Chirps from Center Ice

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

Align Up

If you are friends with me on Facebook, head over there to see storm pictures I posted from the bad storms that hit the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton area Tuesday evening. I lost my pool, deck and shed. Nothing insurance won’t cover and there was no other damage to the house or the cats.

So I am late with this post on the Divisional Alignment changes announced for the AHL in the 2014-15 season. I’m also a bit of a MacGyver too as a managed to run the generator wires to the internet nerve center and got that going, so I’m hammering out this post on my iPad on my patio.

Anyway. Here are the changes. The East Division gains the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and loses the Syracuse Crunch, who go to the Northeast Division, who lost the Adirondack Phantoms. The new Glens Falls team, the Adirondack Flames, slip into the Western Conference, where the likes of the Utica Comets and Rochester Americans are.

Should be a good year in this Division. Wilkes-Barre, Binghamton, Hershey and Norfolk are all good teams. The Phantoms haven’t been relevant since their days in Philadelphia, but maybe a new building, city and fan base will do them good.

Oh, no changes to the playoff format this year. It’s still best-of-five in the first round and best-of-seven after that. There was talk about making the first two rounds of best-of-five, but that didn’t happen this year.

Some parting notes, Brian Gibbons signed with the Columbus blue jackets and G Eddie Pasquale signed his qualifying offer with the Washington Capitals / Hershey Bears, who also added Tim Kennedy re-signed Kris Newbury. Alex Grant re-signed with Binghamton. Brad Thiessen signed with the Calgary Flames. Then there there is this read about restocking we’ll spare his roster from the papers in Pittsburgh. Finally, Pittsburgh announced it’s having their prospect camp for July 15 through the 19th. I already updated the 2014 Offseason Moves List to reflect the Gibbons defection to CBJ.

So that’s about it. More updates on the blog as the summer wears.

P.S. Can I come swim in your pool?

2014 Free Agency Recap: Day 3

Things really slowed down today. I’m probably not bringing back the liveblog back for Day 4. Here’s who did what in the East Division:

Pittsburgh re-signed Zach Sill. Sill will need waivers to get back to Wilkes-Barre this year. The Offseason Moves List has been updated.

Ottawa re-signed David Dziurynski and signed Aaron Johnson. Johnson, 46 on the Big Board, had 40 points for an up and down Hartford team this past year.

That was it. Brad Thiessen defected to Calgary, whose AHL team is in Adirondack for this upcoming season.

Here’s a story from Tom Venesky in Thursday’s Times-Leader about Nick Drazenovic. Drazenovic, concussed in Game 7 of the Providence series, is coming off of offseason hip surgery and was ticketed for Europe until the Pens called him and offered him another year.

If there is anything major for the Fourth of July, I’ll have it a blog post probably Saturday. If not, I may just update the moves that will be made over the weekend on Monday.

Happy Independence Day!

2014 Free Agency Recap: Day 2

Slower day today in comparison to yesterday. Here’s what went down surrounding the East Division:

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Wilkes-Barre / Pittsburgh

Steve Downie signed. He’ll never see Wilkes-Barre. He’ll grind away in Pittsburgh’s bottom six.

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Binghamton / Ottawa

Cole Schneider, Mike Sdao, Chris Wideman re-sign. Ottawa also adds Carter Camper, 21 on the Big Board. Camper is big time top six talent that has terrorized the Atlantic and Northeast Divisions of the AHL for years. I’m going to be very interested in seeing how Camper does in the East Division this season.

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Hershey / Washington

Nothing in the way of signings, but a homecoming. Troy Mann was named head coach and Bryan Helmer was named his assistant. Mann was an assistant with the Bears a few years ago and Helmer won a cup with the Bears a few years before that. Mann coached the ECHL’s Bakersfield Condors this past season.

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Lehigh Valley / Philadelphia

Andrew Gordon signed. With Gordon in the mix along with Blair Jones, the Phantoms should make things interesting this season in Allentown, to say the least. I don’t have the Phantoms winning the division by any means, but I don’t have them finishing last, either.

Also added was Zack Stortini. Stortini is your typical grinder / enforcer type.

Tampa Bay and Anaheim were quiet today. No moves that I saw affecting the Crunch or the Admirals.

I’ll have the live blog back again for Day 3. Still some names left on the Big Board that would be great additions to an AHL lineup. We will see what Thursday brings.

Slow Bern

It took a month since the regular season ended for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins, but we finally have our first defection to overseas and it’s a big one.

Chuck Kobasew signed with SC Bern of the Swiss League.

It had been rumored that Kobasew was headed there, the deal just finalized this morning.

For Kobasew, it was NHL or nothing. I didn’t think that he would be seen again here in the AHL and given the fact he was pretty much outcast by the NHL, Europe was a strong option.

I’ve gone ahead and updated the 2014 Offseason Moves List.

2014 Free Agency Recap: Day 1

Like piranhas on a piece of flesh in a pond, NHL Free Agency began at 12 noon today. The moves and press releases were coming in virtually non-stop with who signed where. Here’s the lowdown surrounding the Penguins organization as a whole and the rest of the AHL East Division:

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Wilkes-Barre / Pittsburgh

Nick Drazenovic re-signed. Certainly a case of unfinished business for Drazenovic, who could have easily gone elsewhere.

Goaltender Thomas Griess signed. He and Jeff Zatkoff will battle for the backup spot behind Marc Andre-Fleury with the loser most likely ticketed to Wilkes-Barre. Waivers being what they are, since both Greiss and Zatkoff need to pass through them, is something which will need to be dealt with at that time.

Pittsburgh also signed Blake Comeau and Christian Ehrhoff. Comeau is a solid bottom six addition, which could mean that a tweener would be shipped to Wilkes-Barre as a victim of numbers.

Defenseman Taylor Chorney, 65 on the Bombulie big board, 74 points over the last 3 AHL seasons. Chorney captained the Chicago Wolves this past season.

Marcel Goc has re-signed with Pittsburgh as well.

Not a bad day for new General Manager Jim Rutherford. I was worried that with the change in the regime in Pittsburgh that this would come as a detriment to Wilkes-Barre. That does not appear to be the case on Day 1.

Here’s Pittsburgh’s nice recap on the departures and additions.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you can’t win a Calder Cup in July.

Michael Cignoli had an update on Bombulie’s blog. Also, across town, Tom Venesky spoke with John Hynes, who expects less turnover than past years. System wise, it’ll be similar with slight changes, but the style will pretty much remain the same.

Here’s what everyone else in the division did, plus the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, who will be in the division next season:

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Hershey / Washington

Michael Latta re-signs. He gave Wilkes-Barre problems last year.

Goaltender Justin Peters signs. He will back up Braden Holtby in Washington while Philipp Grubauer and Eddie Pasquale (provided he signs his qualifying offer) tend the nets in Chocolatetown.

Jon Landry and Mike Moore. Landry, late of the AHL’s Iowa Wild, is described by Bombulie as a “puck mover with size.” Moore is a leader, has worn a “C” pretty much everywhere he’s been, most recently with the Providence Bruins.

Chris Conner. Needs no introduction. If he gets squeezed out by the Caps, Conner could give teams including Wilkes-Barre, problems in the East Division.

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Norfolk / Anaheim

Re-signed G Igor Bobkov and signed Jason Labarbera. Labarbera, 47 on the big board, is a veteran netminder, underrated and should help stabilize things for Norfolk in net.

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Syracuse / Tampa Bay

Re-signed Mike Angelidis. Angelidis has been the heart and soul of the Crunch now for a few years.

Mike Blunden. A bit of a homecoming for Blunden, as he had previously played with the Crunch. Blunden, late of Hamilton, is a power forward coming off 18 goals this year with the Bulldogs.

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Binghamton / Ottawa

Ottawa shipped Jason Spezza to Dallas for prospects. Those prospects are Nick Paul and Alex Guptill.

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Lehigh Valley / Philadelphia

Goaltender Rob Zepp. It was erroneously reported on Twitter that Zepp was headed to Pittsburgh. Zepp comes over from Germany, and has won five titles for his Berlin club. I am more disappointed at all the fun I could have had with the Zepp, if he was heading here, with his name and playing that into punny headlines for the blog.

Blair Jones. A depth forward, 55 on the Big Board, which was a point-a-gamer with Abbotsford last season.

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Departures:

I didn’t link off here. Trust me on these.

Harry Zolnierczyk joined the New York Islanders. The Islanders / Sound Tigers look like the real winners from an AHL perspective because they also picked up ex-Bears goaltender David Leggio and highly ranked Jack Skille as well as top AHL Free Agent TJ Brennan. With pending realignment on the horizon for the AHL, better hope that the Sound Tigers aren’t in the same division as the Penguins this upcoming year.

Penguins to sign elsewhere include Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen to Washington, Joe Vitale to Phoenix, Deryk Engelland to Calgary, Jussi Jokinen to Florida, Tanner Glass to the New York Rangers.

Of note, Shavertown product Patrick McGrath re-signed with the Wheeling Nailers.

Oh, also, the 2014 Offseason Moves List has been updated.

Live blog will be back up tomorrow at 8 am Wednesday, and will probably be up all day, as I am traveling to New York City to spend the Fourth of July with my brother and his wife. Depending on travel and relevant moves, I’ll do my best to update the blog at that time. If not, definitely Thursday morning. Latest on Twitter, as always.

Mailing it In; Draft Recap

I wasn’t around Twitter much this weekend, which happened to be the weekend of the NHL Draft in Philadelphia, because family was in and we all went to the local Knoebel’s Amusement park Saturday and spent time together grilling and in the pool Sunday. So my coverage of the NHL Draft this year was nil to non-existent.

Not like I can say with certainty the winners and losers of the draft or even tell you who the players are after the first five picks. The NHL Draft is like the baseball draft, you never know the real winners and losers for another three or more years.

Pittsburgh did a great job of providing a tidy place to go as a one stop shop on all the picks selected. You can have a look here.

Attention turns this week to Free Agency, beginning Tuesday. What we do know is that all pending Unrestricted Free Agents will be allowed to test the open market. For Wilkes-Barre, that’s Brian Gibbons. All restricted guys (Jayson Megna, Bobby Farnham, Simon Despres and Philip Samuelsson) are getting offers, But if another, better one comes along, they can walk if Pittsburgh doesn’t match it.

Jonathan’s Big Board is out. It lists the Top 100 and alphabetizes the best of the rest. It’s a must have list for anyone tracking the free agent frenzy with an eye on the AHL.

One other move to note from our friends an hour south on I-81, Washington acquired the rights to goaltender Eddie Pasquale as what could be assumed a backup to Philip Grubauer in Hershey next season. Pasquale was with St. John’s this past year but had season ending surgery in January. He’s also a Restricted Free Agent, so he’ll need to be signed by the Capitals.

I’ll be back Tuesday morning with a live blog of sorts for the start of NHL Free Agency. My plan is a Twitter list of all 5 AHL East Division teams, their NHL parents along with the media that covers the AHL clubs plus bloggers. Also included this year will be Lehigh Valley, the old Adirondack Phantoms. Nothing has been announced with regards to realignment in the AHL yet, but it’s a foregone conclusion that the Phantoms will be in the Division next year.

Short of anyone taking a late jump to Europe, talk to you Tuesday.

The Pick is In

From the great Jesse Marshall, who does a tremendous job ranking these guys I’ve never heard of…

(click to enlarge)

kapanen

Here are other tweets on the kid….

So we will see what develops with this kid. I am always skeptical of kids coming in to play against men at the AHL level. I’m even more skeptical of European players coming over to play in the AHL. Janne Pesonen anyone?

Oh, one more thing. James Neal was traded to Nashville for Patric Hornqvist and Nick Spaling. Hornqvist and Spaling were two forwards that played in the NHL last year. So no initial impact on Wilkes-Barre initially. If anything, it’s two roster spaces filled in Pittsburgh meaning that a bubble guy would get bumped back to Wilkes-Barre. A net gain for WBS as we sit here in late June, but we are three months away from action so way too early to tell.

I’ll be back at some point this weekend wrapping up Pittsburgh’s haul here on the blog late Saturday or Sunday.

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