Penguins’ Next Generation on Display

The Penguins didn’t have a first-round pick in the draft again this year, and many of the exciting young players in the system have already graduated to Pittsburgh. But that doesn’t mean that the Penguins development camp isn’t full of interesting storylines, quite the contrary.

There are a lot of young, exceptionally talented players on display in Cranberry this week. Many of whom could be in Pittsburgh sooner than you think. On Wednesday, I spent the afternoon at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex watching the Penguins’ prospects show what they can do. This is not a prospect rankings list, just a few quick observations of some players that stood out to me.

Ethan Prow

During the first session, defenseman Ethan Prow stood out above most of the other skaters during almost every drill. He skated well, and had solid positioning. None of the drills were particularly physical in nature, so it was difficult to assess that aspect of his game. All indications were that he would fit in well with the Penguins system of mobile defensemen. His first pass on breakout drills was quick and crisp, which is a critical aspect of Pittsburgh’s zone exit.

Austin Lemieux

There have been two reactions that I have heard resulting from the presence of Mario Lemieux’s son, Austin at camp. The first being unreasonable expectations comparing him to his father. The second accusing the younger Lemieux of getting a free ride because of his father. Neither appears to be true. Austin held his own, and stood out at times. He scored a nifty goal against goalie Tristan Jarry that drew cheers from the crowd of well over one hundred people.

It is unrealistic to compare him to one of the best players in the history of the game, even if they do share a surname. But watching him skate, stickhandle, and shoot, there are definitely shades of Mario in his game. Whether there is a future for him in the NHL remains to be seen, but if he gets there it will be on his own merit, not a charity spot.

Jake Guentzel

Guentzel goal at Penguins development camp.

A video posted by Greg Thornberry (@gregthornberry) on

On the first day of camp, center Jake Guentzel was the true standout above all. At times his play looked like a man playing among boys. He skated hard and fast, while his hockey sense was clearly far ahead of his peers. He scored some nice goals during the drills, one in particular where he skated down the left wing, cut inside on a defender and scored with a nice backhand. Mark Recchi praised Guentzel’s hockey I.Q. after practice, and with good reason. The 21-year-old will spend most of next year in Wilkes-Barre, but when the inevitable injury recalls happen, Guentzel will likely be high on the list. This is a special player that Penguins’ fans should be very excited about. There is definitely a bright future here.

Quick Hits

  • Filip Gustavsson and Tristan Jarry worked quite a bit on positioning with a coach. They both played well during drills, but most situations lacked a defensive focus sometimes creating two forwards alone on the netminders. The pair looked like young goalies that need work, with Jarry having the obvious advantage of being there before.
  • Dylan Zink, Austin Ortega, and Nikita Pavlychev were players that were pleasant surprises. None of them get much publicity, but they played well. At times each of them made plays that turned heads.
  • Prior to the first session starting, two camp attendees were kicking a soccer ball around rinkside. The ball went up in the air and got caught in the protective netting above the glass. One of the players went into the locker room and got a stick which he proceeded to use to knock the ball back down. This has nothing to do with anything, I just found it amusing. Hey, I’m easily entertained.

Until next time.