CRANBERRY TOWNSHIP, Pa. — It used to be, the skills sessions portion of the Pittsburgh Penguins annual prospect development camp was, well, uh, a bit boring to watch. Slow, with a lot of detail work and tedious drills and testing.
It was pleasantly surprising Thursday when the players in the skills sessions also did a little scrimmaging and some flow drills.
For whatever reason – perhaps because the opening day Wednesday was overshadowed by several moves the team made – it seems harder to focus on impressions and evaluations this year.
It was great Wednesday to see former Penguins star winger Kevin Stevens on the ice with the campers. He still has the same recognizable body movements on the ice, even if he’s a little over his playing weight.
Impressions could be easier to form Friday evening when camp ends with a four-team, three-on-three tournament at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. Should be entertaining and at least a little enlightening. It’s free and open to the public, 7 p.m.
The rosters at these camps have been leaning more and more heavily toward undrafted invitees who aren’t actual Penguins prospects, but who could be if they make a good enough impression. There will be a Pittsburgh Hockey Now Extra story on that Friday. Be sure to look for it. Interesting takes from general manager Jim Rutherford and others.
This year’s camp also is different for its brevity, just three days on the ice. In the past, the camp-ending tournament or scrimmage was its own entity on a Saturday afternoon.
Some things don’t change, though. Those in charge emphasize that while there are evaluations being made, the camp is heavily geared toward education about being a pro, workout habits, strong practices.
As in past years, there are some bonding exercises away from the rink. In the past, there have been things like Paintball outings or a fun get-to-know-the-city scavenger hunt.
Wednesday evening, the campers got to try something new – axe throwing.
Really. Axe throwing.
A couple of us asked center Linus Oland about that. He laughed and said it was different, kind of fun, and he noted that he hit a few.
Without missing a beat, I and Jason Mackey from the Post-Gazette asked, “People or targets?”
During a one-on-one interview with defenseman Carter Robertson, who was disappointed he wasn’t drafted last weekend but thrilled to be invited to this camp, I got a laugh out of him by asking if that experience was the inspiration for this year’s fun outing – you know, because he had an axe to grind…