Eric Majeski's (aka Netwolf) Camp Reports for LetsGoPens.com
2012 Development Camp, Day 5 (Scrimmage)
July 15, 2012
The 2012 Penguins Prospect Camp came to a close on Saturday afternoon with a scrimmage. Admission was free and the game was a big hit with local hockey fans. Simon Despres was the only player here with any NHL experience (18 games), but despite the lack of NHL star-power, most of the lower bowl of Consol Energy Center was packed.
At the beginning, seating was limited to a small group of sections directly in front of the First Niagara Club. Fans who attended last year likely recall the same setup and how difficult it became to find open seats at times. Fortunately, this year, the ushers were much quicker to open up additional sections and by the time the game began, fans were taking up close to 2/3 of the lower bowl.
The large crowd, estimated at 6000+, was a popular topic afterwards. Every player was asked about it and the look on their faces said just as much, if not more, than their answers. You could see the smiles creep up on each guy's face even as the question was asked.
The scrimmage format was a bit unconventional. Most activities throughout the week had some element of competition which would determine an overall "winner" between Team Black (run by Player Development Coach Bill Guerin) and Team White (run by Assistant to the GM Tom Fitzgerald). There were 2 halves, an NHL-style shootout, and AHL-style shootout, and a 3-on-3 overtime period. Each segment was worth 1 point in the overall competition. White won the modified scoring format 3 points to 2; haven't heard which squad won the week overall.
On to the observations...
The White Team was listed with seven defensemen, but Alex Velischek played as a forward today. If you've been following along all week, you know that isn't exactly a stretch for him, given his skill set. He did not look out of place and had a really nice shootout goal; lots of speed plus a good move to the backhand upstairs. The remaining six were paired like this:
I found it interesting that collegiate free agent Andrej Sustr was paired up with Despres. That was the top pairing for this squad. While this is just a development camp scrimmage in July, Sustr getting that spot over other guys that the Penguins have actually drafted has to say something, at least for the week he's had. Despres is 6'4", 214 and Sustr goes 6'7", 224. There wasn't a lot of room out there for opposing forwards.
Neither player was shy about getting up ice either. Sustr took advantage of some open ice in the first, showing decent wheels but unfortunately for him, Brian Dumoulin eventually tracked him down, angled him to the wall, and put a solid hit on him. He made a couple of other rushes later on, including a forechecking attempt that helped his team keep the opposition pinned in their own zone.
Despres played like a guy with NHL experience and the confidence that comes from it. He flashed hands that I didn't really know he had on his shootout goal. On Matia Marcantuoni's goal, he forechecked deep in the offensive zone, won the puck battle and got it into the slot. Despres later added a regulation goal of his own, jumping into the play as Brian Gibbons carried the puck down the left wing boards. Gibbons got the puck across to Despres, who made another nice move to get the goalie down before flipping the puck into the net. A good outlet pass from Olli Maatta to Gibbons got the play started.
Counting the temporarily-converted Velischek, Team White had eight forwards, so they didn't have set lines. It seemed like Teddy Blueger and Beau Bennett played together quite a bit though.
The Blueger-Bennett combo worked fairly well, though they were never able to connect for a goal. On one play, Bennett forced a turnover with his forechecking. The puck went to Blueger, who hammered a slap shot from the slot. The puck was ticketed for the top right corner, but camp invitee Ryan Faragher absolutely robbed him with his glove. It was a tremendous shot, but an even better save. Bennett had another decent rush up ice early in the second. He was able to stickhandle past one defender, buy some time and get the puck towards the net as his linemates crashed, but the puck stayed out and the net was knocked of its moorings.
Marcantuoni had a decent game. Oh his goal, he went into the crowded slot and hammered a great shot home. Later on, he was able to pick a Ryan Faragher clearing attempt off the glass. He centered the puck and teammates crashed, but it was deflected just over the crossbar. The speed at which he was able to get the puck down and the pass away was impressive. He had a couple of other rushes, but was never able to find enough open ice to really show off his top gear.
Team Black had last year's top two picks, Joe Morrow and Scott Harrington, on their top pairing. The second pairing was comprised of 2 parts of the Jordan Staal trade: Brian Dumoulin and Derrick Pouliot. The third pairing had two big, physical guys in Reid McNeill and Clark Seymour.
McNeill scored on a penalty shot, Morrow had a shootout goal, and Harrington was pretty good at finding spots to jump up on the play, but the standout was Dumoulin. At 6'4, 219, he possesses excellent size and like most other Penguin prospects, has great mobility. He doesn't chase hits, but does take them when there (the earlier hit on Sustr for example). He also does a great job of deciding when to join the rush and keeping it simple when he does. He's kind of like Harrington in that both guys are pretty good at all facets of the game, but don't have that one thing that really grabs your attention. Dumoulin is just a little older, maybe a little more refined. Like Despres, his goal showed that his hands might be a little better than I thought coming in. After getting to watch him this week, it's easy to see why The Hockey News had him as Carolina's third best prospect. The rich Penguin defense gets richer.
Up front, Zach Sill spent most of his time between Kenny Agostino and Anton Zlobin. Sill had a goal when he won a faceoff ahead then put a shot on that found a hole. I didn't see it, but Zlobin was given an assist so he must have helped on the faceoff win somehow. Josh Archibald, whose speed rivals Marcantuoni's, played a lot with camp invitee and college teammate Jason Megna. Unfortunately, I didn't catch who the third member of that line was and who was on the third line. A lot of that was that because the most of the skill on this squad was on the blueline. Among the forwards, Agostino is likely the most skilled, but he's more of a shooter and wasn't really playing with a good playmaker.
That wraps up my coverage of the 2012 Development Camp. Special thanks to Jason Seidling of the Penguins Media Relations Department for allowing me the opportunity to attend, and thanks to all of you for reading. Continue to follow me on Twitter at @LGP_netwolf (http://www.twitter.com/LGP_netwolf) for my thoughts on whatever the rest of the summer brings for the Penguins and the NHL. See you all at training camp!
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