May 27, 2024

Pickering determined to claim roster spot with Penguins

CRANBERRY, Pa. — Owen Pickering said he aims to make an impression at training camp with the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

“My goal coming into any camp is to make the team,” Pickering said at Penguins prospect development camp earlier this month. “Whether last year, that was realistic or not, I’m going to come in with the same mentality this year. Going to try to make the team. I don’t see a point in coming in and not thinking that.”

The 19-year-old defenseman has worked on a path toward Pittsburgh since the Penguins selected him with the No. 21 pick in the 2022 NHL Draft.

After his first training camp last season, Pickering was sent back to captain his junior team, Swift Current of the Western Hockey League, and was the team’s highest scoring defenseman with 45 points (nine goals, 36 assists) in 61 games.

Pickering was then given his first taste of professional hockey, moving to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League for eight games.

“It’s a transition. Super cool to play pro hockey,” Pickering said. “I was very grateful for that opportunity. I think it went pretty well. … It only helped to motivate me for this summer and going into next year.”

That experience showed Pickering he needed to add size to compete at higher levels. Listed at 6-foot-4, 185 pounds during development camp, Pickering said he weighed around 194 pounds when he arrived July 1, up from 175 pounds a year before.

Pickering now eats about six meals each day, adding a couple protein shakes.

“I eat a lot of food, but it’s helped,” Pickering said. “I haven’t felt a weight yet where I’m too heavy. Not there yet. It’s been pretty good. I feel stronger. Feel more powerful.”

Pickering, from St. Adolphe, Manitoba, was held without a point in his eight AHL games, but still managed to impress Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach J.D. Forrest.

“It’s a heck of a jump going from the juniors to the American League,” Forrest said. “Every day we saw progression. He’s got a lot of tools. I think one of the biggest things is he’s playing against men all of a sudden. He’s doing a great job of getting physically ready for just advancing in his career.”

Risk in Pickering’s game could be lessened, Forrest said. During his AHL stint, Pickering grew in that regard.

“Because of the role that he’s playing with his junior team, he has to do everything, which is great because he’s exposed to all these different situations,” Forrest said. “When you start moving up the levels, your decision making has to be a little more calculated. I think he’s understood that just with his short time with us.”

Whether or not he sticks with Pittsburgh this season, Pickering said he desires consistent progress.

“I think you just try to learn the game every day,” he said. “Even the best players in the world, they come to the rink, try to learn and get better. I think there are certain aspects, whether it’s retrievals or whatnot, trying to get better at all the time. Just learning the game.”

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