The Pittsburgh Penguins wrapped up their intrasquad portion of training camp, Monday with a pair of 30-minute periods to decide the winner of Training Camp 2017. It is a prestigious honor which will hang on mantles across Canada for years to come. Or…a few players will earn a greater look as the preseason begins tomorrow, in State College against the Buffalo Sabres.
A couple hundred fans filled the Lemieux Complex and echoed the oohs and aahs of the players on the bench as Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel continued to dominate camp. If the pair can translate this speed and precision into the regular season, they will keep a few NHL defenseman awake at night.
Undrafted 22-year-old Gage Quinney scored the first two goals, each time capitalizing on a defensive miscue by Jeff Taylor. Last year, Quinney spent his rookie professional campaign with the Wheeling Nailers. He clearly has a little more than the ECHL can hold. He’s a smart player with some ability. Quinney is from Las Vegas and came through the Jr. Coyotes program.
–Derrick Pouliot had his best day of camp. By a wide margin. Pouliot was a little slow to get to a couple pucks early in the scrimmage but rebounded nicely. Later, he spun away from forecheckers to create space and a breakout. He also showed some offensive flash by choosing a smart moment to crash the offensive zone. Pouliot was wide open in the slot, but the pass was slightly behind him.
He had a second chance in the second period, but couldn’t pull the back-hand around goaltender Sean Maguire. Pouliot was promptly flattened for skating across the crease with the puck.
–Phil Kessel. If he continues to play like this, he will be able to jam all of the hotdogs he can in a third Stanley Cup. In the second period, Kessel reached his stick blade above his head to deflect a hard rebound, just for fun. He’s already in the zone.
–Zach Trotman continues his solid camp. Listed at 6′-2″, he appears larger and plays larger. He isn’t a prototypical Penguins defenseman–he’s big, physical and an average skater. But…maybe the Penguins could use a tool like that in the toolbox. He worked-over Carl Hagelin in the corner. Hagelin had to adjust his helmet and pads when Trotman was done. Trotman’s work also allowed Team 2 teammate, Greg McKegg to play the puck.
If my opinion mattered, and it most certainly does not, Trotman, 27, would get an extended look against real competition. He was part of a stacked blueline in the Bruins AHL system. The Penguins may have found a useful piece.
He’s my early leader in the 7th defenseman clubhouse. Chad Ruhwedel is a better fit for the Pens system, but Trotman may be a better fit for the NHL.
–My early leader in the third-center clubhouse is Greg McKegg. He hasn’t displayed great hands or feel in the offensive zone, but he has had a few flashes. He has also displayed a grasp of the Penguins forecheck and the speed to execute it. Perhaps, with wingers able to finish, McKegg could post adequate numbers He also has the size to handle the NHL game.
If the Penguins acquire a third center, McKegg could be a nice fourth line pivot with Rowney on the wing.
–Zach Aston-Reese. Not yet. He isn’t ready to assume an NHL role, let alone fill in for Hornqvist. He hasn’t yet played aggressively or otherwise been noticeable. In the scrimmages, it has been a chore to find him, despite being paired with Malkin-Kessel. Based solely on camp, he will need to swim in the AHL pond for a year. Things could change, however, against real competition.
Now the fake real games begin…