Part 5: Jumpin' From Juniors And College
There are a few guys that are going to be in attendance at Pittsburgh Penguins training camp this year that you need to keep an eye on. The jury is out on whether or not these kids can make a statement at the NHL level anytime this year, but it’s safe to say that you’ll see some of them wearing black and gold before long.
That being said, we need to start from the top. The latest prospect to be added to the Penguins pool this summer was Nathan Moon, the centerman from the Kingston Frontenacs. Kingston had a rather rough year last year, and when the GM Larry Mavety took over as head coach, Moon’s game struggled. For Moon, this year’s camp experience will be about getting acclimated to the NHL game. He’ll head back to Kingston when camp ends with a new attitude and a new set of tasks set in front of him via the Penguins organization. Moon needs to shed his old work ethic and prepare to become competitive at the next level. This is the first step.
This year, all eyes will be on Gianluca Caputi, who had a career year offensively with the Niagara Ice Dogs of the OHL. Luca needs to translate some of the grittier aspects of his game over to the AHL level this year in order to provide the full game he had at the OHL level. Caputi is gifted offensively, but it’s his attitude that drives his game. The most popular question amongst Penguins fans this offseason is whether or not Caputi can contribute at the NHL level this season. His experience last year in the AHL says he isn’t ready yet, but if he’s going to make a run at it. It starts at camp next week. Caputi will have to prove that he can transfer all facets of his game over to the next level. This prospect is top notch, even taking into consideration the fact that Niagara was an offensive powerhouse last year from all angles. A full year in the AHL, with more responsibility doled upon him, would be great for this youngster.
Keven Veilleux is in a big position coming into this year. Veilleux has been criticized up and down for his lackadaisical play on many a night in the QMJHL. With his CHL eligibility ending this year, Veilleux will have to prove that he can put forth a consistent effort on a nightly basis .Otherwise, he could end up buried in the depth charts. Veilleux possesses all the tools for success, including monstrous size for a center, but he needs to piece it all together a little bit. If you’re heading to camp this year, make sure you catch a glimpse of his skating. When he’s on, he can move with the best of them, and that’s saying a lot for a 6’5, 200lb forward.
Casey Pierro-Zabotel had an interesting year last year. He planned to attend Michigan Tech as their top offensive recruit, but plans fell through and he returned to his native BCHL with the Merrit Centennials. After earning a try-out with the Vancouver Giants, CPZ was immediately signed and picked up with the team half-way through the year. For a rookie, he did exceptionally well, averaging nearly a point-per-game and improving upon his weakest attribute – his lateral mobility and agility. CPZ is the closest thing to Tomas Holmstrom in the Penguins organization. He attended prospect camp this week, and should he be in attendance at Penguins camp next week, he’ll need to make an impression. His CHL eligibility will be ending right around the corner.
Dustin Jeffrey will be making his journey to the AHL this year. Jeffrey is an offensively talented forward that has a nose for the net and isn’t afraid to shoot the puck. He may not be ready for the big show just yet, but he’s certainly going to look at making an impression on the coaching staff as he prepares for his first full year of AHL play.
We should also make note of a youngster coming from the collegiate ranks of Dartmouth, Alberta native Nick Johnson. Johnson is slated to play a full AHL schedule this year as well, and while he may not be the most agile player on earth, he can certainly stick handle in a phone booth. Like Jeffrey, Johnson will be looking to make a name for himself at the next level and impress the coaching staff heading into his first full pro year.