Despite playing in 215 AHL games over the last four seasons, Ryan Horvat finds himself still trying to earn a spot.
The 25-year-old winger is attending Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins training camp as a tryout, and he has a pretty impressive resume. As a rookie, he was part of Manchester’s Calder Cup championship team, where he was also teammates with former Penguin Paul Bissonnette.
And during the last two seasons, Horvat served as an assistant captain with Springfield, adding leadership to the other elements in his game.
He says if Wilkes-Barre/Scranton gives him a shot, he can be a leader here as well. Horvat also emphasized that winning a championship on a Manchester team with plenty of veterans was the launching point of his pro career.
“You come in as a rookie and kind of young and stupid,” Horvat said. “You don’t know how to be a pro yet, and you have all these guys in Manchester teaching you how to be a pro.
“If I get a shot here, I can bring leadership.”
Horvat will get a good look when the Penguins begin the exhibition season with a preseason game against Lehigh Valley at home on Thursday. Head coach Clark Donatelli said most of the players returning from last season won’t play until Saturday, meaning those on the bubble are likely to dress on Thursday.
As long as he’s a tryout, Horvat is one of those players.
“I’m excited to show them what I can do,” he said, adding there are things he can do in a camp that he can’t really highlight in practice.
“These are your teammates in a practice so you might let up on a hit. In a game, it’s your enemy so you’re going a little bit harder.”
Horvat isn’t the only veteran player trying to prove himself again. Defenseman Tim Erixon joined the Penguins on Wednesday as a tryout. Prior to splitting last season between Binghamton and Springfield, Erixon was a mainstay on the blueline for the Penguins for two seasons.
He’s happy to be back to a familiar place after a summer of uncertainty.
“I really thought I was going to have something done a couple of times, but for whatever reason it fell through,” Erixon said. “I have a lot of good memories here. I played a lot of different roles and got to learn a little bit of everything.”
The battle for jobs won’t be limited to forwards and defensemen when the preseason begins. Anthony Peters and John Muse are vying for the backup goaltender position, and each is expected to play a game-and-a-half over the course of three exhibition contests.
Even if a job wasn’t on the line, Muse said it’s still good to get into a game after a long summer.
“There’s more pressure, more up-tempo in a game,” he said. “I don’t think it’s just the goalies competing here. Every guy is competing for the best spot possible.”
Training camp notebook
— Ryan Haggerty cleared waivers on Wednesday and practiced with the team in the afternoon. He signed a two-year NHL deal with the Pittsburgh organization on Tuesday after turning in a career season last year. Haggerty also stayed hot while in Pittsburgh’s training camp, scoring goals during team scrimmages and two preseason games with the big club.
“Over the course of last year was a big part (of earning the NHL deal),” he said. “It was a good journey. I really love the organization and I’m proud to be a part of it for another two years.”
— Forward Joseph Cramarossa will be sidelined for four weeks with an upper body injury, according to Donatelli.
— The first preseason game will be 7:05 p.m. Thursday at the Mohegan Sun Arena against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TomVenesky