PITTSBURGH (93-7 The Fan) — To Rob Madore and Andrew Blazek, Penguins prospect development camp might have meant a little bit more than to the rest of the players invited.

Madore, a Peters Township graduate, and Blazek, an Upper St. Clair product, grew up rooting the Penguins. For a week, they got to borrow the same sheet of ice Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Marc-Andre Fleury and the rest of the Pens call home. A sheet of ice owned by Mario Lemieux, who made his comeback while both were growing up and learning the game.

“It’s amazing. I was fortunate enough, when I got home from Christmas break, to go to a game versus Florida,” Madore said. “I got to see what it’s like for the first time inside the building during a game. To be able to skate on the same ice as (the Penguins) is pretty darn cool.”

Both learned from professional coaches throughout the week, as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach John Hynes and his staff led the workouts, along with others from the Penguins organization.

Madore is a goaltender at the University of Vermont and will return for his fourth season. Blazek will be a junior at Robert Morris next year. Both got invaluable tips and strategies on how to become a better player at their respective positions.

“It’s been a great learning experience, getting a lot of good feedback (and) tips from the Wilkes-Barre coaches,” Blazek said. “It’s intimidating learning from these guys but you tend to do everything a little harder here. You’re at a different level.”

Hynes had a lot of positives to speak of when talking about both players.

“Madore is really athletic, he’s real flexible,” he said. “He competes on every puck. His lateral movement is excellent.”

“Blazek, he’s a very good skater and he’s got a good shot,” Hynes later added. “He’s a mobile defenseman that can move the puck.”

Along with the on-ice drills, the prospects went through off-ice seminars and activities to further their development. The entire week was a grouping of exercises to teach these players what the organization expects and offers its players at the highest level, both as a player and a person.

“The way that this organization wants its players to act on and off the ice, it’s high class,” Blazek said. “I think I can implement that with my teammates next year. Our team could be a little better for it next year. Hopefully I’ll be stepping up as a leader as a junior and can be a good role model for the incoming guys.”

Madore echoed Blazek’s thoughts, saying he’s looking forward to using everything he learned at camp to be a better player and help his team be successful.

“Coming in to this, I never thought I could say I would be more motivated than I was,” he said. “But just seeing what they have here — the facilities, everything they provide you, how well they take care of you — it just provides even more motivation to get back at it. Maybe at the end of a bike sprint just push that little extra and that’s gonna put you over the top.”

And to the NHL some day, both hope.

You can find my interviews with both Madore and Blazek here.

Chris Gates