Pittsburgh Penguins prospect Sam Poulin just got drafted last week and on Wednesday was thrust into the club’s development camp at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry. And yet he’s already gotten “the treatment.”
You know the treatment, don’t you? It’s well known to folks who pay attention to the way things work with the Penguins, and it’s certainly not a bad thing.
Poulin, an 18-year-old forward selected 21st overall, hadn’t heard about it. So when, amid all the congratulatory correspondence he got after the draft, he saw a certain name, he was surprised.
“I got a text from Sid saying welcome to the team and if I had any questions I could text him or call him,” Poulin said. “I was pretty surprised he reached out.”
That, of course, would be Penguins captain and superstar center Sidney Crosby, who has developed a reputation for texting newcomers, be they through the draft or trade or whatever means, and making them feel welcome.
So did Poulin have any questions for Crosby?
“No, not yet,” he said, laughing.
Perhaps Poulin will have plenty of time to pick Crosby’s brain in the coming months. Poulin made it clear that he wants to spend more than a few days at training camp in September – that he wants to make the Opening Night roster.
“I’m trying to. I’ll do everything I can to get on the team right away,” Poulin said.
A tall task, but then again there’s not much recent precedent for such a thing.
Crosby, the first overall pick in the 2005 NHL draft, is the most recent Penguins first-rounder still in the organization next to Poulin. The team has traded away its opening-round picks, or the players they have taken with those picks.
He doesn’t seem intimidated by the idea of jumping from junior hockey, where he played for Sherbrooke of the QMJHL, to the NHL.
“Guys are maybe older, a little bit stronger, but the game stays the same,” Poulin said.
He is one of three players taken in the draft last weekend in Vancouver who could be described as power forwards. The others are third-rounder Nathan Legare and fifth-rounder Judd Caufield.
Poulin doesn’t necessarily subscribe to the popular theory that NHL teams tend to follow trends set by recent Stanley Cup winners, with the thinking that clubs will now skew toward being bigger and heavier.
“I think it’s a mix of all of them – speed, skill and being physical,” he said. “It just went like this (at the draft) because they needed guys like that on their team.”
Poulin, who had 29 goals, 76 points in 67 games for Sherbrooke last season, has an area he has identified as one he needs to improve to be able to provide all those elements.
“I’d say my skating,” he said. “I’m working on it over the summer just to get faster, get more explosive.”
Poulin identifies with a couple NHL forwards, Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog and Columbus’ Pierre-Luc Dubois, as players whose skillset he believes he can emulate.
“They’re two big forwards, and they’re capable of playing the skill game,” Poulin said. “I look up to these two guys.”
Poulin, who took part with the first on-ice group at development camp Wednesday afternoon, might have been a little too green to know about Crosby’s standard reception, but he seems to have a good grasp of what development camp is about.
“It’s pretty awesome,” he said. “It’s fun to be around the team and meet some new guys. On the ice it felt pretty good, too.
“For sure, they’re studying me. It’s like an evaluation – they want me to do my best – and at the same time they want me to enjoy the moment and appreciate all the things we’re doing here.”