Speedy Penguins prospect Freddie Tiffels takes opportunity to impress
If Freddie Tiffels has heard it once, he’s heard it a thousand times.
Enjoy the process.
That’s the mantra that is often fed to prospects on their way up the hockey ladder by coaches and management teams. In most cases, the climb is a painstakingly slow process. A young player can drive himself crazy if he fails to embrace the grind.
Frankly, though, it’s difficult advice to take.
Tiffels, a sixth-round pick from the 2015 draft out of Western Michigan, didn’t want to spend most of his first pro season with the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers. He wants to get this process kick-started. The waiting is clearly the hardest part.
“I would love if it’s not hard,” he said. “You try not to think about it as much and just enjoy the process. People always talk about that. It’s easy to say. It’s harder to do.”
That’s what makes days like Monday important to Tiffels.
In the championship game of the intrasquad scrimmage tournament, with the entirety of the team’s brass watching the action from the general manager’s box above the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex rink, Tiffels scored a pair of eye-opening goals.
First, he wired a shot in under the crossbar from the left-wing corner. Later, he beat goalie Tristan Jarry with an off-balance wrister from the right side.
Coach Mike Sullivan’s primary motivation for including a scrimmage tournament in his plans for the first few days of training camp is to foster a competitive environment.
It also helps to alleviate some of the drudgery players can feel when so much of the focus in the early part of camp is on conditioning.
But for players like Tiffels, it’s a rare opportunity to step into the spotlight.
“It definitely feels good,” the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Tiffels said. “Before the games, I tend to be a little bit nervous. Then you step on the ice, it just feels normal and you’re just in the moment. Looking back, it was definitely nice to make a good impression.”
If Tiffels makes it to the NHL, it will be on the strength of his skating. The 23-year-old German has high end speed.
“I definitely tell myself to skate, because I feel if I skate, I play a good game,” Tiffels said. “That’s easy to concentrate on because then everything else falls into place.”
While he had a more than respectable total of 33 points in 44 games for the Nailers last season, Tiffels probably projects as a bottom-six player down the road. Carl Hagelin might be a useful role model in that sense.
Tiffels, however, holds himself to a high standard. The only way he’ll truly enjoy the process is if he keeps scoring goals along the way.
“I feel like it’s different from my perspective and from coach’s perspective,” Tiffels said. “They think I played good if I play a defensive game and contribute a little bit to the offense. Me personally, I like to be more offensive as well.”
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BombulieTrib.