Pens’ rookies report to camp
Like Sidney Crosby last year, Evgeni Malkin comes into Penguins training camp this year with none of the uncertainty that most prospects face.
The No. 2 overall pick in 2004 will most certainly turn heads and impress the coaches, but that is a given for a player of his caliber. Not only will Malkin, 20, play for the Penguins this year, but he also is the early favorite to win the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie.
For the other 25 prospects who reported to rookie camp Thursday, there is far less certainty. There aren’t many spots open on the NHL roster, but there are some positions the Penguins need to fill, particularly at left wing and center.
The Penguins’ rookies will undergo physicals this morning before an optional on-ice session this afternoon.
Here’s a look at a few prospects at this week’s camp who are expected to advance to the main camp, which opens next Thursday, and who could, ultimately, make the team this season:
• Center Jordan Staal, 17 — It’s rare for a first-round pick to arrive at his first rookie camp in anyone’s shadow, but that’s the situation for Staal, whom the Penguins selected second overall in this year’s draft.
But even with the spotlight shining brightest on Malkin, Staal is still expected to be one of the most impressive rookies.
The Penguins don’t want to rush his development, and it’s likely the teenager will be heading back to juniors for another year.
But coach Michel Therrien is looking forward to seeing what Staal can do.
“We heard a lot of good things, and our scouts are really happy to have a player like that on our roster,” Therrien said. “He’s a guy we’re going to have to make a decision on if we see he’s mature enough to play in the NHL.”
• Defenseman Noah Welch, 24 — Welch heads into camp with a spot to lose.
Last year was his first in the AHL after four years at Harvard, and he proved late last season, during his first call-up to the NHL, that he was ready to make the jump. The 6-foot-4, 212-pound blueliner scored a goal and three assists in his five games with the Penguins and earned Therrien’s praise.
“One thing I like about him is he doesn’t have to run around,” Therrien said after Welch’s debut March 24. “Sometimes, guys try to be physical, but they run around and get caught out of position. He reads the play well and understands that the play’s going to get to him.”
• Left wing Ryan Stone, 21 — He was the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ sixth-leading scorer last season with 14 goals and 22 assists in 75 games.
The No. 1 center on his junior team, Stone finished his first professional season playing on the left wing with center Maxime Talbot and right wing Jonathan Filewich.
“That was their best line,” coach Michel Therrien said. “We like Ryan as a winger. We thought he did a great job. He finished the year strong and real competitive. There’s no doubt we want to take a good look at him.”
• Right wing Jonathan Filewich, 21 — Filewich is in a tough position, because right wing is one place where the Penguins have depth.
But, like Stone, Filewich turned heads in the playoffs last season and earned a reputation as a big-game player.
“He surprised a lot of people at camp and opened some eyes,” Therrien said. “He’s another guy that we want to take a good look at. He developed his first year, and we want to see where he’s at.”
• Left wing Daniel Carcillo, 21 — As an agitator, Carcillo will have a tough time making the roster this year with players like Jarkko Ruutu and Ronald Petrovicky already on the team.
But general manager Ray Shero has talked all summer about the importance of role players, and Therrien wouldn’t close the door on Carcillo’s chances.
“Guys like Carcillo are going to be important,” Therrien said. “Performance will dictate. If he performs well enough and we feel he’s mature enough to be in the NHL, we’ll make a decision at that time.”
Here’s a look at the Penguins’ rookie camp public schedule:
Saturday: Practice from 10-11:30, Mellon Arena, free and open to public
Sunday: Practice from 10-11:30, Mellon Arena, free and open to public
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Karen Price is a former freelancer.