From July 11-16, the Penguins will host some of the players they hope will fill their rosters of tomorrow. For the first time, the Penguins annual camp will take place at the CONSOL Energy Center in Pittsburgh.
According to the Penguins, there will be on-ice practice and scrimmages. Players will also undergo medical exams, participate in meetings and get to know one another.
An often overlooked aspect of such a gather is the ability to have guys that will spend time together in the minor leagues have fun and develop camaraderie.
Make no mistake though, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes and his assistant Alain Nasreddine will not be looking for foolishness when they get the camp underway. Prepping these players for successful AHL, and hopefully NHL, careers is the main order of business.
While many of the 22 invited players will not have to worry about that any time soon, there are a handful that have tasted the NHL already or are on the cusp.
Also on hand from the NHL organization will be Tom Fitzgerald, Bill Guerin, Giles Meloche, and Mike Kadar. With former NHLers like defenseman Nasreddine, forwards Fitzgerald and Guerin and goalie Meloche, there will be plenty of NHL experience and advice to go around.
Whether or not these players eventually make it to the big show will largely depend on their work ethic, circumstance and a bit of luck. Each will be given the proper foundation to get that path started at the camp.
The team's scrimmage on Saturday, July 16 is open to the public. If you are not familiar with the top players at the camp, take a scroll through the slides for an introduction.
Name: Patrick Killeen
Born: April 15, 1990
Weight: 204 lbs.
From: Almonte, Ontario, Canada
2010-11 Teams: Wheeling Nailers (ECHL), Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL)
2010-11 Stats: 2,233 minutes in 40 games at Wheeling. 19-16-2 record with 2.87 GAA and .901 save percentage. Played 19 minutes for WBS in two games, giving up two goals.
Expectations: Killeen will have a long way to go to make the NHL, but with proper work ethic and development he could start in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton as early as the 2012-13 season, when Brad Thiessen will likely move to the NHL to serve as Marc-Andre Fleury's backup. He may serve as a backup in WBS this season.
Photo courtesy of http://penguins.nhl.com
Name: Tom Kuehnhackl
Born: Jan. 21, 1992
From: Landshut, Germany
2010-11 Team: Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
2010-11 Stats: 63 games, 39 goals, 29 assists, 47 PIM (regular season); 18 games, 11 goals, 12 assists, 10 PIM (playoffs)
Expectations: Freshly off a three-year entry level deal, Kuehnhackl should be headed to WBS. He put up great numbers in the OHL, but the Spitfires had a number of top NHL prospects. It will be interesting to see if he can fill the net at the AHL level. There's no pressure on him right away, but if he shows the ability to score goals he could reach the NHL in three years.
Plus, just look at that press photo.
Name: Paul Thompson
Born: Nov. 30, 1988
From: Derry, N.H.
2010-11 Teams: University of New Hampshire (NCAA), Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL)
2010-11 Stats: 39 games, 28 goals, 24 assists, 30 PIM (NCAA); 6 games, 1 goals, 2 assists, 2 PIM (regular season); 4 games, 0 goals, 1 assist, 2 PIM (playoffs)
Expectations: Thompson scored 57 career NCAA goals and 112 points. He now will learn the ropes of the AHL. He is highly touted as a goal scorer, so perhaps his maturity after four years of college will help him adjust to the AHL quickly.
Photo courtesy of www.sportsnet.ca
Name: Keven Veilleux
Born: June 27, 1989
From: St-Georges-de-Beauce, Quebec, Canada
2010-11 Team: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL)
2010-11 Stats: 66 games, 12 goals, 24 assists, 122 PIM (regular season); 11 games, 2 goals, 2 assist, 12 PIM (playoffs)
Expectations: Despite the size and the ability to play hockey, Veilleux did not get a call-up during the injury filled 2010-11 Pittsburgh Penguins season, which may be an indication of management's impression of him. However, that can all change with a strong preseason and continue display of pugilistic skills. If the NHL Penguins prove to be too "soff," he may be a cheap answer from within. It also does not hurt that he can play hockey.
Name: Scott Harrington
Born: March 10, 1993
From: Kingston, Ontario, Canada
2010-11 Team: London Knights (OHL)
2010-11 Stats: 67 games, 6 goals, 16 assists, 51 PIM
Expectations: Harrington will need continued development, most likely starting with a return to Juniors. While he is said to be good at both ends of the ice, it should be quite some time before we hear his name in a major way, but that does not mean it will not happen someday.
Name: Philip Samuelsson
Born: July 26, 1991
From: Scottsdale, Ariz.
2010-11 Team: Boston College (NCAA)
2010-11 Stats: 39 games, 4 goals, 12 assists, 72 PIM
Expectations: Do not compare him to his father, but do expect Samuelsson to work his way in to the lineup at WBS this season, turning pro after his sophomore season at BC. The sky will be the limit for a kid with the ability and resources for advice that he does.
Name: Joseph Morrow
Born: Dec. 9, 1992
From: Sherwood Park, Alberta, Canada
2010-11 Team: Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
2010-11 Stats: 60 games, 9 goals, 40 assists, 67 PIM, (regular season); 21 games, 6 goals, 14 assists, 27 PIM (playoffs)
Expectations: By all accounts, Morrow's a solid selection by the Penguins despite passing on forwards that were available at the time in the 2011 draft. He could become the next highly touted young defenseman in the system with few flaws to his game.
Name: Beau Bennett
Born: Dec. 9, 1992
From: Gardena, Calif.
2010-11 Team: University of Denver (NCAA)
2010-11 Stats: 37 games, 9 goals, 16 assists, 18 PIM
Expectations: The focus for Bennett continues to be adding strength. With a proper build, he should have what it takes to make the NHL. It just won't be in the next two seasons for sure.
Name: Eric Tangradi
Born: Feb. 10, 1989
2010-11 Teams: Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL), Pittsburgh Penguins (NHL)
2010-11 Stats: 42 games, 18 goals, 15 assists, 86 PIM, (AHL); 15 games, 1 goals, 2 assists, 10 PIM (NHL regular season); 1 game, 0 goals, 0 assists, 0 PIM (NHL playoffs)
Expectations: It is possible Tangradi could start the season in WBS or with the NHL Penguins. His work and the team's view of what he needs most will determine that. Tangradi has the size that a prototypical NHL power forward is made of, and he shows the desire to get to the net. The problem so far has been a lack of scoring touch. Hate to put so much pressure on the kid, but if he makes the NHL team, it may be along side of Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal if the team is using him right. If that happens, anything less than 15-20 goals would be a colossal failure.
Name: Simon Despres
Born: July 27, 1991
From: Laval, Quebec, Canada
2010-11 Stats: 47 games, 13 goals, 28 assists, 54 PIM (regular season); 19 games, 4 goals, 8 assists, 16 PIM (playoffs)
Expectations: The main focus from the media will be on Despres at this camp. Two years ago he looked lost in his preseason. Last season, the difference was like watching Luke Skywalker fight Darth Vader at the end of Empire Strikes Back, then seeing him return to Jabba's palace at the start of Return of the Jedi.
Despres will be an NHL defenseman. There is even a pretty good chance that will happen this season. The problem is the Penguins have seven NHL defenseman under contract, so unless something happens with that via trade, Despres is bound for WBS and the AHL.