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Penguins rookie camp begins today! Who is going and what to watch for

Analyzing the 25 players reporting to camp today for the Penguins

2022 Upper Deck NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images

People, we’ve made it. The inactive portion of the off-season is officially over for the Pittsburgh Penguins as of today. While a huge portion of the NHL team is in town and taking some informal skates together, 25 rookies are kicking off training camp today. The full NHL training camp begins a week from today as the 2022-23 regular season approaches.

The Pens’ rookies range from being just drafted this summer, led in interest by first rounder Owen Pickering, to 23-year olds who briefly played in the NHL last year in Valtteri Puustinen and Filip Hallander.

Here’s the schedule planned on the ice, with all action at the team’s facility at UPMC Lemieux in Cranberry unless noted. The Pens have also said that all rookie events this week and free and open to the public

Thursday, September 15

10:00-11:30 AM: Practice

Friday, September 16

10:00-11:30 AM: Practice

Saturday, September 17

3:30 PM: Pittsburgh at Boston (LECOM Harborcenter, Buffalo NY)

Sunday, September 18

Day Off

Monday, September 19

9:45-11:30 AM: Practice

Tuesday, September 20

9:45-11:30 AM: Practice

Here are the players involved with some thoughts on the groups.

As to be expected in rookie camp, it is a very green group up front. Six of these 13 forwards are embarking on their first full professional seasons this year. Along with some of these rookiess, the majority of the others listed above will be making up the backbone of the AHL team in Wilkes-Barre this year.

Puustinen and Hallander should be the most polished and top forwards starting early, with the Pens also looking for and hoping to see progress in the all-important second pro seasons for Sam Poulin and Nathan Legare. Besides that handful of players, the name of the game is longer-term development with few others expected or probably able to have much of an immediate NHL impact.

The team’s defense from this lower level is really being shaped in the image that general manager Ron Hextall wanted to create. Only Josh Maniscalco is a holdover from the Jim Rutherford regime, with the other eight blueliners coming into the organization as a result of moves by Hextall. Six of the nine are listed at 6’2 or taller and this is still a very young group that will also fill out and add weight as the years go on with the eye to add more size to the team in years to come as some of these players (hopefully) advance up the ranks.

Chris Ortiz stood out and impressed last training camp, though he spent most of 2021-22 in ECHL Wheeling and still has not been signed to an NHL contract. He is still young himself, and is the type of player deeper down the organization depth chart who could again flash in the early portions of camp with his skating and puck moving ability bound to make him catch some eyes.

From a talent level and again with his skating ability, expect Pickering to excel in the next week as he gets his first look with pro coaching and likely look the part of the only first round defender in the mix.

Jack St. Ivany is also an intriguing player given his right shot and solid year in the NCAA last season and has the potential to make a positive first impression as well with the team surely eager to get a look of how he meshes compared to the others on the ice.

After a wonderful NCAA career, there was a lot of hope and hype for the arrival to the organization for Filip Lindberg last year. Unfortunately his first year as a pro was almost a wash after a November ankle injury caused an early end to his season. Lindberg is not a large goalie but is extremely talented and has the opportunity to be a key player in Wilkes-Barre. This camp kicks off an important chance for him to show his stuff and get on the map as a pro.

Taylor Gauthier is another newcomer worth keeping an eye on, having posted the best save percentage in the WHL last year (.928% overall). Gauthier was named the first team WHL All-Star and regarded as the best goalie in the league. With Lindberg and veteran Dustin Tokarski also in the organization, Wheeling might be the next stop for Gauthier to get some playing time, but his future is certainly intriguing at the eve of his pro debut.