NEVILLE TWP — When Penguins assistant general manager Bill Guerin got a hold of Robert Morris forward Brady Ferguson to let him know he was getting an invite to the Penguins 2017 prospect development camp, the first thing he noticed was the area code.
Ferguson was calling from his cell phone, which he brought with him to Robert Morris from his Carrollton, Texas home. Guerin played three seasons with the Dallas Stars from 2002 to 2006 and recognized the number and told Ferguson about their mutual Texas roots.
“I know. I used to watch you play. I was 10.”
Ferguson grew up a Stars fan, so to get a call from a player he grew up idolizing was pretty special. Guerin also represents someone that’s seen Ferguson play quite a bit.
Some prospect development camp invites might come from a player that a scouting staff saw once or twice or only on video. Others are players that an organization knows can play but want to get a better look at the makeup of the person.
Ferguson has played seven games at PPG Paints Arena in his Robert Morris tenure, meaning Guerin has seen plenty of his game.
“It’s an honor to be invited to any NHL development camp, but especially when it’s the hometown team,” Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley said. “You want to associate yourself with good organizations and the Pens have done pretty well since we started our program (in 2004). They’ve won three Stanley Cups.”
While the Penguins aren’t Ferguson’s hometown team, they have come to hold special meaning from his time in Pittsburgh.
“I’ve come to love the Penguins,” he said. “They’re obviously a really good team. It should be a really cool experience for me. I got to go to one of the Stanley Cup games. They’re a really good team and a good organization.”
They’re also an organization that places a lot of emphasis on college hockey. Guerin played for Boston College. Head coach Mike Sullivan and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins head coach Clark Donatelli both played for Boston University. Vice president of hockey operations Jason Karmanos skated for Harvard. New goalie coach Mike Buckley went to UMass.
That make helps make the Penguins a pretty attractive fit for a college hockey player and helped them sign 2017 Hobey Baker Award winner Zach Aston-Reese as a free agent from Northeastern.
“You look at where you fit in and what’s a good situation for you,” Schooley said. “When they have as many players as they do, it shows they’re watching the college hockey game.”
With only a few days of evaluation and instruction in the middle of the summer, it’s hard for the players to take a lot away from the experience, but the one thing that Schooley has seen in some of his other players that have camped with the Penguins is an uptick off-the-ice maturity.
“They learn how to be a pro,” he said. “They learn what’s expected, how to carry themselves, how to act. That’s what they can take away.”
Ferguson and the rest of the Penguins development camp prospects will skate at the Penguins’ UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry Township from June 28 to July 1.