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On location: Penguins development camp scrimmage

By Dejan Kovacevic | Trib Total Media

Looking ahead to faceoff …

Game: Penguins annual development camp scrimmage

Time: 3:05 p.m.

Site: Consol Energy Center

Radio: Penguins Radio 24/7

Josh Yohe and I are on the scene, and I’ll be writing my Sunday column from here.

For those who don’t know, admission and parking to this event are free. But it draws into the thousands, so showing up a little early is advised.

Here’s some of my talk with No. 1 prospect Derrick Pouliot

And likewise with another top D-man Scott Harrington

When I come back, I’ll post a few thoughts on the scrimmage in this space.

UPDATE 5:14 p.m.: And here are those thoughts, in absolutely no order …

>> Best player at any position was Olli Maatta. So poised, so patient, you almost want to see mayhem to see how he reacts. Easily the closest to making the parent club, as the Penguins’ development people will quietly acknowledge. Easily the MVP, too. Not at the level Simon Despres once was, but in a different way.

>> Pouliot was patient, too, but that doesn’t suit him nearly as much. He gets complacent, floats off. That was a little disappointing, though I always stress with these things that it’s one game, one observation. Doesn’t mean much. His talent is there, and it was his rush into the attacking zone — and slick pass to the right — that set up Matia Marcantuoni’s opening goal.

>> This camp was dominated by defense, for reasons everyone knows. Not going to jump on the soapbox about that again, but I will say that it’s just got to be unsettling for management to see only two forwards here who can even skate an NHL level: Jayson Megna and Marcantuoni. That’s not good enough, no matter your first-round priorities.

>> If Megna challenges for a roster spot this fall, the Penguins will be in for a rough year. There’s speed and skill, but his build is so slight I couldn’t see him surviving a month.

>> Was only a couple years ago that Scott Harrington lit up this camp with a Bobby Orr-like scrimmage. He’s settled a ton since then, really simplified his game, and I’d guess that has a lot to do with being paired with Maatta in London.

IMG_1893

>> Tristan Jarry — pictured in this lame shot I took — manned the net for the scrimmage’s second half and generally impressed by how unlike his personality his goaltending is: Really calm, economy-of-motion style, swallows up rebounds, quick glove. That was in stark contrast to when he was on the bench and squirmed around as if someone had poured motor oil down his pants.

>> Brian Dumoulin is the other defenseman on whom I focused, and he’s smart, steady and decidedly unspectacular with the puck. I couldn’t muster another sentence about him, though, if my life depended on it.

>> Harrisson Ruopp = Robert Bortuzzo.

>> One off-the-beaten-path name I’ll toss out is D-man Ryan Segalla, a fourth-rounder last month who, unlike most of these players, made sure he got noticed: Every hit, every shove, every marking of an opponent was targeted high. Not talking about cheap shots. Just simple follow-throughs, all up toward the head. Borderline legal, but let’s not pretend hockey coaches don’t love having those guys on their side.

That’s all I’ve got. Thousands of people there, as usual.

I’ll have a Sunday column about the Olympics as it relates to the Penguins and other Pittsburgh storylines. Hope you can check it out.

Author: Dejan Kovacevic

Dejan Kovacevic, a lifelong Pittsburgher, is an award-winning sports columnist for Trib Total Media covering the Steelers, Penguins, Pirates, Pitt and, recently, his fourth Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He also appears on WPXI-TV's 'Subway Final Word’ and hosts a weekly show on TribLIVE Radio. For 2011, he was named one of the country's top four columnists by the AP Sports Editors. For 2012, he was named one of the country's top three columnists by the National Headliners. For 2013, he was named the state's top columnist by the Keystone Press Awards and top columnist in Western Pennsylvania by the Golden Quills.

Comments

  1. Dominic says:

    For your Ruopp comment, can you provide more background? As I see Bortuzzo as steady 5/6 defenseman type, not spectacular but won’t cause you heartaches. Is Ruopp the same or do you mean he could challenge Bortuzzo for the 5/6/7 spot on pens?

    DK: I meant in all facets, Dom, except for that last one you mentioned. As listed above, the only player in this camp with a prayer of cracking the Penguins this fall is Maatta.

    No, Ruopp and Bortuzzo have similar skating styles — kind of gangly, like spider legs — and similarly simple approaches to defending. Bit of an edge. Good size. All that.

    Welcome to the blog!

  2. Troy says:

    Hey DK, what’s so special about Maatta? Skating and puck movement? Is he more defenseman or offensive D-man? Also, is it possible that the lack of forwards is making the D-men look better than they are?

    DK: Your last point is an excellent one, one I should have made above. It was visible that the defensemen didn’t have to do much of anything to contain these forwards, which is probably why I hinted above that I’d rather have seen Maatta in trouble to learn more about him.

    Maatta is as advertised, a smooth, effortless skater with a constant awareness of the ice. Not afraid to bark out orders on the rush to help organize the team. And above all, just smooth and simple with the puck.

    Really, you have to zero in on him to notice. But it’s worth it.

    Welcome to the blog!

  3. JohninOshkosh says:

    Wow!

    Your notes on the scrimmage are most appreciated!

    Above and beyond, especially on your day off!

    DK: Eh. This isn’t really a day off. Working on Sunday column. But I’m glad you enjoyed this regardless, John.

  4. theplanisworking says:

    DK, was this run like a training camp scrimmage? Sort of like OTA’s for the Steelers?

    Looking forward to see how Maatta can help the D this year……….. as was exposed in the playoffs, the D needs help.

    Thanks for posting this.

    DK: Just like a game. Refs, music, scoreboard, obnoxious horn, the whole deal. You could tell the athletes were advised not to kill each other, but there definitely was some rough stuff, shots to the head and the like.

  5. Jim Populo says:

    Trade one, Release one, Promote one… Pens D Prospects?

    DK: Yikes. Tough one. OK, but this is just for fun: Release Ruopp, promote Maatta.

    What happens now? Is that the whole game?

  6. Eric Bowser says:

    I attended the scrimmage as well, my thoughts on what I saw.

    * Did not concentrate on the goalies all that much but I thought Sean Maguire had good agility moving in position on rebound chances.

    * To add to DK’s thoughts above on Olli Maatta, I had tweeted while there, Maatta looks the part of an NHL defenseman. Head up, patient, good strides while handling the puck, was intent on his defensive responsibility, his positioning backing up is quite impressive for a young player.

    * I know they are quite young but wasn’t all that impressed with 2013 picks Jake Guentzel or Troy Josephs. They need to grow and put on some weight.

    * I don’t get the Adam Payerl love that the Penguins brass were dishing this week because he doesn’t have NHL speed. Yes, he’s a big, right-handed shooter but that’s about all I can say about him to match the descriptions the team were lauding his way.

    * Tom Kuhnhackl… if his skating could get better, I like his chances better Payerl. He has a real nice wrist shot, needs to use it more.

    * Dominik Uher has a chance… I really like what I saw from him. He’s not fast but he’s quick, agile. Isn’t afraid to hit the corner and dig for the puck, former center so he’s got the passing skills to dig it and dish it. He did all the work on a line with Payerl. He reminded me of Matt Cooke and Max Talbot. If Pens get the injury bug, he’d be an ok 3rd/4th line winger.

    * NCAA wingers Bryan Rust and Scott Wilson brought exactly what I expected with their grinding game. Ok speed, skills… more hard work, lunch pail wingers than perimeter guys. I think Rust is the type that produces at the AHL level but his lack of speed and size won’t work in NHL.

    * Tedd Blueger earned the Morozov award, he had to have fallen to the ice at least 5 or 6 times because of getting hit. Boy needs to get stronger.

    * Matia Marcantuoni is fast, ok shot… right now, he’s more Konstantin Koltsov than Pascal Dupuis. He’s another organizational bottom two-line winger.

    * Once read someone compare Derrick Pouliot’s game to that of Kris Letang….HE IS NOT Letang. Pouliot does push the puck up the ice, good skater, probably looks better passing to NHL forwards than ham-n-eggers for Pens but he’s not Letang defensively or physically. I wasn’t that impressed.

    * Scott Harrington has turned into Mark Eaton… well ok not exactly but his game is more more stay-at-home than I recall seeing from him before.

    * Brian Dumoulin is another tweener, not a big defenseman, not highly skilled… more of a third pairing left defenseman that will skate well, move the puck… maybe he can get an edge to his game and be another Andrew Ference.

    What I saw today confirmed my belief that Ray Shero signed both Kunitz and Dupuis because there’s nothing in the system to push them out of their jobs. The lack of speed and skill makes it hard to evaluate their prospects on defense as they rarely had to give up space in order to cut down an angle.

    DK: Thanks, Eric, but what about my bright orange All-Star shirt?

  7. Chris says:

    I thought Kuhnackl was the most talented of the forwards; he has the skill set of a top-6 forward, found space, was dangerous with the puck. That said, he has to hit the weight room hard if he ever wants to sniff the NHL. Hopefully a healthy year in WBS helps him.

    I liked Marcantuoni, too. Man he can fly.

    I was on the black team’s end so it was easier to judge their d-men. I liked the nastiness Harrington and Samuelsson played with, it will be a welcomed addition to the big club should they make it one day.

  8. Eric Bowser says:

    It was…. orange. hahahaha.

    I did snap a picture from the cell phone…

    And I did have a laugh seeing that convo with the “person” in wearing the pink dress shirt. Ok, more than a good laugh.

  9. @412tj says:

    So do you think Maata makes the team? At least for 9/10 games to start?

  10. Dominic says:

    Thanks DK, always enjoy your work on twitter and on the trib!

  11. JohninOshkosh says:

    Very good stuff as well, Mr. Bowser.

    There really isn’t an off season for any sport anymore, is there?
    Fun to read about pucks while sweltering in my living room! (no AC).

  12. Eric Bowser says:

    Not a chance.

    Penguins have a long depth chart in the NHL and Shero has history of wanting his defensemen to get a year or more of AHL experience.

    If Maatta plays in the AHL this season, he’ll be an NHL defenseman by ’14-15. I believe he’s their top prospect, even better than fellow defenseman Derrick Pouliot.

  13. Eric Bowser says:

    After today, not much hockey until September training camp but you are right, offseasons get shorter and shorter.

  14. Chris says:

    On Marcantuoni: even if he’s never a Dupuis (and to be fair, before 2 years ago the running joke on Dupuis was a drawing of him with no hands) I think his size will make him an effective NHL player. I think the sheet they gave out said he was 6′ 197 lbs, that size moving that fast should cause a lot of havoc on the forecheck and force turnovers.

  15. Eric Majeski says:

    I was there all this week. If anyone’s interested, here are my thoughts from yesterday: http://letsgopens.com/camp_reports.php?id=86

    Daily reports from earlier are archived here: http://letsgopens.com/camp_reports.php

    DK: What about my orange shirt, Netwolf? Made the Isles third sweaters look tame by comparison.

  16. hockeymonster says:

    Thanks for the report Eric. I didn’t make it to the scrimmage but was wondering how Wilson, maguire and payerl looked. Harrington and maata I identified as untouchable a long time ago and it seems like my assessment of pouliot was pretty accurate.

    Payerl stood out to me in last years scrimmage so kept an eye on him this season in WB. I’m sure his skating needs work but he’s decent on the boards and has ok hands for a big guy. He’s a project but worth the effort to develop him.

    Maguire was solid when I saw him during the college season. Not only is he big but he plays big and has good lateral movement. Seemed comfortable to me playing on his feet and in the butterfly. Don’t sleep on Maguire.

    Scott Wilson I thought could’ve turned pro and joined WB after Umass’ trip to final four. He’s not big but fast, good hands and good offensive instincts. Not sure how much more he’ll improve in college but i’m sure he can get stronger there.

    Rust looked like a skater to me in college but really didn’t see much of him to know if he can play.

  17. hockeymonster says:

    Maatta will go back to junior unless he sticks in the NHL which he won’t.

    DK: In general, that rule is so counterproductive.

  18. hockeymonster says:

    Not if you ask the junior team :)

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