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Penguins Camp Takeaways: Young Players Gaining Valuable Reps

Pittsburgh Penguins showcasing young talent early in camp.

Saturday morning in Cranberry provided the final preparation for the Pittsburgh Penguins before their first pre-season contests against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Sunday. Keeping with the theme of camp so far, the tempo was at a high pace as the Penguins prepare for the 2022-23 season.

Here are the biggest takeaways from day three of Penguins training camp.

Young Players Getting Meaningful Reps

Last season, one of the biggest criticisms of the Penguins was the lack of opportunities they gave their young NHL prospects. Although it's early in camp, the Penguins seem to be looking to change that approach this season.

The most blatant example is Valtteri Puustinen practicing on the Penguin's top line with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel. Puustinen, a 2019 7th-round draft pick, made waves last season in Wilkes-Barre, scoring 42 points (20-22) in 72 games.

Other future forwards, like Filip Hallander and Nathan Legare, received similar opportunities practicing alongside established NHL forwards. As I mentioned in my takeaways piece yesterday, PO Joseph is working with Kris Letang at camp and should see game action with the 16-year NHL veteran.

Kapanen Putting Together a Nice Camp

Kasperi Kapanen looks every bit like a man with something to prove early in camp. His physicality was evident during yesterday's scrimmage, and that intensity carried over to today's contest.

While Kapanen himself has admitted that his performance was not up to standard last season, Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan is also looking to improve when it comes to the eight-year NHL veteran.

"I've got to do a better job coaching him," Sullivan said. "But we believe in him."

Kapanen was unable to score during today's scrimmage, but it wasn't for lack of chances. He routinely carried the puck into the zone, cutting to the center of the ice to open up the shooting lanes, creating several high-danger shots and rebound chances for his line. His aggressiveness also resulted in a penalty shot opportunity, but his shot was stopped by a glove save from Casey DeSmith.

Crosby Still Dominant

It might not come as a shock to many, but Sidney Crosby looked fantastic on day three of training camp. His chemistry with Jake Guentzel remains undeniable as the duo coast through drills together.

During the inter squad scrimmage, Crosby netted both goals for Team 1 to give them the narrow 2-1 victory against Kris Letang's Team 3. Subtle plays like passing the puck between his legs to Puustinen in the slot and stealing the puck on the forecheck with ease continue to prove that he is the best player on the ice.

Pickering Remains a Presence Despite Injury

Penguins first-round draft pick Owen Pickering hasn't been able to join the rest of his team in training camp due to an upper-body injury, but that isn't keeping him from improving during camp. After an early on-ice session before the first practice, Pickering stuck around and watched as the rest of the team went through their drills and scrimmages.

The 18-year-old defenseman took mental reps throughout the scrimmage, talking with former Penguins defenseman and current Penguins Hockey Operations Advisor Trevor Daley. Even though he hasn't been able to participate in camp activities, Pickering is taking advantage of his time in Cranberry.

Play of the Day

Sidney Crosby's second goal was undoubtedly the top play of today's practices. After spinning away from a defenseman down low, his centering pass was blocked by Letang. Crosby followed up on his pass attempt and buried the shot passed Tommy Nappier for the game-winning goal for Team 1.

The Penguins will break from camp tomorrow to play in a split-squad pre-season game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Game one begins at 1:00 PM in Pittsburgh, and game two begins at 7:00 PM in Columbus. 

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