A day after re-assigning Justin Almieda and Jan Drozg, the Penguins have gone from three camp “teams” down to two groups.
Here are today's @penguins training camp teams.— Penguins PR (@PenguinsPR) September 29, 2021
Team 1 hits the ice at 10:10 AM, and Team 2 skates at 12:40 PM at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. pic.twitter.com/JJJ0kK1EYS
It’s not unheard of for players to continue to switch teams or be moved from one group to another, but these breakouts are interesting.
Perhaps most notably, youngsters Pierre-Olivier Joseph and Radim Zohorna — who have both played with mostly NHL talent and big roles in the first week of training camp are on the group made up of almost exclusively future AHL players.
And, on the flip side of the coin, Dominik Simon, Drew O’Connor and Anthony Angello find themselves on Team A, which is comprised of almost entirely the NHL core. That strong Team 1 only is down to eight NHL defenders, one of whom is Juuso Riikola.
The tryouts are a tale of two predictable, and perhaps inevitable, paths. Brian Boyle is with the NHL team, and given the Pens’ lack of center depth, it’s looking more likely with each passing day that Pittsburgh will have a spot in the lineup available for Boyle. Defenseman Matt Bartowski has had a quiet camp and finds himself over with the minor league players.
Promising youngsters Sam Poulin and Nathan Legare find themselves over on Team 2 with the minor leaguers.
NHL exhibition games have rules about minimum games played required, so players from Team 1 and Team 2 will make up the next game roster for Friday night.
Again, it’s can’t be stressed enough that the Pens can, and possibly will, change the makeup of their camp teams on a whim as soon as they want. There’s always the risk of reading too much into the decisions, but one can draw conclusions about which bubble players the team wants to see with their NHL roster (Riikola, O’Connor, Simon, Angello) and which ones are working with the minor leaguers (Joseph, Zohorna, Poulin, Sam Lafferty) as far as where certain players may be standing at this exact moment.
Here were the lines team 1 used today:
#Pens Team 1 lines:— Wes Crosby (@OtherNHLCrosby) September 29, 2021
This group could be what we see on opening night, or at least getting closer towards it than the Penguins were a week ago when camp began (although Zach Aston-Reese presumably will return from COVID by the start of the regular season). There still is plenty of time for players to rise and fall in the next two-ish weeks as camp continues, however.