The Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins take their future stars to London, Ont. this week for the annual rookie tournament, and those stars are some of the biggest and brightest they’ve brought across the border in a while.
Boasting a bevy of talent Wilkes-Barre/Scranton fans know very well in addition to a member of Pittsburgh’s Cup-winning squad, the Penguins and coach Clark Donatelli lead a loaded roster to London for the tournament that begins on Friday.
“We’re excited. We think we have a great team,” Donatelli said. “We’ve got some good players in the pipeline here in Pittsburgh, and this is a great opportunity for these guys to show themselves.”
Perhaps the biggest name on the rookie tournament roster (which can be seen in full here) is Oskar Sundqvist, the two-way centerman who helped Pittsburgh on its run to hockey’s ultimate prize earlier this summer. Sundqvist, who is a fifth-year pro but embarking on just his second season in North America, solidified himself as an excellent defense-first forward in his 45 games in the AHL with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this past season. In addition to his apparent size and defensive savvy, Donatelli is looking for the man they call “Sunny” to bring something new to table for this tournament.
“Obviously, [Sundqvist] was part of that Stanley Cup run, and so we plan on using him as a leader in this group,” Donatelli said. “This is a chance for him to step into a leadership role and help build some more confidence.”
Other rookie tournament veterans that will be expected to be leaders for the Penguins in London are Josh Archibald and Jean-Sébastien Dea, who are both entering their third seasons as professionals.
Jake Guentzel, who took the Calder Cup Playoffs by storm when he led Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in points with 14 (5G-9A) in the postseason as a rookie, will likely be counted on as the team’s offensive juggernaut, even though he still doesn’t have a full season of pro hockey under his belt, yet.
On the blue line, two big names are Lukas Bengtsson and Ethan Prow. Both defensemen have earned high praise from Penguins brass despite being undrafted free agents. Prow appeared in several games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last season, but for Bengtsson, this will be the first look Penguins fans will get of the Swedish Hockey League champ in game-situation.
Bengtsson and Prow may have been undrafted, but they have NHL contracts to their name. Rounding out the Penguins roster is a series of players on amateur tryouts looking to make an impression so that they can earn a job within the organization. The headline ATO player is Kingston, Pa. native C.J. Yakimowicz, but he certainly won’t be the only one determined to show Pittsburgh what they’re working with.
“We’ve got some real quality people coming in (on ATOs), and that’s a tribute to the organization,” Donatelli said. “The scouting staff, they do a lot of research and a lot of interviews with these character guys. So they’re all quality people in addition to players looking to make an impact. They have something to prove.”
The Penguins’ first game is Friday, Sept. 18 at 3:35 p.m. against the Montréal Canadiens before taking on the Ottawa Senators at the same time on Saturday and then the Toronto Maple Leafs at 4:35 p.m. on Sunday. As of today, none of the games will be streamed online, so be sure to check back here for game recaps and player stories all tournament long!