I made my first trip to the Consol Energy Center back on July 14th for the annual prospect scrimmage, and after taking in the event and analyzing all of the participants I decided to go ahead and jot down some insights on what I saw from what could be future AHL and NHL Penguins stars.
After the jump, I'll have all of the big name prospects that attended the camp along with some quick scouting-report type comments. Over at Highland Park Hockey, a website I started in 2010 to cover the AHL Penguins after being inspired by PensBurgh, I have the full list of prospects split amongst two articles:
The goalies and defensemen: Pens Development Camp Scrimmage Part 1
The forwards: Pens Development Camp Scrimmage Part 2
16 Prospects that caught my eye after the jump.
16 Prospects that caught my eye at the scrimmage below:
#4 D Simon Despres - One of the main attractions for fans to watch. He looked very comfortable out there. Probably helps that this wasnt his first prospect camp with the Pens. I think he's NHL ready but the amount of defensemen on one-way contracts in Pittsburgh will probably force Despres to at least start the 2012-13 season in the AHL.
#5 D Philip Samuelsson - After an up and down rookie season in the AHL, Samuelsson needs to come back strong and prove he was worth the 2nd round selection in 2009. He looked better in camp, but will still be fighting for a spot on the third pairing in Wilkes-Barre in 2012-13 as the organization is currently still stacked on the blue line.
#7 D Joe Morrow - There's no doubting Morrow's pro potential and his abilities on the ice. Don't call me a critic, but I wasn't overly impressed with him during Saturday's scrimmage. It could have been the hype surrounding last year's 1st round pick, but he's young and certainly needs a year of AHL hockey before I'd consider him NHL-ready.
#8 D Scott Harrington - Morrow's defensive partner in the scrimmage showed good skating ability and a heck of a shot from the point. He'll be heading back to Canada for another year of junior hockey with London (OHL) but could end up with the WBS Penguins for 2013-14.
#9 F Brian Gibbons - "Gibby" looked like the same speedy forward he was last season in the scrimmage this past weekend. I was hoping to see him bulk up over the off-season but I guess I will have to wait until he goes up against AHL competition to see if he has improved on his strength with the puck.
#10 D Olli Maatta - Paired with Samuelsson for the scrimmage. One of two Penguins 1st round draft picks from the 2012 Draft, Maata played well in Saturday's event. His breakout passes were crisp and he could develop into a good blue liner in the future. Maata turns 18 in August and will not be making the NHL club, so he'll join Scott Harrington in London (OHL) for the 2012-13 season.
#12 F Matia Marcantuoni - Heard his speed and skating ability was unparalleled but glad I got to see it in person for myself. The 4th round pick of 2012 was all over the ice and really intrigued me. He's only 18 so he won't crack the professional ranks this season, but certainly a forward prospect to keep an eye on this year in the OHL.
#13 F Anton Zlobin - The smallish right winger was a 40 goal scorer in the QMJHL last season and might have been able to better showcase his skills if paired with a better playmaker. No offense to Zach Sill in that regard, but Zlobin still impressed me. He got an assist on Sill's goal and the 6th round pick from the 2012 Draft could turn heads in Wilkes-Barre in 2013-14.
#17 F Paul Thompson - I'm expecting big things from Thompson with the AHL Penguins this season after a 25 point (10G-15A) rookie campaign. Clearly a man amongst boys at the scrimmage as he's 23. Could be a top-six forward for the WBS Penguins this year.
#19 F Beau Bennett - Probably the one you skipped down to read first. The Pens 1st round pick has a lot of hype surrounding him with some writers claiming he could make a push to join the NHL club this season. I tend to disagree after seeing him in the scrimmage. Yes, he's very good. He wowed the crowd many times at the Consol Energy Center during the scrimmage and has shown flashes of brilliance at times. To me, he tends to make one too many moves or seems to be trying too hard. I think a year adjusting to the pro level in the AHL will do wonders for his development and WBS Penguins fans should start getting excited to see Bennett in 2012-13.
#20 D Derrick Pouliot - The 8th overall pick in the 2012 Draft, the pick acquired by the Penguins in the Jordan Staal trade, looked a little raw and certainly needs some more time in the WHL with the Portland Winterhawks. He's only 18 and with the depth on the blue line Pouliot needed to do more in my opinion to make the Pens make moves to clear space to give him an NHL spot.
#22 D Brian Dumoulin - Also acquired by the Penguins in the trade that sent Jordan Staal to Carolina. Was paired with Pouliot in the scrimmage. Dumoulin was one of the most impressive guys at the scrimmage in my opinion. He's a big guy who can be physical and his reliable in his own zone and can put the puck in the net at the other end as well. He scored the overtime goal in the scrimmage Saturday and did a great job against opposing forwards, taking away time and space. WBS Penguins fans should be excited to see him play in the AHL in 2012-13.
#25 F Adam Payerl - Payerl joined the AHL Penguins at the end of last season and could fill in quite nicely in a grinder-type role in the bottom six this season. Really liked his ability to be physical on the forecheck and play a solid two-way game. He should continue to develop more in 2012-13 and its never a bad thing to have a 6-3, 218 pound forward on your checking line.
#26 F Dominik Uher - Like Payerl, Uher also joined the AHL Penguins last season for the playoff run. And like Payerl, Uher also plays with a chip on his shoulder. He seems to have more offensive scoring touch to his game as he recorded 68 points (33G-35A) in 63 games last season with Spokane (WHL). One play in particular I remember from the scrimmage was Uher making a nice move and getting around Joe Morrow on his way to a nice shot on goal.
#34 D Harrison Ruopp - Acquired in the trade that sent Zbynek Michalek to Phoenix. Received a high hit in the scrimmage but was able to play the rest of the way. He was very physical and should continue to develop more next season with Prince Albert (WHL)
#37 F Teddy Blueger - The Pens 2nd round pick from 2012 is coming off an 88 point season (24G-64A) at Shattuck St. Mary's High School in Minnesota. Has some growing to do as well but really impressed me at the scrimmage with his offensive abilities.