(Buffalo) — Second verse, same as the first. Friday, the Pittsburgh Penguins struggled to remain competitive against the Boston Bruins rookie squad. Saturday, the Penguins had an even worse result against the New Jersey Devils rookies which included a pair of first round picks (John Quenneville, 2014. Ty Smith, 2018) and four third-rounders. The Penguins lost meekly, 6-2 at the Harbor Center in Buffalo.
Troy Josephs scored the Penguins first goal and for the second straight game, WBS Penguins forward Adam Johnson scored a pretty goal in the third period.
Alex D’Orio (Undrafted Free Agent, 2017. St. John, QMJHL)
D’Orio was very good against the Boston Bruins, Friday. He stood tall as Boston peppered him with golden scoring chances. Boston’s three-goal first period felt like a victory for D’Orio, who is athletic but quiet in goal. He did not look like a goalie who was 9-26-9 last year in St. John. He fronted shooters, moved well and kept good angles. He merits further attention as he develops.
He has a chance to progress into the professional ranks.
Justin Almeida (5th Round, 2018. Moose Jaw, WHL). 72gp, 43g, 55a, 98pts. 10 PIM.
Almeida possesses offensive skill. However, the knock on Almeida has been his size. He is just 5-foot-9 and 158 pounds. For Almeida to succeed at higher levels, he will need to create separation for his offensive skill to shine. In the first two games of the rookie tournament, he did not do that. He was not able to out-skate the Boston or New Jersey prospects and thus his game folded into the action without much impact.
Credit Almeida, he went to the net or at least battled to get there, even on the power play. However, he appeared to be swallowed up. The long-term outlook based on this tournament isn’t good. Almeida will need to make adjustments to compete.
Sam Miletic (Undrafted Free Agent, 2017. Niagara, OHL). 63GP, 36g, 56a, 92pts. 24 PIM.
The puck loves Miletic. It follows him around the ice, sometimes even when it shouldn’t. For example, Miletic unsuccessfully tried to stickhandle through multiple defenders at center ice. However, as the puck caromed off skates, it deflected right back to Miletic who carried it forward. PHN considered Miletic for our Top 10 Prospects list but was cautioned by an organization source, “(We) just don’t know what we have yet.”
Miletic plays with speed but not elite speed and plays fearlessly which sometimes appears sloppy. But he’s always moving forward. He’s noticeable, for sure. What the Penguins have remains to be seen; his game is a work in progress. He seems to have good vision, a good shot and plays a north-south game. He’s the player you think played a great game but then can’t find his name on the score sheet.
He will have to clean up his game before we can begin to project his future. Right now, that projection is the Swiss league, but it could change quickly.
Stock: Up, but volatile.
Connor Roberts (Undrafted. Flint, OHL). 66gp, 18g, 17a, 35pts. 33 PIM
Roberts opened eyes in the first game of the tournament. He plays a direct, straightforward game with an edge. WBS Penguins and rookie team head coach Clark Donatelli called him an “honest player.” That’s hockey speak for a hardworking grinder who does everything asked of him. Roberts was one of the better Penguins forwards if not the best, over the course of the full 60 minutes.
Roberts is big, 6-foot-4, 214 pounds. He plays with jam and certainly fits with the Penguins recent bend to physical prospects. His skating his more than adequate. If he doesn’t have a contract soon, count PHN as surprised.
Jordy Bellerive (Undrafted Free Agent, 2017). 71gp, 46g, 46a, 92pts. 82 PIM
Bellerive was strong out of the gate. He had a good first period in the first game but quickly waned. Count PHN as disappointed we haven’t seen his best. From the limited bursts, Bellerive is a bulldog on the wall with a good jump in his skates. Given his summer issues, he gets a pass–after a full training camp and exhibition games for Lethbridge, it’s conceivable conditioning is a factor, now.
Based on the first two games of this tournament alone, Bellerive would not merit much more discussion, but his body of work extends beyond these two games and will extend into the Pittsburgh Penguins preseason.
Other players whose stock went up: Anthony Angello and Calen Addison.
Players whose stock went down: Jeff Taylor, Dane Birks, Linus Ohlund.
Trending even: Adam Johnson, Sam Lafferty.
The Penguins may consider keeping more draft picks this season. The cupboard is nearly bare. For now, the Penguins talent resides on the NHL roster, and this tournament is rendered merely a chance for a few prospects to become more acquainted with their new organization.