WILKES-BARRE — Jarrett Burton sat at his stall after the first day of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins training camp on Sunday and, for now, was one of the veterans in the room.
On a roster filled with players out of the junior and college ranks, along with some having played just a season or two of pro hockey, Burton is entering his fourth season with the Pittsburgh organization.
Burton, 26, signed a one-year AHL deal this summer to return to the organization, and he has a lot to build on. Last season Burton appeared in 39 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton — a career high — and tallied seven goals while also establishing himself as a reliable faceoff specialist and penalty killer.
Now, Burton has set his sights on spending the entire season in the AHL and, after splitting time the last three years between Wheeling and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, he feels he knows what it takes.
“You have goals for yourself, and one of mine is to make a good impression in training camp and make the team,” Burton said. “You get used to the style here and realize it’s such a high pace. You build off that and go into each summer thinking you have to get stronger and faster.”
While Burton’s career so far has consisted of AHL contracts, he hopes to follow the path of another player who had a similar start — Carter Rowney.
Rowney and Burton both began their careers in Wheeling, and the former is now an NHLer with Pittsburgh. Rowney also spent the first few seasons of his career on AHL deals, like Burton.
Burton said Tom Kostopoulos was an obvious influence on him when he joined the organization as a rookie, and so was Rowney.
“I got to see how hard he works every day. He’s always been a great two-way player and he keeps getting better,” Burton said. “You can learn from a guy like that.”
The Penguins also have learned just how valuable a two-way forward like Burton can be, whether it’s on the depth chart or with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to start the year.
“He’s going to continue to get better,” said head coach Clark Donatelli. “He proved that he can play in the American Hockey League and now he’s going to try and make that next step.”
• Forward Troy Josephs wasn’t on the ice on Sunday and won’t be for a while. Donatelli said Josephs is recovering from surgery and won’t be able to practice for at least a month.
• With many of his players still in Pittsburgh’s training camp, Donatelli will use the first few days to gauge the depth that the organization will have this season. “Guys are trying to make an impression and make the team,” he said. “You find those diamonds in the rough and then we develop them. There’s definitely some possibilities out there. We were encouraged.”
• Wyoming’s Craig Skudalski, a 6-6 defenseman, became the second locally born player to participate in a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton training camp.
“He’s a big guy who can skate. He made a good impression. Anytime you have that and you’re playing defense, you have time for him,” Donatelli said.