After being unable to attend Day 1 of training camp with car troubles, it was good to be able to make it down to Consol Energy Center yesterday to see the 2011-2012 Penguins in action.

First we’ll start off with some of the standout players in my opinion:

  • Richard Park – I thought that the 35 year old Park had the most energy out there of all the players and his typical tenacious play really made an impact on me. He was outskating, outhustling, and outplaying everyone in the drills and the scrimmage. He even abused Deryk Engelland in the corner and came out with the puck.
  • Chris Kunitz – Kunitz did not play in the scrimmage but during the drills he was lasering wristers under the bar and really making Marc-Andre Fleury and Scott Munroe look silly. His shot looks great.
  • James Neal – He looks like the Dallas version again. He is deadly with the puck on his stick in between the circles and the quick hands and one-on-one moves have returned. It’s a safe bet to say Neal will be building on his numbers from last seaosn.
  • Colin McDonald – GM Ray Shero has a knack for finding these players – AHL stars who can contribute in the NHL if necessary. Jason Williams, Richard Park, and Alexandre Picard are this year’s crop of NHL depth. All of these guys can and likely will contribute to the NHL Penguins this season.

McDonald specifically has a VERY heavy shot. He nearly beat Thiessen clean in the shootout with a hard shot high glove and he was a threat with the puck.

  • Zach Sill – Sill is a very “Bylsma-esque” type player. Tenacious, hard working, gritty, and produces regardless of his role. He managed to beat Paul Martin to the net for a goal in the scrimmage.

Players who failed to impress or looked weak:

  • Jordan Staal – I am by no means a Staal hater but he repeatedly missed the net in drills, fumbled pucks, and looked bad. Only one practice but my biggest gripe with Staal is missing the net on his shots.
  • Ryan Craig – I did not really notice Craig out there. A friend of mine who was with me had this to say about Craig 2/3 of the way through his practice, “Since when was Ryan Craig here?”
  • Steve MacIntyre – He might be the worst hockey player I have ever seen. Fell down repeatedly when trying to turn, cannot handle the puck, etc. But he’s a great fighter so I guess it evens out…?
  • Brian Gibbons – He is extremely small. He’s put up some great results at Boston College and rookie camps but you cannot deny he’s got a long road ahead of him to make the NHL. He got buried by Despres during the second period of the scrimmage.
  • Patrick Killeen – A large goaltender like Killeen should not have so many holes… but Killeen does. When I see him play, he stands tall in the net but he looks rail thin and the net looks so open. He comes off his post too quick and gets beat over the glove easily. Needs a lot of work. Would not be surprised to see Shero sign another college free agent after this season.

Notable moments:

  • Sidney Crosby went full bore again Sunday and even took some light contact from his teammates. Tom Kuhnhackl was especially physical with the Penguins superstar… can you imagine the backlash if he had re-injured him? Haha. Kuhnhackl have him some light cross checks and jockeyed for position during a few drills. Some veteran players gave Crosby some light contact as well. It was good to see him smiling again. Oh and he makes ridiculous passes look easy. So many behind the back, through the legs, tape to tape passes that I could not dream of doing.
  • Speaking of Kuhnhackl, he beat Thiessen or Fleury with a backhand wrap around during a drill that was very impressive. Skated out from behind the goal, used his size and reach to wrap the puck all the way around far side past an outstretched leg. Great puck control and ability to pull the move off on his backhand.
  • Dupuis was playing to the crowd as usual. He scored the shootout winner and celebrated like he just won the Stanley Cup. Then he jumped into the bench to celebrate with his teammates. This is at least his 13th training camp and he’s still having a good time. He also got into an amusing scuffle with Arron Asham in which he tripped the tough winger then slapped him on the butt with his stick as Asham was sprawled on the ice.
  • Neal and Kunitz hit post after post during their drill portion. Both players look to have improved their shot during the offseason.
  • Unknown Czech draft pick Dominik Uher got to skate several shifts with Evgeni Malkin and Steve Sullivan during the scrimmage. The winger looked hesitant but certainly knew where to go and what to do. He looked a bit tired towards the end of the scrimmage. Tough to keep up with Malkin I guess?