Wednesday July 28, 2010

WILLIAMSTOWN -- The Pittsburgh Penguins thought enough of Alex Smigelski's work at the National Hockey League team's development camp that they have extended an invitation to rookie camp.

The Penguins will send a team to London, Ontario in September to play games against three other NHL teams.

"This is the next step in Alex's quest to make his dream come true of competing in the NHL," Williams head coach Bill Kangas said. "He will compete, that I'm sure of."

Smigelski played center at Penguins camp as he did at Williams. By the end of camp, he was centering wingers Keven Veilleux and Eric Tangradi. Tangradi was a first-round draft pick of the Anaheim Ducks and was acquired by Pittsburgh two years ago in exchange for defenseman Ryan Whitney. Veilleux was Pittsburgh's second-round pick in 2007.

"They were invited to our camp for a reason," Penguins director of player deveopment Tom Fitzgerald said in an article on the Penguins' web site. "Whether it was myself or our scouts or [assistant general manager] Jason Botterill or pro scouts -- whoever it was, they noticed these guys during the winter and said ‘Hey, if there's an opportunity to get this guy into our camp, let's do it."

Kangas said that Smigelski's performance earlier this month convinced Pittsburgh to send him north.

Fitzgerald, a former NHL player, said that this is only a second step in the process and a good performance at development camp doesn't affect a player's chances for making a roster spot with the Penguins.


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"It affects it very little," he said in the same story. "This isn't a tryout for guys. it's an opportunity to come in and grow as a group. There will be first impressions."

If there was a "low point" for Smigelski, it came when he took a slap shot that hit goalie Brad Thiessen in the throat. Thiessen was not injured

Smigelski's Division III resume was first-rate. He was an All-American his senior year. The NESCAC player of the year, Smigelski was also honored by the New England Hockey Journal.

That's all in the past. Now, Smigelski can only wait and hope he continues to put his foot forward in the rookie camp tournament. That could earn him an invitation to Penguins training camp and possibly a professional contract.