...is not up. Apparently, I got behind in my banana payments to the gorilla during my absence and they will not post.
Far be it from me to deny you guys that information though, so I will post it here until I get squared up with management. Enjoy.
2012 Development Camp, Day 1
The Pittsburgh Penguins were nice enough to extend an invitation to me for Prospect Development Camp this week, so I was there this afternoon and will continue to be all week. Check back here for daily reports and follow me on Twitter @LGP_netwolf for observations during each session.
The rest of the week shakes out like this:
Wednesday, July 11th: 9:15am to 11:30am
Thursday, July 12th: 10am to noon
Friday, July 13th: 9:15am to 11:30am
Saturday, July 14th: Scrimmage from 3pm to 5pm
Being that it was the first day, all of the drills were skills-oriented; a lot of skating, passing, and shooting. On days like that, especially when there are a lot of new players and guys I haven't seen much of, I tend to just watch and take note of names and numbers when I see a play of note. This often leads to certain players not coming to the forefront either because they don't have a lot of flash to their game or just not having a highlight kind of day.
That leads me into a bit of a soapbox rant before I get on with today's observations. Just take these at face value. My opinions here are just that; they aren't meant to be any kind of indication of what the future holds. Regardless of what you think of what you read here (or anywhere else for that matter), don't make concrete judgments about these guys now. Watch them yourselves when you can, and judge them based on what they actually do on the ice.
Look at Eric Tangradi. There is a part of the Penguin fan base that almost seems to be rooting for this guy to fail. Why? Because he may have been unfairly labeled as a surefire, top 6 forward when acquired? Or maybe in response to other parts of the fan base touting him because they want him to live up to that tag? I know he hasn't come close to establishing himself as an NHLer player of any kind. What his critics gloss over, forget, or just don't know is that he's only 23 years old and has only been in pro hockey for 3 years. Not every player takes the Crosby-Malkin-Staal fast track to the NHL. For most, it's a process. Just sit back and see what happens.
I bring all of that up because it appears Beau Bennett is about to head down the same path. Some positive comments were made about him as camp opened (I was among those making them) and before that session was over, Twitter was full of comments about Bennett being overhyped or the next Tangradi. It's almost to the point where saying something positive about a player is a bad thing. That boggles my mind.
Assuming you stuck with me through that rant (and thanks if you did), here are my thoughts from this afternoon:
Beau Bennett was the first guy I noticed in the opening session. Mike Colligan (read him at thehockeywriters.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeColligan) reported than Bennett weighed in at 207 this camp. That's up from the 180 lbs he was listed at last year. The added muscle doesn't appear to have slowed him down at all, as he showed decent wheels all afternoon. His wrist shot was very impressive today, wiring several pucks under the crossbar.
I also liked recent 4th rounder Matia Marcantuoni. I loved this pick and was looking forward to seeing him in person. His speed is as impressive as it was on video. Decent shot, good hands in front of the net. Even though he is pretty skilled, I think he'll be more impressive in game action, or the drills that more closely mimic that. This is a kid that was looked at as a possible 1st rounder before he ran into some injury problems. If he can put those behind him and stay healthy, the Pens may have a steal on their hands.
Another recent draft pick, 2nd rounder Teddy Bleuger caught my eye with his playmaking a few times. On one 3 man rush, he made such a great pass that it caught the recipient off-guard and he shanked what should have been an easy tap-in goal.
Alex Velischek is yet another skilled defenseman in the Penguins' system. Several times during drills, I kept thinking he was a forward. He's a good skater, not a lot of flash with his hands, but good passing and a solid shot.
There are a lot of big boys on the blueline at this camp. Simon Despres, Brian Dumoulin, Olli Maatta, Reid McNeill, Harrison Ruopp, Clark Seymour, and Andrej Sustr are all 6'2", 200 or bigger.
Last year's 5th round selection, Dominik Uher, was on fire this afternoon. At one point, he scored on 5 successive attempts. A few were absolute snipes under the bar. From what I've seen and read, that isn't really his game though. Think more along the lines of a Czech Max Talbot. Like Marcantuoni, I suspect he'll be more impressive during actual game conditions. He may be the next fan favorite up in Wilkes-Barre.
Zach Sill was one of the most vocal players on the ice. Not surprising as he's looked at as one of the veterans in this setting.
Ken Agostino is another dark horse prospect. Taken in the 5th round of the 2010 draft, Agostino is a 5'11", 195 lb winger with good wheels and an above-average shot.
Don't even know what to say about Joe Morrow. He was very impressive last year and still is now. I don't want to oversell the guy and inadvertently turn part of the fan base against him, so I'll just say the long blond hair kept making me think Jordan Staal was still here, but converted to defense and finally put on a visor.
That's about it for today. Check back tomorrow for more if you can take more positive observations.