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Pens Prospect Agostino Makes Statement for His Play

Monday, 08.29.2011 / 12:00 AM / Features
By Michelle Crechiolo
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Pens Prospect Agostino Makes Statement for His Play
When most hockey players were beginning their offseason training routines earlier this summer, Kenny Agostino couldn’t move from his bed.

The Penguins prospect was struck with mononucleosis in mid-May, which left him unable to do any physical activity for six weeks.

“It was terrible,” Agostino said. “I was tired all the time, I couldn’t move. It was weird – usually you’re not hungry at all, but I was. So while guys normally lose a lot of weight, I actually gained 5-10 pounds of fat, which wasn’t good. I was able to lose it, thankfully. But it was tough.”

Agostino’s long illness makes his performance at the USA Hockey National Junior Evaluation Camp all the more impressive, as he had just five weeks to regain peak form with his trainers at the Extra Edge Academy in Pine Brook, N.J., before heading to Lake Placid, N.Y.

The camp, which was held earlier this month, will be used to select the 2012 U.S. National Junior Team that will compete at the World Junior Championships in late December/early January.

“Easing back into it was key,” Agostino said. “My first workout was unbelievable. After 20 minutes, I was literally just exhausted and I couldn’t do anything else. It was really frustrating, just because my strength and stamina were completely shot. But my trainer just told me to keep at it.”

Agostino was fueled by the opportunity to represent his country for the first time. It’s not something he would miss out on if he had anything to say (or in his case, do) about it.

“Just getting the invitation in itself – there’s a tremendous honor in that,” he said. “Whenever you get to come to something like this and whenever you get to throw on that USA uniform, there’s just a lot of honor in that. It’s a really special feeling.”

Agostino finished the week as Team USA’s leading scorer, scoring 10 points (3+7) in six games. He had at least a point in five games and multiple points in four of them.

“I’m very happy with how I played,” Agostino said. “It all just seemed to be working out for me (that) week. It was just one of those weeks where the puck was bouncing my way and I capitalized on my opportunities. I really enjoyed it.”

The 5-foot-11, 180-pound forward, Pittsburgh’s fifth-round pick (140th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, was the third-lowest draft selection of the camp’s 40 skaters.

With that being said, some may be surprised at how well Agostino performed that week amongst all of those big-name prospects. Penguins assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald is not one of them.

“I think what Kenny did was he got an opportunity, and he took it and he ran with it,” Fitzgerald said. “That’s from the strong work ethic that he has. You put him with some skilled guys and he should be able to manage some points, and that’s what he did because he’s good around the net. He’s got really good hockey IQ.”

Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma served as an assistant coach at the camp, and he was thoroughly impressed with how Agostino played.

“(Agostino) did a magnificent job of making a statement for his play,” Bylsma said. “To get a guy showing that sign of life, that sign of potential and what he can do in that kind of competition from the fifth round (of the draft) is exciting.”

Fitzgerald hopes that Agostino’s strong showing for Team USA will translate into increased confidence as he heads into his sophomore season at Yale.

“This could propel him into having a very good sophomore year, because he’s on a really good team,” Fitzgerald said. “He could end up playing on one of the top two lines down at Yale and become a high-end college hockey player. That would be wonderful in boosting his confidence and knowing that camp probably propelled him into the player he’s going to be.”

Agostino certainly plans to build on his big week with Team USA on the ice. But away from the rink, he’s trying not to think about what names will make up the final roster over the next few months.

“I think you’ve got to put it at the back of your mind,” he said. “I don’t think it will be too hard just because right now, although it was such an honor to be at this camp, I’ve got to go back to focusing on Yale hockey and that’s really where my mind is going to be.

“At the same time, don’t get me wrong – I’m going to be checking that Internet site come December when they announce the roster.”

And after making such a statement for his play in Lake Placid, the Penguins will certainly be watching Agostino over the coming months.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing him have a strong season this year,” said Bylsma. “And if he can build on that, that’s a guy we’re going to like to see in training camp here in short order.”
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