With their back-to-back Stanley Cup championships, the Pittsburgh Penguins have dealt with the shortest offseasons of any NHL team in the past two years. The shorter summer caused by a deep playoff run has an impact on training, recovery, and the much-needed aspect of rest after a long season.
No one knows the tribulations of a short summer more than Carl Hagelin, who has played in 39 playoff games with the Penguins the past two years, while his 112 postseason contests in his career are the most among any NHLer since he came into the league in 2011-12.
“My body feels the best when there is a good amount of workload,” Hagelin said. “I’m an energetic guy and I need to stay on top of things, make sure I’m eating the right things, and training the right way. I pride myself on being in good condition coming into camp.”
Last year Hagelin finished with six goals and 16 assists in 61 games, his first full season with the Penguins. Despite being a healthy scratch on occasion during the championship run once he recovered from a broken fibula suffered on March 10 that forced him to miss the end of the regular season and part of the playoffs, Hagelin ended up dressing for postseason contests and scored two goals, including the empty-netter in Pittsburgh’s Cup-clinching Game 6 win.
“I try not to dwell on the past at all, we won the Cup,” Hagelin said. “I’m just happy my leg is back healed the way it should be. That’s my take on last year. I played the last four games and it felt good, and now my leg is feeling fine.”
Hagelin did miss some time due to injuries last year as well, and is feeling good and recovered as the preseason schedule begins to wind down.
“This summer I felt pretty fresh, in terms of physically and mentally,” Hagelin said. “Right when the playoffs ended, I was feeling good and able to do the things I wanted to do. It was a good summer, I got a lot of energy from it and I’m excited for a new season here.”
Coming into camp fresh, it’s been evident through skating drills, just how much Hagelin’s quickness is unrivaled. He’s frequently almost a full zone ahead on conditioning drills with his mesmerizing speed, the biggest asset to his game. In the 2012 Skills Competition, Hagelin won the fastest skater event.
His speed can create chances and keeps the opposing team’s defenseman on their toes, while his two-way ability allows him to be an effective penalty killer.
“He’s been one of our core penalty killers since he got here,” head coach Mike Sullivan said.
This year, he’s spent some of the preseason on a line with Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel, where his speed is on display by tracking down pucks and creating space for Malkin and Kessel.
“Hagelin is a smart player, he reads the game well,” Kessel said. “He flies out there, he’s fast. When you’re playing with someone with so much speed, they create a lot of opportunities because they’re always in the opponents face and don’t give them a lot of time.”
While that line is something that is likely to be played around with, according to Sullivan, he also is complimentary to what Hagelin brings to whichever line he plays on.
“What I like about Hagelin is he brings that same game regardless of who he plays with,” Sullivan said. “He brings that element of speed, puck pursuit, forces turnovers, and is a responsible player. He’s a really good two-way player that brings a defensive conscious to any line he plays on.”W