When he was on the verge of his 19th birthday, Chuck Kobasew was a star.
He had a goal in the semifinals and one in the final as Boston College won the NCAA hockey championship. He was named NCAA tournament MVP after earning Hockey East rookie of the year honors.
"He was a major impact player for us that year," recalled Penguins defenseman Rob Scuderi, a senior on that 2000-01 Eagles team. "He was pretty clutch for us in a lot of spots."
Kobasew, 31, and Scuderi, 34, are teammates again all these years later at Penguins training camp.
Kobasew was drafted by Calgary in the first round, 14th overall, just a few months after the NCAA title. He left school and turned pro. While he hasn't matched the stardom he attained in his brief college career, he has logged 568 NHL games, getting 108 goals and 208 points, with four clubs. Now he finds himself in a new situation.
Kobasew is on a pro tryout with the Penguins. No glitz. No glamor. No guarantee he will earn a contract and a roster spot.
"This is my 12th camp," Kobasew said. "It's not like it was in the first camp, but it feels like it. There are similarities for sure because I'm on a tryout. I feel like a kid again, just trying to go out there and do my thing and do what I can to try to make an impression."
Kobasew, a 6-foot, 192-pound right winger, is one of several forwards -- from raw prospects to seasoned minor leaguers to returning NHL veterans -- trying to latch on to one of a couple of openings on the Penguins' bottom two lines.
In a year when the NHL salary cap dropped, leaving many free agents scrambling to find new teams and several accepting pro tryout contracts around the league, Kobasew seems relieved to have found an opportunity.
"I think you treat every camp as a tryout," he said. "It's a business. Nothing's given. Obviously, it's a little bit different if you have a contract, but you work as hard as you can. Guys are playing for spots in the lineup and different combinations.
"I think the cap going down had a huge effect. A lot of guys are at camps [on a tryout], and there are a lot of guys who aren't at camps. I'm playing and trying to get a job."
For now, at least, Kobasew has been reunited with Scuderi -- who re-signed with the Penguins this summer after beginning his NHL career with them and winning a Stanley Cup -- and with Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik, a junior on the 2000-01 Boston College team who also turned pro after that season.
Because of their shared title run, Scuderi has kept up with Kobasew, a two-way forward who has scored 20 or more goals three times in the NHL, but not since he had 21 in 2008-09 with Boston.
"Chuck's always been an up-and-down winger," Scuderi said. "He's going to play his side of the ice. On top of that, he's always had a good shot. He finished when he had the opportunity."
Kobasew, who in his year at Boston College had 27 goals, 49 points in 43 games, has not reached double figures in goals since his 21-goal season.
"I play a straight-line game," he said. "I take pride in playing in my own end. I'd like to be more offensive than I have the last couple of years. I know I can do it.
"There are some guys here with unbelievable skill that I'll never touch. But I can control how hard I work."
One of those highly skilled players is Penguins captain Sidney Crosby.
He and Kobasew have gotten to know each other through a shared agent and from being at the same summer conditioning sessions with trainer Andy O'Brien. In fact, at the 2013 version recently in Vail, Colo., Kobasew was Crosby's golf partner and witness to Crosby's near-hole in one.
Crosby indicated he has been consulted by Penguins management about Kobasew and not just this year.
"I think he's been a guy who's probably been on their radar more than one time here," Crosby said. "His name's come up before.
"I've known Chucky for a while. He's a good skater, a guy who works hard at both ends of the ice. He's shown he's got some offensive touch, too."
Kobasew's shot with the Penguins came in a whirlwind. One moment early this week he was at home in Kelowna, British Columbia, and maybe 48 hours later he had traveled nearly the width of the continent and was at Consol Energy Center.
"It's been a little crazy, but considering I know a few of the guys, that helps with the transition, and the other guys have been great," he said.
"They're a welcoming team. I'm grateful to be here, for the opportunity."
For much more on the Penguins, read the Pens Plus blog with Dave Molinari and Shelly Anderson at www.post-gazette.com/plus. Shelly Anderson: email@example.com, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly. First Published September 14, 2013 4:15 AM