It was a pleasant surprise to walk into the UPMC Lemieux Complex on Monday morning and see players on both rinks. Unlike other mornings, the players on Rink 2 were not kids or bantam-level players but more than a dozen of the Pittsburgh Penguins, including Jeff Carter and Jake Guentzel. PTO signee Brian Boyle was there, too.
Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith were also on the ice. DeSmith had offseason surgery in June, but both Penguins goalies were in their nets as music blared, whistles blew, and drills began. You may be happy to know that Jarry was indeed stopping pucks.
Such skates are often called “captain skates,” as the team’s captain usually organizes them. As you may imagine, Sidney Crosby was not on the ice as he recovers from wrist surgery. The drill details aren’t so important as the main idea–the Pittsburgh Penguins season is upon us.
We wrote about Merisier-Ortiz on Sunday. The small but electric skating defenseman looks much better than an AHL contract defenseman who wasn’t on anyone’s NHL radar.
“Really smooth. He’s a heck of a skater. He’s got a lot of skill and he makes good decisions with the puck,” WBS Penguins head coach J.D. Forrest said. “It’s going to be a little bit of an adjustment for him as being an older guy in junior leagues to being a younger guy in a professional league. But we think he can handle that. We really like his toolset. He’s looked good out here.”
Merisier-Ortiz is only 5-foot-9, and somewhere around 170 pounds. Different guides list him at 165 pounds and 172 pounds. If you missed the PHN+ breakdown on Sunday, here’s the video of Merisier-Ortiz being a “rugger”. He can sneak into traffic along the wall and come out with the puck.
Editor’s Note: Most guides list him at 5-foot-11.
His former Baie-Comeau QMJHL coach, Jon Goyens, has become a friend of PHN and happily discussed the young defenseman’s talents.
Goyens specifically praised Merisier-Ortiz but was honest in his critique.
“He can really shine with skills–Ice water in his veins to pull off some plays,” Goyens texted. “(He was the) QB on our PP with a rebuilding team, and we finished third in the league.”
Merisier-Ortiz needs to work on his shot and be more confident with it. He also said the Penguins gave him a two-year deal, instead of the competing offers, which were only one year. The extra year should allow the defenseman to settle in, find a space, and begin the long road to the NHL.