Trio of forward prospects impressive in Penguins scrimmage
July 19, 2014 11:59 PM
Left wing Troy Josephs battles defenseman Ryan Segalla for the puck Saturday in a scrimmage played by Penguins prospects at Consol Energy Center.
By Shelly Anderson / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Bill Guerin was coy about the fact that he assembled a line of Troy Josephs, Matia Marcantuoni and Adam Payerl Saturday for the scrimmage that marked the end of the Penguins development camp.
"I have no idea who put those lines together," Guerin said, but he smiled and pointed to himself when he said it.
Guerin and fellow assistant general manager Tom Fitzgerald, the organizers of the camp, held a draft to form two teams, and Guerin took a flyer on Marcantuoni centering Josephs and Payerl.
"The first shift, I knew we were going to have a good game," Josephs said.
Those three combined to produce three goals and stood out in other areas as their White team beat the Black squad, 6-4, in front of an estimated 6,500 fans at Consol Energy Center.
"They were a good line," Guerin said. "They had good speed, good size, good aggressiveness. You just kind of throw guys together. I mean, there's no science behind it. It's fun when it works out."
That line opened the scoring when speedy Marcantuoni zoomed around touted defensive prospect Brian Dumoulin in the right circle and set up Payerl for a tip-in at the far post.
Payerl and Marcantuoni battled opponents behind the net before Payerl got off a centering pass that Josephs converted to forge a 3-3 tie for White.
Marcantuoni got the puck to Josephs, who let loose with a heavy shot while Payerl was screening goaltender Tristan Jarry. Josephs got credit for White's final goal, although it's likely that the puck went in off of Payerl.
"It doesn't matter," Payerl said.
Josephs also had the deciding goal in a shootout that was held despite the fact the game wasn't tied after regulation.
Those three won't play together in the NHL, at least not in the near future, but each seemingly did nothing Saturday to hurt his future with the Penguins coaches and management watching closely.
Payerl, 23, who went undrafted and was signed by the Penguins two years ago, is the oldest and most experienced of the three. He spent most of last season at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League -- he had 5 goals, 11 points, 39 penalty minutes in 43 games -- but also played in his first two NHL games with the Penguins late in the regular season.
He is 6 feet 3, 218 pounds and looks even bigger, so it's not a surprise his physical play stands out. He was thrilled to hear that first-year general manager Jim Rutherford has said he wanted to improve the Penguins' grit factor.
"It's definitely something that keeps you motivated to try to be that guy who can fit into the lineup and provide that every night," Payerl said.
Using his size to punish opponents isn't Payerl's only strength. He was effective going to the net in the scrimmage.
"A key asset you can have is to be a big body around the net, make it hard for the goalie to see the puck," he said.
His size doesn't fully define him -- Payerl has some depth to his game -- but it's difficult to overlook.
"His nickname is 'Beast' for good reason," Guerin said. "He's a mountain of a man.
"The more he can be in front of the net, the less goalies are going to see. He's got a good skill level. We push him to have a good mix between having a physical game and being able to make plays. Adam's a very capable guy."
His center Saturday, Marcantuoni, got just a taste of pro hockey last season, one game in a late call-up with Wilkes-Barre after he finished his junior career at Kitchener.
"Just bigger players, less time with the puck. It was a great experience overall," said Marcantuoni, a fourth-round draft pick in 2012.
Marcantuoni, 20, isn't huge at 6-0, 197 pounds, but he can fly.
"His speed was very evident," Guerin said.
Josephs, a seventh-round draft pick last year, won't join his temporary linemates this season in the AHL or the NHL. He's headed back to Clarkson University, where as a freshman he had two goals, five points in 33 games and pushed his way through injuries.
Despite his offense Saturday, Josephs, 20, sees his strength more as a defensive forward.
"I like to play up and down the ice," he said. "I want to be one of the players that can go against the other team's top line and be able to shut them down. I'm pretty gritty, but I've also got some speed, which helps a lot."
NOTES — Guerin came away from the camp thinking it's not out of the question that winger Kasperi Kapanen, the team's first-round draft pick last month, could make the opening-night roster out of training camp even though he turns 18 Wednesday. "He's even better than I thought he would be," Guerin said. "He's high-end talent, high-end speed. He's a very, very mature kid for his age." ... Mark Recchi, who coached the Black team, on succeeding his friend Guerin as the Penguins development coach: "He's going to be my mentor. I don't know if that's good or bad." ... The White team was coached by ECHL Wheeling coach Clark Donatelli.
Shelly Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1721 and Twitter @pgshelly.
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