by J.T. Toth
Photo courtesy of Buffalo Hockey Beat.
The Penguins have signed a pair of defensemen to Professional Tryouts (PTO’s) for their upcoming training camp in September. Mark Pysyk and Libor Hajek will have the opportunity to audition for the club, hoping to earn roster spots in October.
Let’s take a look at each player and what they may add to the Penguins on the backend:
Pysyk last played in the NHL for the Buffalo Sabres in 2021-2022. That season, he had three goals and nine assists in 68 games and signed with the Detroit Red Wings for the 2022-2023 season. A torn ACL ended his season early.
Pysyk, 31-years old and a former first round draft pick by the Buffalo Sabres in 2010 (23rd overall), has played 10 seasons in the NHL with Buffalo, Florida and Dallas. During his career, he’s netted 104 points in 521 games.
A right-handed, puck-moving defenseman, Pysyk is not a physical presence on the blue line, but is a “defensive” defenseman in his own end and can be trusted to make the right decisions if paired with a more offensive-oriented partner. He will push for that #7 reserve defenseman spot alongside a handful of other hopefuls.
The 25-year-old Hajek has spent most of his NHL career going between the AHL and the NHL. Hajek, drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning in the 2nd round of the 2016 draft, was then traded to the New York Rangers in early 2018. He has only played in 110 NHL games and put up 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists) in those contests.
Hajek is a big-bodied defenseman who plays with grit and physicality. He skates well and can play a strong defensive role but needs to be paired with an offensive defenseman. The left-handed Hajek’s best chance to make the active roster will be his size and sandpaper style of play along the blue line.