Notes and conclusions after the final two days of 'prospect camp'...
Nick Johnson – Overall camp, he was the most consistently prominent. Period. The next to the last day, he definitely stood out in all good categories. It’s really hard to find something not to like. And in the abbreviated 3-on-3 scrimmage at the end of practice, he scored both the regular time goal and the shootout goal to lead his side to victory. In the final day of practice (5-on-5 scrimmage), he was readily apparent. I think he’ll need a playmaker on his line in the NHL for him to be a ‘scoring’ winger, but he was very impressive. With his speed, size, and intensity, and his skill set, he could go from being a grinder on the 3rd or 4th line to being a scoring winger for Malkin or Crosby. I would think he will be on the Penguins at some point this year, and next year for a full season for sure.
Luca Caputi - Someone described Luca Caputi as being like Fedotenko. I have to say that right now, that looks like where he is in that player caliber. Not that it’s a bad thing, but just last year Caputi was hailed as one of the Penguin’s best prospects, so placing him as Feds level is not all that encouraging. The key to Luca really centers along his maturation moving forward. I think his scoring touch has improved every year, and his wrist shot around he net is really solid. His skating right now is average though and not overwhelmingly explosive. Definitely an area for improvement, but it’s adequate as it stands now. And who is to say how much more weight he is going to put on? At 6’3” and 202, he’s still really just starting to bulk up. He’s only 20, you never know where he could end up physically. I certainly like his progression to date. I’d say he’ll be a solid scoring 3rd liner for sure, and maybe higher. Simply put, he has to get either bigger or faster to make it to the top lines (but I could see it happening). He has the hands and the hockey aptitude to do it. Just a matter of the other physical tools. He was the best player on the ice during the scrimmage, with his line of Kevin Veilleux and Joe Vitale getting numerous chances. That same line was predominantly the best line on the ice for the entire scrimmage. With his work ethic and his intensity, he could become a very recognizable player on the top lines.
Kevin Veilleux - Continues to impress with his potential. Again, he clearly has the most scoring talent and best hands. But his speed and explosiveness continue to be a concern. I've read where people said his skating has improved greatly this year from last - it's makes me cringe to think of where he was last year. I was not impressed with top line speed or explosiveness. I certainly have a tough time finding intensity during the practices, but he definitely showed up for the scrimmage. When he plays like that, you can see that he could be a top-level player. Time will tell I suppose on all accounts - he could be a very, very good NHL player, or one of the most frustrating players to watch (since you can easily see the talent, but he floats sometimes). If you base everything on practice, you might say that he will not amount to his potential. But during scrimmages, he impressed with he touch and physical skills. He had an assist on the first goal, a deflection goal, and scored his team’s first shootout goal with a low wrist shot from in close. That goal made him 6-6 on SO goals for the camp. That’s a little ridiculous. With his size (6’5”), he kind of looks like Lemieux. And with his loping style of skating to boot…he even has the ‘floating’ technique down, just kind of skating around the ice at times waiting for an opportunity.
Eric Tangradi – He had a few more beautiful tip in’s during the 3rd practice on the ice. Not much to say other than ‘Big kid, good skater, good hands, great tip in’s. Mentally tough and ready’. He and Nick Johnson strike me as the players who are closest to being called ‘guaranteed’ NHLers (those prospects who have not already played in the NHL). His shooting though is clearly affected by his off-season surgery, and I look forward to seeing it in person after he has healed. His shots look pretty good in his highlight videos, and he doesn’t look nearly as good now. Once that is sorted out, I think he’ll be good to go. Had a nice penalty shot goal to tie the game, but was stuffed by Killeen on the final shot of the shootout. His line during the scrimmage kind of reminded me of Bobby Ryan’s line in Anaheim.
Dustin Jeffrey – Because of his experience from last year and his time already spent in the minors, I would think he is the closest to being NHL ready. Part of this is because of Penguin ‘needs’ at this point in time. Also, he never looked out of place during his 14 game stint with the Penguins last year. Above average across the board, but no one attribute stands out and being better than the next. Just a very solid player.
Casey Pierro-Zabotel – After watching his shot in and around the net, one can see how he put up a lot of points in Juniors. But watching his overall game as a whole is a bit disconcerting. Played on a line with Hanowski and Longpre, and that was dominated by the Tangradi/Johnson/Jeffrey line. To be fair, they were going against a line that could be a 3rd or 4th line on many teams in NHL. All of that being said, CPZ has a long way to go simply because of his skating. The game is about time and space, and he certainly isn’t going to create any of that for himself.
Joe Vitale – a little bit smaller, but is really quick with a great work rate. Always sticking his nose in everything. Definitely one of those energy guys, a third or fourth line gritty forward. Pens are starting to have a ton of those guys in their system. Vitale separates himself with his speed and energy. Would love to see him put on some weight.
Nathan Moon – A good solid player. Nothing really jumps out with you skill set wise, but he is an above average player for the AHL. He could make it to the NHL as a 3rd or 4th line player. But with the Penguins so deep in that area, it might be a while.
Zack Sill – See above. Played bigger than Nathan Moon and has a harder shot, though not as accurate. Solid player, but another 3rd or 4th line type of guy.
Nicholas Petersen – Flashes of good things with his hands, but could be invisible the next second. Decent size and skating ability, but neither sticks out as above average. Good shot and good hands during the drills, but couldn’t seem to get anything going during the scrimmage. Looked overmatched.
Ben Hanowski – Really like what I saw from his scoring ability. Very nice shot, great hands in and around the net. Would disappear at times during the scrimmage because he was overmatched, but I think age and growth will cure that. Just needs to play against better competition than high school at this point. If his speed and size catch up to his hands and his offensive creativity, Penguins could have a steal with this year’s past 3rd round choice.
Andy Bathgate – Decent skills, but young and small. Definitely looked like a boy among men during the drills. Just needs to develop physically before the Penguins can decide what they have in him.
Notes and conclusions after the final two days of 'prospect camp'...