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Weight-and-See: Top Choice Pickering Has a Lot to Gain

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Defenseman Owen Pickering, the Pittsburgh Penguins’ first-round draft choice a couple of weeks ago, is not a finished product.

No 18-year-old is.

Especially one who plays what many consider to be the toughest position for a young player to fill effectively, let alone master.

So it’s not surprising that a prospect like Pickering will have to grow into his role as an NHL defenseman. And, in his case, some of that growth will be literal.

He checked into the Penguins’ development camp at 6-foot-4, 180 pounds. There’s no real need for him to get taller — this is hockey, not basketball — but he certainly will have to add some weight to maximize his effectiveness against opposing forwards once he reaches the NHL in a few years.

Now, as anyone who has subsisted largely on a pizza-and-ice-cream diet can attest, putting on pounds isn’t necessarily difficult. Quite the opposite, actually.

Trouble is, the idea is for him to mature into an NHL defenseman, not a sumo wrestler.

Because maintaining an acceptable body-fat percentage will be an important part of Pickering’s conditioning equation, he isn’t going to walk around with an IV of chocolate syrup or have deep-fried lasagna as an appetizer before every meal when he returns to the Swift Current Broncos for the 2022-23 season after participating in the Penguins’ training camp.

While awareness of the importance of eating well has risen in hockey circles over the years, most young players have had relatively little guidance on the subject. That’s why passing along nutrition information is an integral part of the off-ice instruction at the Pittsburgh Penguins’ development camp.

Pickering said players had “seminars on nutrition and conditioning before every workout,” focusing on “certain beliefs and ideas that the Penguins have, stuff that we can take back home and implement in our lives.”

Indeed, while he was still at the camp, Owen Pickering said he passed along some of the nutritional insights he had gotten to the billet family with which he lives during the season.

While Pickering was quick to acknowledge that he will have to bulk up before he enters pro hockey, he declined to set a target weight that he likely wouldn’t reach for a few years.

“I don’t think I want to put a benchmark weight on what I want to play at,” he said. “It’s about being strong, being able to battle. However long that takes (to reach that weight), I’m not really sure.

“I’m just trying to get stronger and not put on meaningless weight. You want to put on good weight, because I want to keep my mobility and things like that.”

Do that, and someday he just might become, pound-for-pound, one of the game’s better defensemen.

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Dave Heyl
23 days ago

It will be nice to follow his development, something we have not really had in recent years.

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