Prior to NHL training camps starting up, teams have grouped up to have prospect round robin games. For the last several years, the Penguins have taken the jaunt up I-79 to I-90 and over to Buffalo to meet the Sabres, Devils and Bruins.
Last year, as we mentioned, Pittsburgh’s prospect pool was not very impressive or deep. They ended up losing all three games by a combined scored of 14-4 and weren’t very competitive. Friday afternoon the team ended up losing at the literal last second to Boston 3-2, and then turned out a 2-1 win against New Jersey on Saturday. They’ll play the host Buffalo tomorrow afternoon to wrap it up and head back south to the ‘Burgh and start up camp with the big boys next Friday.
So what can we take away so far?
Addison as advertised....Good but needing growth
Just check the two tweets from the PG’s Matt Vensel:
After one period, the #Penguins prospects lead the Bruins, 2-0, and I'm confident drawing one conclusion: Calen Addison is good.— Matt Vensel (@mattvensel) September 6, 2019
Calen Addison, who impressed with his skating and puck skills last night, just got danced around by a Devil, forcing Addison to haul him down.— Matt Vensel (@mattvensel) September 7, 2019
If you’ve never seen Addison play, he’s listed at a (generous) 5’10, 180, a right handed shot who can skate like the wind and has a deft and nifty touch with the puck. And when he or his team is in control of the puck, he’s a wizard. Good things will happen.
When it comes to a well-rounded game and defending to win the puck back....Well, it’s a work in progress. Which is nothing bad considering we’re talking about a 19-year old defenseman here.
Addison has a lot of attributes that can’t be taught. Vision, burst, acceleration, playmaking. That’s all well and good. But it’s also probably a good thing for him that he’s going back to the WHL this year and maybe will be able to grow more and get a bigger workload than if he was in the AHL. He probably needs it.
Velucci impressed by the organization’s new defensemen
One big reason the Pens have been competitive this September in Buffalo has been additions to the blueline. Pittsburgh traded a future sixth round pick to get former Edmonton draft pick John Marino, and the right-handed former Harvard man has flashed early. He’s been paired with fellow 2019-20 pro rookie Pierre-Olivier Joseph, acquired in the Phil Kessel trade.
Their future Wilkes-Barre coach Mike Velucci (serving as head coach for this prospect event) has taken note and been impressed.
“I think both are going to be outstanding NHL defensemen,” he said. “They just need a little bit of maturity and development. They’re both big guys, have great sticks. Both of those guys together, I thought they played really well.”
It’ll be interesting to see how long the youngsters stick together, in WB/S with veterans like David Warsofsky, Zach Trotman and Kevin Czuczman you would think they’ll probably mix and match some vets and youth in their pairs (along with fellow rookie Niclas Almari involved too).
John Marino's elusiveness and escapability under pressure is really eye-catching. There's been about three times in this first period that he's shook the forecheck and found a lane for an outlet pass.— Nick Hart (@_NickHart) September 7, 2019
But one day in the future a responsible pair of Joseph-Marino could make some sense to eventually unite in Pittsburgh, if both can keep developing in an upward trajectory. So far, so good in their first impressions.
D’Orio steals D’game-io
Pittsburgh was outshot 35-22 by NJD on Saturday. Their undrafted goalie prospect Alex D’Orio stood tall, including making several big save in the third period in an extended 3v5 situation. D’Orio spent most of his junior career on a bad team, so he hasn’t really gotten a chance to show what he’s got. At 6’3, 210 he’s got the measurables though. And yesterday he flashed enough to show he’s got the skill and ability to pull out a win too.
It’ll be interesting to see how his first season goes and how he eventually develops, but this is a team that’s had success at building up young, undrafted goalies. Could D’Orio be the next in that line?
Angello standing out
When you’re 6’5, right handed and have decent hands and feet, you’re bound to stand out. There’s a grand total of exactly one guy in the prospect pool like that for the Pens. Anthony Angello is that guy and stood out on Saturday making a power move and resulting in a goal.
GOAL! Angello. What a power move by a power forward. Just forced his way from the corner to the crease, worked the puck to his backhand in tight quarters and shoveled it in. #Pens take a 2-1 lead. -MC— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) September 7, 2019
“Give him a lot of credit,” Vellucci said. “He was very competitive. And that’s what he has to be. When you’re that big, you have to be competitive.”
At 24-years old and with a pro year under his belt last year in WB/S, Angello frankly should be standing out and drawing attention in positive ways at this point if he is to have a chance at making his NHL debut. Saturday he put some eyeballs on himself for a good reason.
“Coach Vellucci was talking to us on the bench that someone needed to get us going,” Angello said. “I got a chance to drive wide, and then I saw a lane to the net. I took the puck there, and I tried to create some chaos in front and imposed my will there.”
“I went out, played hard, imposed my will, and things turned out alright for us,” he said. “I know that [playing physical] is one of my strengths… That’s something I need to do on a consistent basis; playing hard, playing physical and getting the job done.”
Pittsburgh plays again Monday at 12:30pm to close out the prospects challenge, giving one more chance for everyone to shine before the top players get back on the ice next week.