LONDON, Ont. – Despite outshooting Chicago 44-26 on Sunday, the Penguins closed out the 2013 rookie tournament with a 3-2 loss to the Blackhawks at Budweiser Gardens.
Forward Tom Kuhnhackl scored his second goal in as many games 52 seconds into the third period to cut Chicago’s lead to one. And the Penguins did everything they could to get that tying goal, but ultimately fell short as the final score remained 3-2.
Free-agent invitee Jean-Sebastien Dea, who spent the last two seasons with Rouyn-Noranda of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), also scored for Pittsburgh. 2013 second-round pick Tristan Jarry and Matt Murray split goaltending duties for the Penguins.
Pittsburgh also dropped its two previous games of the tournament, losing 4-1 to Ottawa on Thursday and 4-3 in a shootout to Toronto on Saturday. But despite their record, everyone was pleased with how the guys competed during their days here in London.
“I’m proud of our team and what we did this week,” defenseman Brian Dumoulin said.
While the Penguins obviously would have liked to win this tournament, that’s not why the organization participates in it. It’s an opportunity for the players invited to experience what it means to be a Pittsburgh Penguin; it’s an opportunity to make an impression on the entire staff as all of Pittsburgh’s management, coaches and scouts were there watching; and it’s an opportunity to go through the practice drills, play live competition and understand how the Penguins want to play before main training camp starts on Sept. 12. And of those objectives were accomplished these past few days.
“It was a good week, especially because not too many guys besides the ones playing in this got two games back-to-back,” said Dumoulin, who played Saturday and Sunday after sitting out Thursday. “It’s good for the legs, it’s going for the mind, good to get back in that grind and that focus. I’d say coming to this camp really helped a lot of people get ready for main camp.”
Lines the Penguins used on Sunday…
Dominik Uher - Carter Rowney - Cameron Brace
Scott Simmonds - Connor Rankin - Liam O’Brien
Nick D’Agostino - Reid McNeill
Tristan Jarry played the first half of the game in goal. Matt Murray took over with about midway through the second period.
Eight of the 14 forwards invited to play for the Penguins at this tournament were free agents hoping to make a positive impression on Pittsburgh’s management, coaches and scouts – and possibly earn a contract with the organization in the future.
One of those players who stood out was Jean-Sebastien Dea, who was one of a handful of guys to skate in all three games for Pittsburgh. Dea recorded at least one point in each game, scoring a goal and an assist vs. Chicago, an assist vs. Toronto and an assist vs. Ottawa.
“I feel pretty happy about the way I played,” Dea said. “I arrived here as a free agent, so I was there to show what I can do on the ice. I think I worked hard and showed them what I can do on the ice and it’s been good.”
Dea had an outstanding 2012-13 season in the Q, scoring 85 points with Rouyn-Noranda. He excelled on the power play for the Huskies, as 25 of his 45 goals came on the man-advantage. But despite all of his success and obvious skill, the 19-year-old went undrafted this summer.
“After the draft it was hard,” Dea admitted. “I had to keep my head up and keep working and arrive here with good confidence. And I showed what I can do on the ice.”
The Penguins took advantage of his free-agent status to invite him to both this tournament as well as their prospect development camp at CONSOL Energy Center earlier this summer. Dea was grateful for both opportunities.
“It was like a second chance to show them the way I can play,” he said of being here after being in Pittsburgh in July. “I’m happy about it.”
Other free agents invited by Pittsburgh were Cameron Brace, Richard Nejezchleb, Liam O'Brien, Connor Rankin, Carter Rowney, Scott Simmonds and Cody Sylvester.
Of the other six Penguins forwards, five are signed to NHL two-way contracts:
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach Hynes, who oversaw the tournament for Pittsburgh, liked what he saw from Payerl – especially after his first game on Saturday.
In the tilt, Payerl fought Leafs forward David Broll in a heavyweight bout early in that game. Payerl is a big boy, a power forward at 6-foot-3, 218 pounds – but Broll is even bigger, at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds. However, while Broll landed a heavy punch early, Payerl stayed with it and ended up with the KO – just throwing his counterpart down to the ground to end the dance.
In both that game and Sunday’s, Payerl produced a number of individual efforts, making the kind of plays that coaches notice. Nothing flashy or dazzling; just hard working, dogged and determined. He used his size and strength to win battles along the boards and hustled hard to backtrack and strip players of pucks.
“I think you saw a lot of what his game is,” Hynes said after Saturday’s game against Toronto. “He had the big fight early in the game and in the offensive zone he’s a big, strong player. He’s really heavy on the puck. He does a good job in the offensive zone down low and then you could see his work ethic where he tracks back. He’s a relentless player.”
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