny and cloud-dotted skies over a warm final week of June weren’t the only blue and white at this year’s Pittsburgh Penguins development camp.
That’s because no U.S. or Canadian college was better represented than Penn State.
“I think it’s awesome,” said wing Brandon Biro, who had 40 points in 37 games last season for the Nittany Lions. “I think it just kind of shows the type of guys that (coach) Guy Gadowsky brings in.”
Biro will be Penn State’s captain this upcoming season, succeeding Chase Berger, a center who also was at the camp after signing an AHL deal in March with the Penguins affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
No other college had two non-goalies taking part in the Penguins development camp, but Biro and Berger weren’t the lone Penn State connections. Injury was the only thing that prevented 2015 Penguins draft pick Nikita Pavlychev from being on the ice, too.
Also, although nothing is official yet, Penguins 2017 third-round choice Clayton Phillips announced his intention to transfer from Minnesota, and Penn State is believed to be one of his preferred destinations.
“There’s a lot of Penn State pride in this room,” Berger said from the locker room the NHL Penguins use during the season at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.
“Penn State is an unbelievable place, so that’s not surprising.”
The NCAA Division I program is only six years old but already has produced a player who made it to the NHL: Casey Bailey, who has appeared in 13 NHL games. The current roster has five NHL Draft picks, including Pavlychev, a 6-foot-7 forward who had 14 goals and 29 points for the Nittany Lions as a junior last season.
Berger appeared in all 154 of Penn State’s games over his collegiate career, totaling 51 goals and 118 points. He had a goal and an assist over six AHL games this past spring after he signed with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
“I have always been a really good two-way player,” Berger, 24, said, “not a real razzle-dazzle kind of guy, kind of north-south, get to the net.”
A full professional season is next for the 6-0, 194-pound, left-shooting Berger.
Biro was at development camp on a tryout contract, so his next step would be a solid year in college followed by, perhaps, a pro contract after Penn State’s season ends.
“I’ve just really wanted to learn as much as I can,” said Biro, a native of Edmonton. “The coaches are more looking on the ice to see where you are at, but I think this is kind of about making connections and you getting to know the coaches and the coaches kind of getting to know you as a person and see if you fit in their organization as a person.”
Pavlychev will be out of college eligibility after the coming season, and with his size and pedigree as a draft pick he could be a pro by this time next year, too.
Phillips is a wild card. A third-round pick with puck-handling skills, he projects as an NHL offensive defenseman some day.
Obviously, none is assured to make it to the Penguins. But it seems likely a Penn State alum will skate for the Penguins at PPG Paints Arena sometime. That’s just one reason the Penguins believe it’s important to have a good relationship with the Nittany Lions program.
“One hundred percent,” assistant general manager Bill Guerin said. “Guy Gadowsky is unbelievable. He’s a great guy. He’s a heck of a coach. For us to have them right down the street and have a good relationship with them, it’s really important. As it is with Robert Morris. RMU is right across the river. It’s important for us to have a good relationship with them, as well. You have to support those teams. They’re vital.”
Chris Adamski is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Chris by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .