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Final thoughts on successful trip for Penguins in the Prospects Challenge

The Pens get ready for the real thing after a quality finish in Buffalo to the Prospects Challenge


The Penguins’ youngsters finished up a three-game set in Buffalo at the Prospects Challenge yesterday after securing a 3-0 victory against the host Sabres. The Pens downed Ottawa 8-3 on Saturday following a 4-2 loss to Boston in the opener on Friday. Here was the lineup:

A few random, various thoughts:

  • Joel Blomqvist picked up the shutout, going the distance and making 34 saves along the way. Promising to see, after a somewhat shaky start to the tournament on Friday. (Taylor Gauthier played the middle game). Blomqvist should be able to use the experience gained in Buffalo and build on that in NHL camp, not that he is expected to make the team or anything, but there’s no downside to a quality performance moving forward.
  • Sam Poulin and Brayden Yager both scored again for the second straight game. Exactly what you hope and expect to see out of players with a first round pedigree (especially for Poulin, who is practically ancient for this environment). The Yager goal showed a flash of being special, winning a puck away in the defensive zone, using his speed and body to out-race a second opponent and then a clinical finish on the backhand.

That’s all you need to see from him, for now anyways, to justify that he’s the real deal of a promising young prospect with a high ceiling. As mentioned in the last recap, it’s not just the highlight reel obvious moments that makes Yager special, it’s subtle aspects like being smart enough to read plays as the develop, give up his position to work back to cover an open point. Impressive stuff all around for the youngster. His NHL camp might be quick and not as meaningful or eventful, but for a first look he did exactly the types of things that he needed to do.

  • The Jagger Joshua hype train continued with a promotion to the first line. Joshua’s edgy physical play was a real treat this tournament. Fans in Wilkes-Barre are just gonna love this kid and be in for some fun times with him creating mayhem and making opponent’s hate playing him. Can he offer more? Who knows, but it’ll be fun to find out. Joshua certainly knows to go to the net and make life hard.
  • As WBSPenguins noted, the Pittsburgh penalty kill ended up shining, killing the last 10 power plays they saw and going 13/15 overall in the event.

“We had a bunch of guys [penalty killing],” Forrest said. “I thought (Jordan) Frasca, from the first game to the second game, did a much better job. We had Brayden Yager our there killing, Poulin, Houde, Joshua, I mean we had a bunch of guys taking care of it. And on the defensive side, I thought Jack St. Ivany and Justin Lee did a great job.”

  • The Pens didn’t elect to play too many players in all three games, but youngster Isaac Belliveau was one of them. Makes sense to play him a lot now and see what he has to offer, being as Wilkes has a ton of veteran defenders that will likely make getting steady and heavy playing time early tough to come by for a player like Belliveau just starting out.

All in all, a successful trip to Buffalo for the Pens’ prospects. It still counts as “summer hockey” being as this event is the pre-preseason, but the group did well and had some nice performances from players like Blomqvist, Yager and Poulin that should be encouraging little building blocks for all of them moving ahead. Can’t ask for too much more than that, and the best part is that the big boys get going tomorrow for the start of NHL training camp (though the on ice portion won’t begin until Thursday).