I wanted to make a new post and thought “hey, maybe you can do a fast five type thing” only to vaguely remember that sounding familiar. Well screw it, I own 0.0000% of this blog so I can use his image if I want. I wanted to make this a weekly column but I’m too lazy so I can’t promise that. Todays fast five is going to look at a few prospects to keep your eyes out for at the upcoming training camp as well as other news involving the team. The Pens should be releasing their camp information within the next 2 to 3 weeks, last season the team waited until 10 days before camp started to make the announcement, one of the many drawbacks of a short summer I suppose. When that comes there will be a lot to digest and there will be a few players to keep an eye on, especially in light of the departures of Kunitz, Bonino and Cullen.
1.Who is Zach Aston-Reese, or ZAR(ro)?
Sorry Daniel Sprong, but the new shiny toy goes first. The 6 foot tall, 205 pound 23-year-old center was the prize signing by Jim Rutherford towards the end of the season. After completing his collegiate season with Northeastern University (which he finished with a humble 31 goals and 32 assists in 38 games), ZAR joined the Baby Pens in Wilkes-Barre where he was able to notch 8 points (3 goals, 5 assists) in 10 games. In addition to his ability to score from the slot ZAR also roughs it up a bit, which according to GMJR is something the Penguins are interested in doing a bit more of:
Here is a look at his goals for Northeastern last season:
First off, I hope he keeps #12 when he makes the jump instead of the WBS assigned #46. Secondly, notice how good he is at taking one-timers? Obviously making a few huge leaps here, but do you know who is really good at passing and setting up one-timers that the Pens have on their third line as a winger?? I don’t know if Aston-Reese would be ready for full-time 3rd line action this season, but I can definitely see Kessel setting ZAR up a few times in the near future.
2. Spring the Sprong
We all know about the mishandling of Daniel Sprong by the Penguins two years ago after Sprong earned a 9 game tryout following a strong training camp. The Pens then decided to burn a year of his entry level deal only to have Mike Johnston handle him like a hated step-child. What has he been up to since then? Well he played for the Penguins so that means he inevitably got injured and had to have surgery of course, but following his return to his QMJHL Charlottetown (town, not ville) Islanders he went nuts scoring 32 goals and 27 assists in just 31 games. With stats like that it is easy to get sprung on the Sprong but you have to remember that at one point the team deemed him good enough to be in the NHL, and these stats were in a league comprised of 16-20 year-olds.
“Sprong has about 6 inches” #hockeyporn. Regardless of the age and quality of competition you can see aspects of Sprongs game that will make him a good fit in the Penguins system, a natural play maker who can finish plays when given the puck with good hands and good speed. In an interview Mark Recchi says that Sprong has NHL ready abilities and it is the teams wishes for Sprong to be a top 6 scorer. With one year gone on his contract the Pens are most likely cautiously approaching the Sprong situation, however only getting 2 full NHL seasons in before his next deal could benefit the organization when it is time to talk a raise. Unless a dramatic trade happens I would expect Sprong to get a long look this year and probably crack the roster at some point.
3. The Curious case of Lukas Bengtsson
Lukas Bengtsson was a heavily sought after defensive prospect from Sweden, Erik Piri at eliteprospects.com had this to say about the Swede, “Bengtsson is a defenseman who stands out with his terrific skating ability and offensive instincts. Owns excellent acceleration and agility, allowing him to rush the puck up the ice. Of below-average size, he still protects the puck well when skating. Manning the point on the powerplay, he has a great one-timer and quick decision-making ability. Always gets back defensively, but could certainly improve his overall game, given his hockey smarts.” Bengtsson made his North American professional debut last season, appearing in 16 games for Wilkes-Barre and snagging a goal and 5 assists in the process until being sidelined with what appeared to be Lyme’s disease. Following the diagnosis and treatment the defender attempted to come back to WBS when his training was cut short due to excruciating pain in his legs after a cycling-drill. After extensive testing Bengtsson was diagnosed with a rare disease known as POTS syndrome, a syndrome characterized by too little blood returning to the heart after exercise or extended periods of laying flat. Pensburgh has a great article addressing the diagnosis and an interview with Bengtsson about the process. Hopefully Bengtsson can make a full recovery and learn to play professionally with his diagnosis, as the scouting report suggested he possess a lethal one-timer:
4. Geno Speaks, Crosby Works, Duo still at the top
During his time in Pittsburgh we have grown to cherish Malkin interviews. This week Geno was interviewed by Igor Eronko and provided us with the following quotes:
“Crosby is a workaholic who I guess thinks only about hockey from dusk till dawn. He’s one of the most hardworking players ever”
“[we] have all the tools to win the 3rd Cup in a row. We kept the core and have a lot of good young players who make progress”
Meanwhile a video surfaced yesterday (not sure when it was actually filmed) featuring Sidney Crosby doing puck battles with Bruins forward Brad Marchand, in which Crosby makes Marchand look like cardboard Orpik:
— Hockey 24|7 (@iamhockey1) August 22, 2017
The NHL-Network ranked the best centers in the league and for once didn’t leave Malkin off of a list. I’m linking an article to the Chicago Tribune because NHL Top 100 player Toews is ranked 12th in centers alone… the Top 10 is as follows (note the list is based mainly off of last season, hence Matthews > Stamkos):
- Connor McDavid, Oilers
- Sidney Crosby, Penguins
- Evgeni Malkin, Penguins
- Auston Matthews, Maple Leafs
- Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals
- John Tavares, Islanders
- Steven Stamkos, Lightning
- Tyler Seguin, Stars
- Ryan Getzlaf, Ducks
- Mark Scheifele, Jets
- Patrice Bergeron, Bruins
5. Blog Meet-up at PPG
The individual tickets are going on sale soon and we are still getting a head count for our first WVWV.Pens.Hockey meet up on 11/18 against the Chicago Blackhawks. If you are interested in going shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can get an accurate headcount. Huge shoutout to our Finnish booyy Larry for flying all the way to the States for this, and for @SSGeno and @Ungaba for their help in organizing the event.