Penguins prospects excited by Stanley Cup win
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The 26 players who spent the past six days at a Penguins conditioning camp for prospects and rookies watched the team win the Stanley Cup this spring. They're fans, after all, and most of them already had an affiliation with the club.
Even those who weren't part of the organization until after the Cup chase took a keen interest in the Penguins in the playoffs.
"I had $10 bet on the Penguins in the final with one of my friends," said defenseman Alex Velischek, who was selected by the club in the fifth round two weeks after the playoffs ended. "I took the Penguins because [Marc-Andre] Fleury's a better goalie than [Detroit's Chris] Osgood. That was my thought process.
"So I won $10 and ended up getting drafted by them."
Regardless of what each camp prospect's situation is -- from those who already have a bit of NHL experience to draft picks to unattached invitees -- the Penguins' success of going to the final last year and then coming back and winning the Cup this year made a difference in how the youngsters think of the organization and their place in it.
"It's pretty exciting to think if I can make this team in a few years, it's going to be a really good team that's going to always be contending," said defenseman Carl Sneep, who was drafted by the Penguins in the second round in 2006 and will be returning to Boston College for his senior season.
Sneep watched some of the Penguins postseason games with Eagles teammate Andrew Orpik, younger brother of Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik.
Brian Strait, a defenseman who left Boston University a year early to sign with the Penguins during the NHL playoffs, watched Game 7 of the final -- a 2-1 clinching win over Detroit -- with his parents.
"I was ecstatic when they won," he said. "That was unbelievable. It's always great to go into an organization that's a winner. The atmosphere around here, even from last year when they made the Cup finals, it's just so much different."
There's another thought that looms among prospects of a club talented enough to win the Cup: That could be one tough lineup to crack.
They have a really good team, a really young team, and they're going to be good for a few years," said 2009 fifth-round pick Andy Bathgate, grandson of the former Penguins player by the same name. He's a center, a position in which the Penguins are deep, with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal all in their early 20s.
"But if you can step up in your position then maybe they will think, 'Hey we can use this guy for another Stanley Cup run.'"
The prospects also have come up in the post-lockout, salary cap era of the NHL, so they know turnover is inevitable.
"I watched every game and it is so nice when you see your team win the Stanley Cup," said center Keven Veilleux, a second-round pick in 2007. "Pittsburgh has a very good team. Maybe it's good because you win the Stanley Cup and some guys have a big salary, and that makes room for us."
Strait figures it's the same for contenders or clubs that are rebuilding.
"Whether you won the Stanley Cup or not, there's free agents and different things that change throughout the organization," he said. "It happens to every team."
These prospects just happen to belong to a club that could be considered a contender for years to come.
"It's really exciting because you know you're part of a great organization," Velischek said. "You know they know how to win.
"It is intimidating to an extent because you know some of the great players they have, but you've also got to look at it in the sense they're going to, hopefully, try to develop you into one of those great players. It's pretty much all in our hands the next couple years, who makes the team."
If you're lucky and talented and your timing is good, you could make it to the NHL with a team that's strong and one you already rooted for.
First Published July 26, 2009 12:01 am