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Training Camp Day 1: Guentzel, Kessel, and Sprong

The Pittsburgh Penguins began training camp and their defense of two-straight Stanley Cups at the team’s training facility in Cranberry, Friday. 59 players have been invited to camp and split into three teams. The coaching staff has sprinkled starters and veterans among all three squads, because only a few positions are being contested. But there is always room for another youngster to break through…

General Manager Jim Rutherford also addressed the media, between the practices and scrimmage. According to published reports, Rutherford has circled three potential candidates to fill the Penguins third line center hole. He believes “1 to 2” of them could be available before the start of the season. Rutherford also admitted a deal could have been made this summer.

Please click on Sam’s article to read the full story and context.

No reason was given for the delay in making the deal, though the obvious assumption is ability to agree on the proper return. Pittsburgh Hockey Now will continue combing the league for hints of the three centers. Earlier this summer, league sources did provide PHN with some light on the Penguins search. You can read it here.

All squads separately participated in an aggressive 45-minute practice. The practices were classic Mike Sullivan.  After line rushes, the squads practiced four-on-three power plays and then a quarter-ice game of 3v3 shinny–played with the nets along the boards and players gathered at the blueline as a border. the Penguins held their first intra-squad scrimmage; a two-period game which ended in a shootout, 6-5. Does it really matter which team won?

After, the Penguins held their first intra-squad scrimmage; a two-period game which ended in a shootout, 6-5. Does it really matter which team won?

Notes From the Scrimmage:

Phil Kessel

–Phil Kessel looked sharp. Motivated. Even in the practice session. With hair flowing out of all parts of his helmet, Kessel showcased his superior speed and hockey abilities. Perhaps the Penguins hung a June calendar in his locker? Perhaps Mike Sullivan’s visit to Toronto had the desired effect.

Kessel and Evgeni Malkin, paired together, tortured poor Derrick Pouliot in the 4-on-3 power play drill. The pair skated past him, around him, and had him guessing where the puck was going. That’s not a knock on Pouliot. Malkin and Kessel were showing off just how good they are.

Kessel, however, didn’t shoot often in the practice or scrimmage. Instead, he was making plays as he did last year.

–Jake Guentzel, playing on a line with Sidney Crosby, dominated the first period of the scrimmage. Guentzel scored the first two goals. The second was a wonderful deflection of a knee-high shot. Goalie Casey DeSmith didn’t have a chance.

It’s Day 1 of camp, but the 87-59 duo looked spectacular, without much effort. Make Guentzel a high pick if you’re into fantasy hockey. He’s going to put up monster numbers if he sticks on Crosby’s line.

Daniel Sprong

–Lastly, Daniel Sprong. So much has changed, but also stayed the same. Sprong looks physically stronger than he did two years ago. He is tall, but now he looks to have filled out his frame. His skating includes a great first step and burst of speed, which he is able to use as he carries the puck. His shot is NHL calibre.

Unfortunately, on Day 1, his positioning looked like that of a minor leaguer. He was lined up as a RW, but kept drifting to the left side of the ice in the offensive zone, without re-establishing position as the play moved towards the right. Essentially, he was chasing the puck.

Sprong was the last person to cross the defensive blue line on nearly every shift because he failed to quickly transition or skate hard to get back. He was on the ice for three straight goals in the second period. At least two of those goals could have been prevented by Sprong if he were in position or aggressively playing defense.

Sprong did set up one goal with an offensive rush. And, he danced around Ian Cole in the slot to create another chance. Sprong has talent. If Sprong can learn to play hockey, he’ll be a 25 goal scorer. But Day 1… wasn’t his day.

Check out PHN’s first podcast of the season! We’ve got slick intro music and we hit a lot of topics in short 30-minutee window.  We’ve upgraded the podcast. I will be doing more topics and taking questions in later episodes.

See you at the rink! Cheers.

Jayden Cole at Blush
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