Penguins Prospects: Agostino makes big impression at USA Hockey national junior evaluations
Team USA's Kenny Agostino scores in the first period against Finland at the USA Hockey national junior evaluation camp August 8 at the Lake Placid Olympic Center in Lake Placid, N.Y.
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Perhaps, it was an omen that, when left winger Kenny Agostino showed up for a flight to Lake Placid, N.Y., there was Penguins coach Dan Bylsma.
Bylsma was making a connection, and the two were on their way to the USA Hockey national junior evaluation camp.
"We small-talked a little bit. He's a great guy," Agostino said of Bylsma, who worked as a camp coach.
Agostino, 19, a fifth-round draft choice by the Penguins in 2010, did not get a chance to interact much with Bylsma once camp started because players were split into two groups and Bylsma coached the other group.
Still, it would have been difficult for Bylsma not to notice Agostino. This 5-foot-11, 195-pounder led the Americans with 10 points, including three goals, in six games.
He had a goal and an assist Saturday in a 6-4 loss to Sweden that wrapped up a week of intrasquad games and exhibitions against Sweden and Finland.
"This was my first experience at this camp," said Agostino, a Yale sophomore. "It was a great experience. Everybody was fortunate enough to play with great players. I thought I capitalized on my opportunities."
Agostino said the coaches juggled line combinations and did not force a system on the players, who were taking a step toward making the roster for the World Junior Championships in late December and early January in Canada.
Agostino said he is healthy and feeling good after a bout of mononucleosis, the strength-sapping illness that knocked him out of commission for several weeks starting in mid-May and forced him to skip the Penguins' prospect camp a month ago.
A year ago at Penguins camp, Agostino was a recent draft pick coming off of a strong high school career. He left Delbarton School in New Jersey as its all-time leader in points (261 in three seasons). He was first-team all-state all three years and New Jersey's player of the year twice.
This summer, his focus was on training for the USA Hockey camp, but that routine accelerated after he recovered from mono.
"When I came home from school, I planned out my training -- I wanted to incorporate a lot of sprints to try to get faster -- and I was still able to do a lot of that," Agostino said. "I only had a five-week window to train for the camp. The best thing after mono is that I trained extremely hard but not to the point where I was hurting myself."
Before he finds out in December whether he will make the junior national team for worlds, Agostino will dive into his sophomore season at Yale.
As a freshman, he relied on some older teammates to help him adjust to the Ivy League experience coupled with college hockey. He was the team's top-scoring freshman with 11 goals, 25 points in 31 games and was named to the ECAC hockey all-academic team.
He has not declared a major, but he took and liked a lot of political sciences courses at Yale. which has produced three U.S. presidents.
For now, Agostino is only peering ahead as far as the next school year.
"This past year helped my game a lot. I just learned so much about the game," he said. "Coming up, this will be a busy year for me, hopefully, and I just want to improve in all areas."
First Published August 14, 2011 12:00 am