Chirps from Center Ice

A fan blog about the AHL's Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins

First Weekend of Camp

The first weekend of training camp is in the books on Coal Street. Different from this year is the lack of long shot names to make the roster for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins. It’s a camp comprised of guys that will likely be significant contributors to the Penguins success in 2014-15.

So you would expect the first weekend of camp to be intense. It was. This team made it to the Eastern Conference Finals in back-to-back years but none of that matters in late September when every AHL team is 0-0 and every single one has their eye on the Calder Cup, currently residing in Cedar Park, Texas.

Here are the the recaps from the Penguins website on Day 1 and Day 2. Here’s Jonathan’s take.

A note, Jayson Megna, Dominik Uher and Reid McNeill were re-assigned by Pittsburgh Saturday night.

All of those signings Pittsburgh made this offseason bumped a guy like Megna back to Wilkes-Barre. While surprising to some, Megna’s presence will certainly aid the Wilkes-Barre offense. It shouldn’t be a long stay for Megna, provided he continues to do all the things necessary that got him his first NHL game action last year.

Tonight is the last chance to vote Chirps from Center Ice NEPA Blog Con’s “Sports Blog of the Year” make sure you vote if you haven’t and vote some more if you have.

Enjoy the rest of the weekend. The first preseason pucks hit the ice across the AHL this week. Wilkes-Barre hosts Utica Wednesday.

Training Camp Roster Announced

With the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins opening up camp Saturday morning on Coal Street, the Penguins announced their roster of players who will be attending.

I also had a case of, “open mouth, insert foot” when I saw the roster…

Forwards (14) – Josh Archibald, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Nick Drazenovic, Tom Kostopoulos, Tom Kuhnhackl, Matia Marcantuoni, Patrick McGrath, Tyler Murovich, Adam Payerl, Carter Rowney, Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary, Scott Wilson and Anton Zlobin

Defensemen (7) – Alex Boak, Nick D’Agostino, Barry Goers, Jonathan Narbonne, Harrison Ruopp, Kevin Ryan and Clark Seymour

Goaltenders (3) – Eric Hartzell, Matt Murray and Nolan Schaefer

Yep. Nolan Schaefer, who played with the Penguins back in the 2006-07 season, then toiled around with a few AHL teams before heading to Ambri-Piotta of the Swiss League. Fantastic. More nostalgia….

Until I saw his numbers last year. Depending on what site you want to believe on games played (my go to’s are Elite Prospects and / or HockeyDB) Schaefer played either 27 or 50 games and had a 2.11 goals against and a 0.938 save percentage. Stellar numbers.

Now will Schaefer be more like he was last year or the year prior, where he had a 3.45 GAA and a 0.895 SV%? Who knows.

One thing may be for certain, the Penguins have found their safety net in case Jeff Zatkoff or Thomas Greiss don’t make it through waivers. I’ll take a tandem of Zatkoff-Schaefer right now.

Or they may still be searching. As I was putting the finishing touches to this blog entry, reader Jason L. tweeted in this article about Schaefer’s desire to play in Switzerland which I found interesting, to say the least.

The other names are two young defensemen, Kevin Ryan and Jonathan Narbonne, who both played in the ECHL last season.

No surprises up front other than Tyler Murovich, who we knew was getting an invite to camp last weekend.

Should be an interesting camp and an interesting next couple of weeks as the walk up to the October 11 opener with Lehigh Valley.

Don’t forget to vote Chirps from Center Ice “Sports Blog of the Year.” Voting ends Sunday night. Here is the ballot.

First Round of Cuts

Pittsburgh trimmed its roster today to 37 players Wednesday afternoon. From the release…..

The Penguins assigned 13 players to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League (AHL): goaltenders Matt Murray and Eric Hartzell; forwards Scott Wilson, Josh Archibald, Anton Zlobin, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Matia Marcantuoni, Tom Kuhnhackl, Adam Payerl, Bryan Rust and Nick Drazenovic; and defensemen Nick D’Agostino and Harrison Ruopp.

Goaltender Tristan Jarry has been assigned to his junior team, the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League – the defending WHL and Memorial Cup champions.

Four players – forwards Tom Kostopoulos and Conor Sheary and defensemen Alex Boak and Clark Seymour – have been released from their tryout contracts and will report to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s training camp.

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I’m actually surprised that guys like Bobby Farnham and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond made it through the first round of cuts.

Players that did time in Wilkes-Barre last year that remain with Pittsburgh are Simon Despres, Brian Dumoulin, Scott Harrington, Reid McNeill and Scott Harrington on the blueline. Forwards with Wilkes-Barre last year still with Pittsburgh include the aforementioned Farnham and Leblond, Andrew Ebbett, Jayson Megna, Zach Sill and Dominik Uher. Kasperi Kapanen and Oskar Sundqvist stay with Pittsburgh, but if they get cut, I don’t think a ride to Wilkes-Barre is in their future. They may be Europe bound.

Wilkes-Barre opens camp this weekend. Details and schedule of events here.

Don’t forget to vote Chirps from Center Ice NEPA Blog Con’s, “Sports Blog of the Year” if you haven’t already. And if you have, vote again. Voting closes September 28.

Blog of the Year Nomination

The fine folks at NEPA Blog Con have nominated this blog, along with four other blogs for “Blog of the Year” in the “Fitness and Sports” category.

I had no idea until about five minutes ago that I was even up for nomination until I was tagged in a Facebook post.

That’s just the thing with all that I do here. I’m not out for awards, or for recognition of any kind when it comes to this blog. I treat this like a hobby. If you read, great. If you want to get your information from someplace else, fine. It doesn’t matter to me. I will keep doing what I do. That this blog even gets nominated for consideration for “Blog of the Year” is an accomplishment in and of itself.

If you would to vote for the blog, the link is here. I voted for myself. I don’t know what the policy is for voting, or how many times you can do it. I’m not about to tell you to stuff the ballot to get me recognized for “Blog of the Year” because that’s not what I am about and that would be unfair. If you want to and it’s allowed, great, knock yourself out. But I didn’t tell you to do it.

Thank you in advance for your support.

A Camping We Will Go…

Just a few things to catch up on as October approaches…

Pittsburgh opens camp Friday. Here is the list of who was invited. No real surprises as far as invitees go. The name on the list which stood out was Daniel Carcillo, as a try out. Carcillo did some time in Wilkes-Barre a few years ago before being traded to Phoenix. I think it is a stretch to ever even consider having a homecoming celebration for him.

The rookie tournament was this past weekend. The Penguins went 2-1. The recaps are here, here and here. I never try to pay too much attention to these because a) I can’t watch; b) a majority of these guys get released or playing could end up in Wheeling; and c) How you did in a Rookie Tournament means nothing in the middle of November.

Jonathan had some takeaways on the rookie tournament. He also used a headline you may or may not see in a future game recap here on the blog.

I’m working on my AHL Previews and they are for all intents and purposes done. I just have to link all the blogs and media coverage and what not and add formatting. I don’t want to give it all away, but the Penguins are going to have a lot of youth on this team with a mix of veterans. Normally it’s the other way around or a 50/50, but there are going to be a lot of guys like Conor Sheary, J-S Dea coming into their first full year of pro hockey with guys like Anton Zlobin, Scott Harrington and others coming into their second. Every team in the East Division has pitfalls. For the Penguins, youth could be one of them.

Back to camps, Jonathan also had another early look at depth charts. Again, looking strictly off of the guys in red, you have a ton of youth headed back to Coal Street at some point.

Alumni watch: Goaltender Jeff Deslauriers was invited to Los Angeles Kings camp, Peter Mannino is in Tampa Bay’s camp. Defensemen Brendan Mikkelson is in Toronto’s camp with Spencer Machacek. Since these are basically tryouts, I’m not making an alteration to my Offseason Moves List.

Wilkes-Barre will be announcing and opening their camp information soon. We are less than two weeks away from preseason hockey against Utica on October 1. Enjoy what’s left of summer.

Prospects, Promos and Jerseys

Just catching up on a number of things here as we start the workweek….

The Penguins Prospects will be in London, Ontario this weekend participating a rookie tournament along with prospects from the Ottawa Senators, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Chicago Blackhawks. Details, with roster, here. Mike O’Brien will be heading up with the team and broadcasting the tournament.

Coal Street announced their third jersey today. Using baby blue on anything is an instant win. Their warmup jersey will be announced this Friday.

The Promotional Schedule was released also. It goes as follows:

– Magnetic Schedule on October 11.
— Car Magnet on November 15.
— Team Photo on November 22.
— License Plate on November 29.
— Nutcracker on December 6.
— Koozie on December 27.
— Team Card set on January 31.
— Penguins Poster on February 14.
— Bobblehead #1 on February 21.
— Bobblehead #2 on March 14.
— Garden Flag on March 21.
— Tux Bobblehead on April 4.
— Fan Appreciation Night on April 18.

Coal Street will also bring back the McDonald’s FANtastic Promotion back where you get a game ticket, a hat and a McDonald’s Value Meal. Season Ticket holders can pre-order now. The dates for these are, all Saturdays; October 11, December 6, January 31, February 21, March 21 and April 18.

Oh, before I go, an update to the AHL Previews. I would say that they are about halfway built. I have all of the capsules built, what’s left is the new additions for the Eastern Conference, the cases for and against each team and of course, linking all the Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and blog info into each capsule. The North Division will roll first, release date still to be determined, but most likely October 5 or 6.

We are getting closer………

2014-15 AHL Schedule Released

The date may be the middle of August and approaching the Labor Day weekend, but today was like Christmas morning for fans and teams in the American Hockey League as the playing schedule for the 2014-2015 season was released at 11 a.m. today.

You are coming here with questions on the schedule. I have them. Read on…

Question 1: Who are we playing first this season?

Answer: The Lehigh Valley Phantoms on October 11, at 7:05 at home, which is the Penguins home opener. The schedule ends in Allentown against Lehigh Valley on April 19.

Question 2: Home opener details, please.

Answer: I just gave them to you. See above.

Question 3: Please tell me Rockford, or any other Western Conference team is on the schedule this year!!

Answer: Sorry to disappoint you, but there are NO Western Conference teams on the schedule this season. Not even Rochester, Utica or Adirondack.

Question 4: How many games against the division this year? Breakdown please…

Answer: Hershey and Lehigh Valley twelve times, Binghamton and Norfolk eight times. Games are split home and away.

Question 5: Longest road trip and home stand, please and thank you.

Answer: Road: February 22 through March 8. Six games all in New England. — Home: Twice, four games in late December, including New Years Eve vs. the Bears and mid-February.

Question 6: How many three in threes?

Answer: Nine. A large amount. Six before we ring in 2015, including twice back to back in November and December.

Question 7: What’s the setup with Norfolk this season? Any game with Hershey the next day, which is always a Penguins loss?

Answer: They are all on their own, Oct. 31 and Nov. 1 and Jan. 23 and 24. No game in Hershey the next day.

Question 8: Last year you had charts, let’s see ‘em again!

Coal Street built them already for me. Here is the Daily breakdown:

Home Road Total
Monday 0 0 0
Tuesday 2 1 3
Wednesday 6 3 9
Thursday 0 0 0
Friday 11 9 20
Saturday 13 15 28
Sunday 6 16 22

And the Monthly…

Home Road Total
October 4 6 10
November 7 5 12
December 8 4 12
January 5 7 12
February 5 4 9
March 4 8 12
April 5 4 9

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Question 9: Any kids games?

Kids games are, by definition, games that start at 11 a.m., or any time in early afternoon. The Penguins will not be participating in any early afternoon or morning day games.

Question 10: Hey, where are they playing the All-Star Classic at this year?

Answer: The League has not announced a venue yet. It will be held January 25 and 26.

Question 11: Are the Penguins playing in any special venues this year?

Answer: Nope. All either at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza or at the opponents home venue.

Question 12: Tell me the theme that the Penguins are using this year. What about a promotional schedule or a PensFest?

Answer: Theme this season is, “United in Hockey” and Coal Street hasn’t said anything about a promotional schedule or a PensFest yet. I’d anticipate word on this within a few weeks, and we’ll blog about it all.

Question 13: Anything else I need to know?

Answer: The annual AHL Previews that I run on the blog will be out in about a month. I can ramp up production on this now that I have a schedule. Also, my weekly Power Rankings will be back with hopefully a new look and feel. I’m planning on updating and maintain my fancy chart that I played with in playoffs late last season. Also, I’m planning on some other improvements and have ideas on all that in the sandbox. Stay tuned!!!

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