Penguins camp not just for top picks

Young players to get their first taste of NHL life beginning today

Share with others:

Print Email Read Later

Penguins rookie camp, a new portion of the preseason this year, is as much for Jordan Staal and Evgeni Malkin as it is for Moises Gutierrez and Tim Wallace.

Staal and Malkin, both centers, were the team's first-round draft picks in 2006 and '04, and undoubtedly the star attractions of rookie camp.

Gutierrez, a San Diego native who played for the Penguins' lower-level affiliate in Wheeling, and Wallace, an Anchorage native who played for Notre Dame, are wingers and among eight on the 26-man rookie camp roster who were acquired through amateur tryouts. They undoubtedly are not the star attractions.

"For us, it's going to be a chance to take a better look at all those younger players," said Penguins coach Michel Therrien, who fostered the idea of a rookie camp for true rookies and other young prospects.

"For most of them, this will be their first step toward the NHL. It's going to give us a chance not only to take a good look at those young kids, but introduce them to our program, the way we do things."

Players are scheduled to report today, a week before the start of the main training camp. Tomorrow, there will be medical evaluations and ice time. Practices Saturday and Sunday are open to the public at 10 a.m. at Mellon Arena. Rookie camp continues through Tuesday.

For a player the caliber of Malkin, a touted 20-year-old Russian who signed with the team Tuesday, rookie camp could serve as a breaking-in period.

Some, though, won't make it to regular training camp. Others won't make it through regular training camp. One or two could be surprises who make the team or at least get a shot in the minor leagues.

The only player on the rookie camp roster who has played with the Penguins is defenseman Noah Welch, who played in his first five NHL games last season. The only other rookie camp participant who has sniffed the NHL is winger Connor James, who played two games with the Los Angeles Kings last season and signed with the Penguins as a free agent last month.

There are several who played with the team's top minor-league affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last season.

Therrien said the idea of rookie camp was an easy sell to first-year general manager Ray Shero. In addition to practice and off-ice workouts, the players will get a thorough orientation, including consultations with a nutritionist, a sports psychologist and tips on dealing with the media.

"It's a whole teaching process," Therrien said.

Staal, selected second overall in the June draft, isn't a lock to make the team for the Oct. 5 opener against Philadelphia. He's hoping rookie camp will provide the head start and forum that will help sway the Penguins.

"Anything to get my feet on the ground there and show the coaches and staff what I've got and what I can do is good," Staal said.

"It's players your own caliber, and you can be able to get your groove on and get your game on before the main camp."


Create a free PG account.
Already have an account?