The Pittsburgh Penguins went 2-1 over the weekend at the annual rookie tournament in London, Ontario. On Friday, they defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-3 in overtime, then on Saturday they beat the Ottawa Senators, 4-1, and finally on Sunday, they fell to the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-2. They came out as the overall winners for the weekend, earning four of a possible six points.
Defensemen Derrick Pouliot got to demonstrate the results of his summer training with Gary Roberts in Toronto. Pouliot may not have shined offensively, but he definitely developed some snarl to his game and was more aggressive defensively and in puck battles.
Center Oskar Sundqvist, who is expected to battle for a roster spot in training camp, stood out for his defensive talents, most notably during a 5-on-3 penalty kill situation, but he also managed to flash offensively and scored the third goal against the Canadiens on Friday. He showed some good chemistry when paired with Dominik Simon, a combination that could be seen again if he gets sent to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins this year.
Daniel Sprong also continued to show why offensively he was scouted as a first-round draft pick, scoring the overtime winner against the Canadiens and second goal against the Maple Leafs. As mentioned in development camp, Sprong still has some work to do, particularly in regards to his play without the puck, but in a few years he could be pretty special.
Besides Pouliot, the other Penguins veteran blueliner, Harrison Ruopp, was far less noticeable over the weekend. As one of the oldest players on the team who has been through this multiple times before he should have been more visible.
The most impressive of those defensemen invited to the tournament as tryouts was Matt Murphy who also stood out as an invite at prospect development camp back in July. Murphy likely performed well enough to get himself invited to at least one of the organization’s training camps. Mickael Beauregard scored a goal against the Senators on Saturday. The rest of the players attending as tryouts had fairly solid performances over the weekend and could help bolster the Penguins recently-depleted defensive depth.
Evan Wardley, who spent time with the Wheeling Nailers in the spring, was injured playing against Montreal on Friday. He was slated to go to school at the University of Lethbridge this year and the injury may very well have prevented his final attempt to get signed to a professional contract instead.
At forward, Jean-Sebastien Dea was singled out by various members of the Penguins staff as a player who really stood out over the weekend. Dea scored the first goal against the Canadiens on Friday and the second goal against the Senators on Saturday.
Matia Marcantuoni also showed himself to be defensively capable while netting some unexpected offensive contributions, scoring the third goal against the Senator on Saturday. On the penalty kill he was joined by fellow speedster Conor Sheary and they demonstrated how that combination could be a dangerous shorthanded threat.
Amongst the forward invites, the player that stood out most was Ty Loney, who scored the second goal against the Canadiens on Friday. Loney also had an impressive performance during prospect development camp back in July and is currently signed to an AHL contract.
Wheeling Nailers forward Sahir Gill scored the first goal against the Maple Leafs on Sunday, although he wasn’t very noticeable for much of the weekend. Unsigned draft pick Jaden Lindo scored the first goal against the Senators on Saturday. He still has quite a bit of development ahead of him before his future is determined. The rest of the forwards all played rather well. For the first time in years, the Penguins may have some good offensive depth.
In goal, reigning AHL Goaltender of the Year Matt Murray and rookie Tristan Jarry shared the net. After his award-winning rookie season, the expectations for Matt Murray are astronomical, so his performance against the Canadiens on Friday did not meet expectations. He did not get the defensive support he is accustomed to and got burned by a couple of odd man rushes, finishing the game stopping 28 of 31 shots for a 0.903 save percentage.
On Saturday, it was Tristan Jarry in net, stopping 34 of 35 shots for a 0.971 save percentage and came within a minute of posting a shutout. Both net minders were victims of defensive gaffes in the final game against the Maple Leafs on Sunday, with Murray giving up one goal during the first period and Jarry getting lit up for the rest of the goals against. It could be an interesting tandem in net at the AHL level this season.
Photo credit: NHLI Getty Images/Gregory Shamus