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Looks Like Challenge is Coming (Back) for Penguins Prospects



Pittsburgh Penguins, Penguins prospects Development Camp

Kyle Dubas is believed to have received a mandate to change whatever he deemed necessary when he was named the Pittsburgh Penguins’ president of hockey operations a little more than a week ago.

Three members of the front office departed shortly after Dubas was hired, and a lot more about the organization figures to be altered in coming weeks and months.

One thing that apparently will is that the Penguins will resume participating in a prospects tournament: A league source said they are expected to return to the Prospects Challenge, which is staged annually in Buffalo.

A Penguins official declined to pass along information about any involvement the Penguins might have in a prospects tournament this year.

Neither a list of participating clubs nor the dates for the event at the Harborcenter in Buffalo have been announced, but the source said Montreal, New Jersey, Ottawa and the host Sabres also are expected to take part.

It is not clear when the roster of teams that take part in such events generally is finalized, but a second league source said the Penguins “could certainly still get in” for the one in Buffalo, even though Dubas got his job only a few months before the competition will take place.

“Most tournaments are already set up,” the second source said. “But teams change plans all the time.”

The Penguins have not been a full participant in a prospects event since 2019, when they finished first in the Buffalo tournament. Boston, the Devils and the Sabres were the other teams in that competition.

The Penguins’ 24-man roster then featured defensemen P.O Joseph and John Marino and forwards Sam Poulin, Sam Lafferty and Anthony Angello.

The pandemic forced cancellation of prospects tournaments across North America in 2020, and former GM Ron Hextall said he preferred to have young players involved in games that were more like controlled scrimmages, because that format allowed for more coaching.

Consequently, the Penguins did not get involved in a tournament in 2021 and made only a cameo appearance in Buffalo last year, sending a squad there for just one game.

Hextall’s predecessors, Ray Shero and Jim Rutherford, had a decidedly different mindset, and prospects tournaments were a staple on the Pittsburgh Penguins’ pre-training camp schedule for more than a decade.

Initially, they took part in a competition held at various sites in Ontario — it started in Kitchener, then went to Oshawa for a year before settling in London — and eventually moved on to the one staged by the Sabres.

Toronto, for which Dubas as GM the past five years, was the main attraction at the events in Ontario; the Maple Leafs generally played all of their games during those in the evening, to assure the largest possible crowds.

A few months after Dubas succeeded Lou Lamiorello as GM in 2018, Toronto sent a squad to a tournament in Laval, Quebec, but since then has been a regular at the one in Traverse City, Mich.