It’s rookie camp. The Penguins prospects began the four-day camp and run-up to the Pittsburgh Penguins training camp next week. There isn’t a prospect tournament or games other than an intra-squad scrimmage on Tuesday. But the camp is the chance to see Sam Poulin, Nathan Legare, and a few professional hopefuls in Penguins gear.
After an hour-long skills session, WBS Penguins coach J.D. Forrest ran an uptempo practice that showed off a little more of the Penguins prospects and provided some separation between the top-tier youngsters and those battling for a professional paycheck.
It’s also the first chance to see Valtteri Puustinen, Filip Hallander (again), Filip Lindberg, and Josh Maniscalco at the UPMC Lemieux Complex.
Again, it’s Day 1 of the rookie camp, and we’re resisting the urge to read anything into it, other than a few initial impressions.
Legare and Poulin connected on a couple of good one-timers on the prospect goalies, including college free agent from UMass, Filip Lindberg.
Pittsburgh Penguins Rookie Camp:
The first hour was the skills work: moving around the zone, getting off one-timers, stickhandling around defenders, and some two-on-two breakout work.
*I still like Legare more than Poulin as a top-six prospect. Legare has a presence on the ice and a certain shark-like calm with the puck before a quick flick unleashes a heavy wrister.
It’s too early to say if Legare’s skating is ready for primetime. It was just one day.
*Watch Poulin snap a good one-timer to the far post in tight traffic. He’s No. 22 in black.
“I think they just want me to prove what I’m about and just have some fun out there, give my best and give 100% every time I’m on the ice,” Poulin said. “They want us to compete and go as hard as possible. If I’m going to make their team better, there’s a good chance I’m going to have my spot.”
*Arizona State college free agent Josh Maniscalco, who signed last summer, might have good individual skills, but he plays “slow.” He’s thinking and slow to react. He doesn’t naturally do some of the things the professional defensemen do in the blink of an eye, such as turn the puck over to his forehand.
In the small breakout drills, the forecheckers ate his lunch before he could move the puck, find his outlet or get himself in a good position to do either.
“This offseason, I really wanted to become a little more athletic and quicker. I think I did a good job of doing that. So I’m excited to see how portrays this (itself) year and see what happens.”
Maniscalco was a healthy scratch for most of the WBS Penguins season and played in only eight games last season. He has a much longer road to the Pittsburgh Penguins than you may have expected and seems to be a candidate to get good ice in Wheeling, not WBS.
*2021 fifth-round pick Isaac Belliveau is a bit gangly–his skating skills will need work in the pro game. His crossovers and subsequent change of direction were awkward on a few occasions.
*I liked college free agent Filip Lindberg. In practice, he was clearly working on a few techniques or trying to make them habitual. Even after the play, he would snap to his feet into form or position. Those are the little things that make goalies good, or at least as good as they can be.
He was the last goalie off the ice.
*Filip Hallander. He didn’t dominate or otherwise declare himself a man among boys. Day 1, though. Hallander is an experienced enough player not to feel the need to fire the jets in this situation.
In early August, GM Ron Hextall offered the following on Hallander:
“…So I would hope he comes into camp and pushes for a spot, but in the end, that’s going to be up to Filip,” Hextall said. “…You come from Europe to the smaller base, to a new culture. There’s a lot going on for young players. So sometimes they’re not ready. But certainly, I would hope at some point this year or certainly in training camp a year from now. I certainly hope he’s ready….”
Wait until you see the quote he dished. It’s straightforward, but I’m not going to run a good headline by burying it at the bottom of a notebook story!