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Penguins notebook: Prospects shine in 3-on-3 tournament

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The Penguins selected Justin Almeida (center) of the Moose Jaw Warriors in the NHL Draft on Saturday.

Justin Almeida and Clayton Phillips are two of the more promising offensive prospects in the Penguins system.

They showed why in the finals of a three-on-three tournament that wrapped up the team’s annual development camp Friday night in Cranberry.

Almeida and Phillips scored goals to lead their team — which was named after Penguins goalie Matt Murray, a development camp alumnus who went on to win the Stanley Cup — to the tournament title with a 7-4 win over Team Dumoulin in the final game.

Harvard winger Lewis Zerter-Gossage had a hat trick for Team Murray, which also got goals from Casey Dornbach and Jeff Malott.

Almeida is an undersized but productive center picked by the Penguins in the fifth round of last weekend’s draft. Phillips is an offensive defenseman from the University of Minnesota chosen in the third round last year.

Alex D’Orio, an undrafted prospect who earned a contract out of last year’s development camp, was the winning goalie.

Names on the cup

For the first time this year, the team that won the three-on-three tournament received the Michel Briere Cup.

The award was named after the former Penguins forward who died in a car accident after a brilliant rookie season in 1970. Players have their names engraved on the trophy.

Two of the teams in the tournament earned the right to dress in the NHL locker room by winning a contest at an axe-throwing facility in Millvale earlier in the week.

Gathering data

The primary purpose of the three-on-three tournament was to give prospects a fun and competitive environment to show their abilities.

It had one other important function, too. The Penguins strength and conditioning staff gathered biometric data from players to help them with their offseason workout programs.

Now, when prospects say they had a good summer working hard in the gym, management will be able to verify those claims with data.

Player development coach Jarrod Skalde clarified that the point of the program isn’t to catch prospects eating poorly at a July 4 picnic.

“Everybody’s working hard, but are you working the right way?” Skalde said. “Are you working on the right areas? It’s easy to work on your strengths. Now we have the information, we have the data that they can take back.”

Keeping tab

A handful of Penguins draft picks at development camp, especially those heading back for another year of college hockey, will pack their things Saturday morning and won’t be seen in black and gold again until next summer.

It’s up to the Penguins to make sure they’re not out of sight and out of mind.

Defenseman Ryan Jones, a fourth-round pick in 2016, is headed back for his junior year at Nebraska-Omaha. If it’s like his sophomore year, he’ll be in regular contact with members of the team’s development staff.

Keeping tabs on a player’s stats, especially a stay-at-home defenseman like Jones, can paint only a very limited picture. The relationship requires face time.

“You have all the guys contacting you throughout the season,” Jones said. “You have certain guys that call you and check in and see how the season’s going. You have some people who come during the year and watch you play and keep tabs on you that way and how you’re improving.

“It is important. It makes you feel kind of special. You take what you learn here, especially at development camp, and kind of process those things into your game throughout the year.”

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at [email protected] or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

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