Where does forward Drew O’Connor fit in on the Penguins’ roster?

Drew O’Connor’s 3rd NHL coaching camp is a complete heck of so much other than his first.

When he first reported to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ camp, the global was once so much other.

January of 2021 introduced a few of the darkest days of the pandemic and hindered almost about each stroll of existence, together with the trade {of professional} hockey.

The NHL’s 2020-21 season — performed fully inside 2021 — was once restricted to 56 video games and no preseason.

Training camps came about in a handful of days in early January. The talent to actually assessment any avid gamers, veterans or possibilities, simply wasn’t provide.

Yet, Penguins control, which had signed O’Connor as an undrafted unfastened agent out of Dartmouth in March of 2020, preferred what it noticed in the uncooked however promising energy forward.

That’s why he in large part practiced with the primary crew of NHL avid gamers in that abbreviated camp. And that’s why he was once given No. 10 on the again of his jersey, as a substitute of a “training camp” quantity befitting an offensive lineman in an NFL camp.

“That first year was definitely really different,” O’Connor mentioned. “It was my first one so I didn’t know what to expect. No preseason, super short and right into regular (-season) games. Last year (the 2021-22 season) was a bit more normal. I got a sense of what it was like last year and what to expect.”


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Considerable expectancies stay in position for the 24-year-old O’Connor as he enters his 3rd skilled season.

With the offseason departures of robust intensity forwards similar to Brian Boyle and Evan Rodrigues, there may be abundant festival to fill out the backside reaches of the group’s forward ranks, and O’Connor is one among the extra outstanding applicants to say a type of roles.

After taking a look slightly unprepared in a 10-game cup of espresso throughout the 2020-21 marketing campaign — comprehensible given the instances — O’Connor gave the look to be more proficient for the NHL sport final season. Appearing in 22 video games, he posted 5 issues (two targets, 3 assists) whilst most commonly inhabiting a bottom-six function.

He would possibly have gave the impression in extra video games, however a reported collapsed lung he suffered in January sidelined him for 15 video games. By the time he recovered, he was once assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League and spent the remainder of the common season at that degree. Injuries to incumbents on the NHL roster resulted in a recall in the postseason, and O’Connor gave the impression in his first two occupation playoff contests.

O’Connor has a transparent view as to how he could be a extra everlasting fixture as an NHLer.

“Just looking at the roster, there’s a lot of talent up front,” O’Connor mentioned. “Realistically, working my way in as a penalty killer and a bottom-six role. That’s kind of where the openings are right now a little bit. That’s what I’ll have to do and kind of go from there.”

Listed at 6-foot-3 and 200 kilos, O’Connor, who signed a one-year contract extension in March, is one among the larger entities on a most commonly streamlined roster. At the similar time, he’s absolutely able to skating at a tempo the trendy sport calls for.

“He plays a game, I think, that complements the style of play that we’re trying to play with his speed and his pursuit game and his ability to get in on the forecheck,” Penguins trainer Mike Sullivan mentioned. “And he’s were given slightly little bit of a scoring contact. Some components of Drew’s sport that we’re taking a look at to take a look at and make a decision on the place he suits inside our roster at this level is solely killing consequences, issues of that nature. If you’re taking part in a bottom-six function on our group — to have guys that may fill the ones complementary roles like the penalty kill or the talent to play a couple of positions — I believe are necessary attributes to have. It is helping us develop into the group that we’re looking to develop into.

“Drew’s getting better in all those aspects.”

One factor that would possibly kill O’Connor’s possibilities of making the NHL roster to open the season is the trade facet of the recreation. Given his restricted carrier time as an NHLer, he doesn’t wish to be uncovered to waivers for any transactions involving Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. And with the Penguins projected to be over the wage cap at the second, O’Connor and his $750,000 wage cap hit may finish up in Northeast Pennsylvania merely to get the group compliant even though no fault of his personal.

“I try not to think about it, I guess,” O’Connor mentioned. “There’s nothing that I can really do to control that. For me, it’s just coming in here, working hard and trying to improve myself every day, no matter where I end up. That’s out of my control.”

Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review body of workers creator. You can touch Seth via electronic mail at srorabaugh@triblive.com or by way of Twitter .

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