Alex Grant – Didn’t stand out or impress in the drills portion, but was much better at the end of the week and especially in the scrimmage. Ranked by many as the best defensive prospect in the Penguins organization, he made several end-to-end rushes that showed his upside talent. Above average shots (both slap and wrister), and a fairly decent skater. His overall game still needs to improve, but the skills are definitely there. A young player at 20, he still has a lot of time to progress and be a solid contributor to the Penguins blue line.
Simon Desres – Very much in the same category as Alex Grant: didn’t stand out in drills in the early part of the week, but became very noticeable during the one on ones and scrimmage on the last day. Big solid guy who can skate well for his size and played a calm dependable game. During the early part of the week, I thought he was 4 years away from having a chance on the team. Watching the scrimmage made me reconsider that prognosis. Looking forward to seeing how he progresses during this upcoming year. All of the tools are there.
Jonathan D'Aversa – Big solid defenseman who is a pretty good skater. Had a memorable moment during shootout of scrimmage. He took a wickedly hard shot from the top of the face-off circle and beat goaltender Theissen. The water bottle rocketed into the air about 10 feet – can’t say that I’ve seen that on a shot from distance before. Not going to be an upper tier defenseman, but could develop into a very serviceable 5-6 guy. He’s 23, so the next 3 years are critical for him to take his game to the next level.
Carl Sneep – Seemed very inconsistent. Would make a really solid play that would stand out, and get burned on the very next drill. Tested really well in the skating events, but does not stand out as being that great of a skater during the scrimmages and one on ones. He made some great plays in pinching or making passes from the point (led to Johnson’s goal on the doorstep from a shot pass from Sneep at the left point). So, he did show glimpses of solid talent this week. Needs to play more consistent hockey and to play a little more within himself. Decent prospect.
Brian Strait – Very competitive in the corners and on the puck. Wasn’t overwhelmed with his skills, but he is making the transition to the AHL this year. His level of play could increase dramatically in that case. He played very consistent hockey as the stay at home dman for Matt Gilroy on the National Champion BU team this year. We’ll see how is able to convert that type of play to the Baby Pens.
Robert Bortuzzo – What is going to sound redundant thought throughout many of the evaluations, Mr. Bortuzzo fits the mold of many of the Penguin defensemen in this camp. He’s big, and has decent skills across the board. But he rarely did anything that made him stand out on either the plus or negative side.
Lane Caffaro – Wasn’t very noticeable all week. Very big guy and physically dominant at times, he just didn’t stick out one way or another to me. Not necessarily a bad thing: if if isn’t making great plays, at least there aren’t egregious errors to go along with it. He’s getting older, so he better get it going this year in the AHL.
Nick D'Agostino – Steigy told me that he was the most improved player in the eyes of the Penguins staff. To me, he was fairly non noticeable, but that’s not always a bad thing for a 19 year old kid. Needs to get bigger, stronger, faster. Again, many years away, but has potential.
Alex Velischek – Not sure whether it was because I didn’t know much about him, or he was just that good, but Alex stood out to me all week. His fluid skating and his stick handling abilities were standouts during the drilling sessions earlier in the week. Though he’s not as big as the rest of the defensemen, he knew how to play the body and cut forwards off when they’re trying to make a move on him. Didn’t over commit on the puck. Could be a good prospect as an offensive minded Dman. Looked calm and cool during the scrimmage, and while making several great plays in the offensive zone, made couple bad turn overs while trying to make things happen. He’ll get better with his decision making as he gains experience.
Patrick Killeen – young, and it showed especially during the first couple practice sessions. Had trouble making saved with the glove hand on day one, and that didn’t change day two of camp after he suffered a bloody injury to a finger on his glove hand. Bigger variety of goalie, so he looks like he takes up more of the net than Theissen. Poor lateral motion in drills. The final two days of camp were much better for him, and he made some big saves. He fills out the net well with his big size, and looked under control and calm during the scrimmage. Could be considered one of the stars of the game. Could have some solid potential with more work on his lateral movement and glove hand.
Brad Thiessen – He plays a solid though not flashy game. Has very good lateral movement and protects the bottom of the net very well. Probably goes down too early and leaves the top part of the net wide open. Has a decent glove hand, but not good enough to make up for the open space left. Played better than Killeen most of the week, and made the solid though not spectacular saves.