Pittsburgh’s prospects wrapped up their third and final match-up yesterday against the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2011 Rookie Tournament held from Friday, September 9th through Tuesday, September 13th at the General Motors Centre in Oshawa, Ontario.
The first game was on Saturday afternoon against Ottawa’s rookies. The Senators held the Penguins scoreless through all three periods with a final score of 4-0.
After the team got their legs under them, they played more cohesively for their second game on Sunday evening against Toronto rookies, but they still couldn’t pull out a win with a final score of 5-1.
The team had a break from competitive ice action on Monday before losing their third and final game against the Chicago rookies by a score of 4-1 yesterday afternoon.
Despite losing in all three matches they played against fellow rookies, the final scores do not accurately illustrate the talent displayed on the ice throughout all three match-ups. Most of the prospects played great hockey with some of them putting on a enough of a high-caliber performance to get the attention of the Pittsburgh organization.
During the tournament, PittsburghPenguins.com spoke with Pittsburgh’s affiliate head coach, John Hynes who coached the players throughout the tournament, and it was clear who stood out to him.
“I would say that Dominik Uher played well. For a younger, first-year guy, he came in and had a very good work ethic. He played well.”
Uher is from the Czech Republic and, after only playing two seasons in the Western Hockey League for the Spokane Chiefs, was drafted by Pittsburgh in the fifth round of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft. In his first year playing hockey in the US for Spokane, he only had a slight understanding of the English language, so it resulted in less than mediocre stats. He more than made up for that while obviously catching the attention of the Penguins organization in his second season recording 60 points (21G, 39A) in 60 games and a +19.
“I’ve got to carry the puck more and I’ve got to be more aware of what’s going on on the ice because it’s faster. I’m trying to hit everything that moves. I’m just trying to be myself, be physical and be a power forward. I still think I can improve.” - Dominik Uher
Hynes also liked what he saw from Joseph Morrow and Scott Harrington as well.
“I thought that early in the game, there was a little bit of an adjustment period for them as far as the physical presence and the lack of time and space on the ice. But both of those guys, as the game went on, started to make more plays and feel more comfortable. For two young guys to be in their first professional game, I thought they did very good.”
Morrow is a talented offensive defenseman (who could easily be groomed to become Kris Letang’s replacement when that time comes). He’s played for the WHL’s Portland Winterhawks for the past four seasons since being drafted in the 2007 WHL Bantam Draft (2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11). His last season was the most notable having played in 60 games and notching 49 points (9G, 40A).
Hockey is part of the Morrow family. His father, Dave (drafted by Vancouver in 1997); his brother, Josh (drafted by Nashville in 2002, but an injury kept him from pursuing that career); and his uncle, Darrell (played four years for University of Denver), have all played on teams at different levels.
“Everyone’s pretty equal in juniors, but there are kind of some guys you can capitalize on. But out here, everybody’s extremely fast, extremely strong. There’s no good or bad players, there’s just extremely great players.” - Joseph Morrow
Harrington is another offensive-minded defenseman. According to Hockey’sfuture.com, he is a strong skater which has been supported by many other hockey sources. He also “prides himself on being hard to play against.”
Harrington played in both the OJHL and OHL for a combined three seasons (2008-09, 2009-10, 2010-11) before being drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2011 NHL Entry draft.
Another name that has been mentioned is Brandon DeFazio who decided to step up his game in the rookies’ second game.
“He has played really well,” said Hynes. “He’s got relentless compete in him. He plays on both sides of the puck really well. He’s strong below the goal line. I think tonight, you even saw he had a couple great scoring chances. He’s starting to show that he can play multiple positions and multiple situations.”
With as bright as these young hockey players’ careers appear, we can be sure to hear alot more about them. Let’s hope it’s just the beginning of great things for them and that they’ll eventually get to contribute to the depth of the Penguins organization.