The biggest development so far in Penguins training camp has been the immigration-delayed absence of Kasperi Kapanen. But the show must go on and the Pens, who took to the ice for the first time on Monday, trotted out an expected but still intriguing first look at their team:
With Kapanen not yet in Pittsburgh due to immigration issues and Sceviour not on the ice, here is the Pens' workflow...— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) January 4, 2021
With Kapanen out — and Colton Sceviour not on the ice today too for yet unknown reasons, this presented some ripple effects across the forward group.
And it’s Evan Rodrigues and Sam Lafferty who get the biggest first boost and cracks at expanded roles because of it. This isn’t really surprising — both Rodrigues and Lafferty were among the best looking players on the ice in the Pens’ Phase 3 practices back in July. It’s only natural that they would be used as catalysts here in hopes their energy and good practice habits might help others.
Newcomer and 2020 college free agent signee Drew O’Connor also gets a good look. As has been mentioned many times before here on Pensburgh, don’t under-estimate how much the organization likes O’Connor. He is the type at 6’3and with some hands that will turn heads and be knocking on the door of an NHL opportunity sooner than later.
Otherwise, lines are about as expected, with Rodrigues placing-holding for Kapanen and the rest of the top six aligned exactly as the Pens hope for. The defense is as expected, with the potential nerves-inducing third pair of additions united with Mike Matheson and Cody Ceci.
Since it’s been a while since there’s been a training camp, a reminder that nothing is set in stone and lines are sure to rotate as the team looks to find the elements that they want to see. But this year, with the regular season starting in nine days, there isn’t a lot of time for experimentation. Barring injury, 5 of the top 6 forwards and all six defensemen are locked in. Combos like Jared McCann + Mark Jankowski and Teddy Blueger + Brandon Tanev probably aren’t going to be swapped, unless the team is looking to find something they aren’t seeing.
With Kapanen’s absence, the intrigue for this camp will center around just how capable Rodrigues can be, and how long he might last with the Guentzel-Crosby line. That alone provides a lot more of an interesting angle than perhaps expected heading into the short Pittsburgh training camp of January 2021.
It’s also probably worth noting that the players named above —joined by NHL goalies Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith were the entirety of the first practice. The clear-cut varsity, if you will. There’s only so much space on the ice and there is a 40 player roster.
The Pens will have a second practice with the remainder of the players (listed alphabetically) that are probably in-line more for competing for a spot on the practice squad: forwards - Anthony Angello, Zach Aston-Reese*, Josh Currie, Frederick Gaudreau, Nathan Legare, Sam Miletic, Jordan Nolan, Sam Poulin, Colton Sceviour**, Radim Zohorna. Defensemen - Kevin Czuczman, Pierre-Olivier Joseph, Cam Lee, Josh Maniscalco, Zach Trotman. Goalies - Alex D’Orio, Maxime Lagace
UPDATE: Sceviour missed practice today due to a new baby (congrats!)
Coach Sullivan provided player updates: "Kasperi Kapanen is still dealing with immigration issues and we're working through that process right now. Colton Sceviour was excused from practice today as him and his wife had a baby."— Pens Inside Scoop (@PensInsideScoop) January 4, 2021