Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pouliot's Maturity Showing Up Now Gary Roberts Whips Young D into Shape

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Pouliot's Maturity Showing Up Now Gary Roberts Whips Young D into Shape

Article excerpt

There wasn't a single reference to Bobby Farnham, Steve Downie or Blake Comeau as the Penguins opened training camp Friday at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry.

No talk of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin focusing on their 200-foot games, either.

Yet, for as much as the Penguins have fast-laned it past the rest of the NHL under coach Mike Sullivan, a few of those Mike Johnston memories appeared in the rear-view mirror. And not necessarily in a good way.

Derrick Pouliot, who played for Johnston in junior hockey, stepped on the ice Friday looking every bit the part of an NHL defenseman. Johnston fought for Pouliot to remain in the NHL as a rookie in 2014-15, and that victory likely delayed this process.

What Friday showed, finally, was that Pouliot is on the right track development-wise. He has lost weight. His confidence is up. He's even sporting a new, tighter haircut and a fresh tan. Life is good for Pouliot these days, but what took so long?

It could be that Pouliot finally entered a training camp, his third with the Penguins, having to impress a new set of eyes. Or maybe he felt his spot in the organization slipping out of his grasp. Either way, the 180-degree turn Pouliot made this summer should not be taken lightly.

"Maybe that was one of the things holding me back last year from performing at my best," Pouliot said of his physical transformation. "It's my third year professionally now. I'm starting to learn how to learn how to be a professional and do the little things."

Last year, training camp went horribly for Pouliot, and even that might be painting too nice of a picture. He lumped a lot of pressure on making the team out of camp, but wound up only making management's collective head hurt.

The problems in Pouliot's game extended from on-ice gaffes such as poor outlet passes and suspect decision-making to what he did off it, things such as poor nutrition and lacking strength.

This summer changed that. Pouliot worked with Gary Roberts much of the offseason, and the results have not been hard to see.

"He looks terrific," Sullivan said. …

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