Chirps from Center Ice

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

Promos and Preseason Schedules

I received my WBS Penguins pick sheet in the mail Friday and with it there was some information worth sharing:

– Preseason:

That’s news to me, usually that information is out by now. Nothing on a road schedule yet, but assume that the Bears and Phantoms reciprocate on Saturday and Sunday.

– Promo Schedule:

Hit expand on the tweet above to have it show up on another tab for you if you can’t make it out here.

Looks like they are going with lapel pins and doing away with the card sets. Magnets are back on opening night. Headshot poster, a pillow case, Led Zeppelin Night highlight some of the newer promos Coal Street is running with this season.

– McDonald’s Promos:

I like to collect the hats because I don’t have a lot of hair left. Thanks, Dad!

Miscellany:

I remember this being $25 for a referral of a full share ticket member. If it was indeed $35, someone please correct me.

Couple other things:

It’s the Sunday, December 15 game in Cleveland that is now moved to Friday, December 13. The Pens went from having two Friday’s off to just one now. Anything in the name of less Sunday games.

Bill Guerin’s name is still being tossed around in the GM search for the Minnesota Wild, according to The Athletic.

What’s the Penguins plan if Guerin is hired? Glad you asked, also from The Athletic.

Anyway, that’s it. August is flying by. Enjoy the weekend.

Pens Ink Devane and Hirano – Other Notes

I’m a day late on the news, but Coal Street announced on Wednesday that they have signed Jamie Devane and also re-signed Yushi Hirano. Hirano is a depth signing for the Penguins and probably should push for more time now as he has a year experience playing North American hockey.

Devane is your Patrick McGrath replacement. Here’s why.

Patrick McGrath was a hand picked player by Clark Donatelli. They had experience with each other in Wheeling and a few seasons in Wilkes-Barre.

Devane was coached by new Penguins Head Coach Mike Vellucci in Plymouth of the OHL.

Devane is going to count as a veteran, and had a less than impressive turn last season with a bad Ontario Reign team. But, he has 318 pro games of experience. He has 47 total points (20-27) and 587 PIMs.

McGrath with the same amount of pugilistic grit with a slightly better offensive touch? Possibly.

I’ve had a few people ask me what’s going to happen with McGrath. Quite simply, he’s going to be with another organization next season. It’s a new regime in Wilkes-Barre with coaching. Yes, McGrath is a likable local guy and I personally am going to miss seeing his father on the concourse chatting up about cigars and Dennis Bonvie stories, but it’s a business at the end of the day.

Emptying out the rest of the notebook since the last time I blogged. These would only get passing mentions if they stood alone on a separate piece, so instead of blogging for the sake of blogging, you fill the bucket with notes then empty the bucket with a big piece when the bucket gets full.

— The same day that the Pens signed Devane and Hirano, Charlotte added Cedric Lacroix. Lacroix scored two goals against the Binghamton Devils on the Penguins last game of the season in April in his only AHL action all season. Lacroix spent the season with Wheeling. He was actually traded in a futures trade with Greenville of the ECHL then signed his AHL deal with Charlotte.

— WBS General Manager Bill Guerin has interviewed for the Minnesota Wild GM job. This article, behind The Athletic Minnesota paywall, only has a few passing mentions of Guerin, but it’s worth a mention.

— Pittsburgh made a trade for John Marino for a draft with Edmonton a few weeks ago. Here’s what we know on him so far, link on the news in the tweets below:

Mark Divver had this on the trade, which is something you should pay attention to because Divver has the pulse of college hockey in the Northeast:

The condition on the draft pick is as follows: The Oilers will receive Pittsburgh’s 2021 sixth-round draft choice if Marino signs with the Penguins, or if the team trades his rights.

So we will see. UPDATE: Thursday afternoon, Pittsburgh made the Marino signing official. He’s signed for two years.

— Coal Street had a nice Q&A with Brandon Hawkins. 27 tattoos. That’s ridiculous.

Here is one with Jon Lizotte. Lots of players that are going to be familiar names in the future.

— Chris Summers and Matt O’Connor will be playing for different teams next season. Summers with Nurnberg and O’Connor in Denmark.

That’s all. The Pens should have news here soon on a preseason schedule and possibly a promotional one as well. We are under 60 days until the start of the season. Go outside if you haven’t already.

Blue Powell! Other Notes 7/16

Emptying out the notebook with a bunch of signings and re-signings. Have to hurry before my ice cream melts, so here we go.

Tuesday, the Penguins re-signed Teddy Blueger. Blueger was a restricted free agent and is most likely graduated full time to the NHL next season.

Coal Street also made some news today, signing Myles Powell. Powell scored 31 goals on a pretty stacked Cincinnati Cyclones team in the ECHL last season. That was good enough to lead all ECHL rookies.

With Jarrett Burton defecting to Rochester a few weeks ago, it’s Rochester now kicking themselves on the one that got away.

Powell will probably push for a spot here in Wilkes-Barre, appearing in a few preseason games, but I foresee him as a Wheeling hand. Who knows.

Also, Chris Wideman signed with Anaheim. Wideman, a former AHL Defenseman of the Year, appeared in a handful of games before getting hurt. The Pens acquired him in the trade for J-S Dea.

Adam Johnson re-signed also, signing his qualifying offer. Johnson will most likely start in Wilkes-Barre and get a call after December. He’s the next to ripen on the vine and get a full time call up at some point.

Ben Sexton re-signed with Wilkes-Barre. Good solid signing for the Penguins here when healthy.

That’s pretty much it. Stay cool.

2019-20 AHL Schedule Released

For the third year in a row, the AHL released its playing schedule for the upcoming season in the second week of July instead of late August.

We already know from yesterday three of the 76 games that the Penguins will play in the upcoming season, so it’s time to look at the rest of the schedule that goes all the way to April 2020.

League release here, Penguins release here.

I always do a question and answer session with these schedule releases. They are simple because they are the same questions I ask when unwrap the schedule every season looking at everything. So here we go:

1) Alright, so the Penguins didn’t put out a schedule matrix of opponents this season like they did the last two seasons. Is there one off the hop I can look at?

Yep, here it is.

GAMES vs. OPPONENTS 

(Home/Road)

Atlantic Division

North Division

Central Division

Bridgeport (3/3)

Binghamton (3/3)

San Antonio (2/2)

Charlotte (2/2)

Cleveland (2/2)

Texas (2/2)

Hartford (3/3)

Rochester (1/1)

Hershey (6/6)

Syracuse (1/1)

Lehigh Valley (6/6)

Utica (1/1)

Providence (3/3)

Springfield (3/3)

No games with Belleville, Laval or Toronto this season. No visits this year to Milwaukee, Grand Rapids or Chicago either. And the Pacific Division? Ha! What’s that!?

2) Oh wow, there are some new teams I don’t recognize there!

Right, the Penguins head to Texas in January for four games against both the Texas Stars and San Antonio Rampage. This also includes the Penguins trip to Charlotte to visit the Checkers. The Rampage come in twice in October while the Stars visit in December.

3) Longest road trip? Longest home stand?

It’s the month of January, basically.

Home stand of six straight games (the New Years Eve game against Springfield gets lumped in here) starts off the Penguins home stand which goes to January 11. Then it’s on the road for six straight against the Stars, Rampage and Checkers.

4) How many three in threes?

5) Sunday home games! We know how much you love hate those! How many this year?

Just two. I don’t know how they managed this, but I love them for it. They are in the month of March (8th vs. Binghamton) and April (5th vs. Lehigh Valley) and start at 3:05.

6) Any more charts?

Here you go.

GAMES BY DAY OF THE WEEK

 

GAMES BY MONTH

 

 

Home

Road

Total

 

 

 

Home

Road

Total

Monday

0

0

0

October

4

5

9

Tuesday

1

1

2

November

7

6

13

Wednesday

8

7

15

December

6

6

12

Thursday

0

0

0

January

6

6

12

Friday

12

13

25

February

6

7

13

Saturday

15

13

28

March

6

5

11

Sunday

2

4

6

April

3

3

6

7) Are the Penguins playing any workday afternoon games?

They played in three last year, one in Springfield and two in Bridgeport. They aren’t playing in any this year.

8) The AHL All-Star Classic this year is where again?

That would be in Ontario, California on January 26 and January 27, 2020.

9) Did the Penguins do away with themes? They did away with themes, didn’t they?

It would appear as such since there hasn’t been one in the last three seasons. Other than the first week to ten days of a given season, when was the last time you remember what the theme was for a Penguins season in November or December? Smart marketing strategy if you ask me, why waste summertime brainpower to come up with a gimmick if you aren’t going to follow through on it for the entirety of the season?

10) Are the Penguins playing in any special venues this year?

No, it doesn’t seem to be that much of a fad anymore if you look at the schedule. Other than four dates across town in Toronto at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto that the Marlies are playing against various opponents, everyone is playing their schedule in their home arenas. No outdoor games either.

11) Anything else I need to know?

I can’t think of anything. Pretty standard schedule with your Lehigh Valley’s and Hershey’s dominating the majority of the schedule. I don’t like the fact we don’t play everyone in the Conference, but it’s like that for a lot of teams and but for novelty of seeing a team that you don’t always see, it doesn’t really have that much of an impact on your playoff hopes since everyone plays out of their division to get to the playoffs. Pretty standard start times too but for the New Years Eve 3:05 start and that one Wednesday road game in Providence in April which starts at 6:05.

You can sync the Penguins schedule here and then select whichever platform applies to you.

Now go back to your summer because October will be here before you know it.

Full Schedule Wednesday – Home Opener 10/12 vs. Utica

Everything has been the same these last three years now with AHL teams releasing their opponents for their Opening Night campaigns this time of year, the second week of July and this year is no different. Well, maybe slightly, since the last two seasons we at least had a matrix of opponents. None this year.

Anyway, it will be the Utica Comets Saturday, October 12. No time yet, but assume 7:05.

Also, for the first time ever, the Penguins name is on not one, but two other press releases as home opener opponent.

The Hershey Bears on Saturday, October 5 at 7 p.m.

The Bridgeport Sound Tigers on Saturday, October 19 at 7 p.m. In that release it mentions that the Sound Tigers and Penguins will see each other six times, down from the eight meetings last season. That tells me that either the Pens will be seeing a broader scope of opponents in the way of more Western Conference teams or Belleville and Laval are back on the schedule for 2019-20 after a one year absence last.

I haven’t seen every teams release of who they will be playing on opening night, but the AHL normally runs a piece on their website with all that information. (edit: they have, and the Penguins aren’t any other teams opponent on opening night)

We won’t have to wait long as the full schedule will be released Wednesday at 3 p.m. Wilkes-Barre time. I’ll have my full dissection piece of the when’s, where’s and why’s sometime after on Wednesday afternoon.

Coal Street Signs Dustin Tokarski

No, I won’t give you the Powerball numbers for the next drawing.

Monday morning, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins sent an innocuous tweet teasing a player signing later in the day.

Me, being the fun loving wise guy that I am, responded with the following tweet.

About ninety or so minutes later, my premonition came true.

Absolute heist by General Manager Bill Guerin and Head Coach Mike Vellucci. It’s an AHL only deal.

Dustin Tokarski’s resume:

  • Two time Calder Cup winner.
  • Undefeated in regular season and playoffs last season with the Charlotte Checkers after a mid-season trade with Hartford.

I had him at #46 on the AHL Big Board, and probably in hindsight criminally underrated there. He was the one “wish list” signing that I wanted for Wilkes-Barre with the Vellucci connection and the need for the Penguins to go out and sign a veteran AHL goalie.

On my 2019 Offseason Moves List I have a small chapter dedicated to “Needs” – Let’s Review…

  • Veteran goaltender for Alex D’Orio. Can’t risk losing Tristan Jarry, who is under contract but now must pass through waivers in the Fall, as a backup. I think what happens with Jarry in the summer (trade likely) sets the table for July 1 with the plan in Wilkes-Barre in the Fall.

Check. It doesn’t come any better than a two time Calder Cup winning goaltender in Dustin Tokarski. What happens with Tristan Jarry is now irrelevant because you have an enormous insurance policy here in Wilkes-Barre to mentor incoming rookies Alex D’Orio / Emil Larmi.

  • High impact AHL scorer. The Penguins lacked offensive firepower last season in a big way. Ethan Prow led the team in points, but that’s not really his job to score points. Pittsburgh needs to set up Wilkes-Barre with one or two proven veteran scorers. I joke about players like Chris Bourque, but a player of his caliber would be a perfect fit to compliment the Sam Lafferty’s and Anthony Angello’s already coming back for next year.

Check. I had Andrew Agozzino in my top ten on the AHL Big Board. 60 points with AHL Colorado and a special teams ace. Joseph Blandisi will return as well, with incoming rookies like Kasper Bjorkvist. Scoring shouldn’t be a problem on most nights.

  • One or two defensemen in case one of Chris Summers or Kevin Czuczman don’t re-sign. Blueline is looking really, really young next season from here in May 2019.

Check. Czuczman re-signed, Zach Trotman did too and you have a first round pedigree in P-O Joseph turning pro with the returning Dave Warsofsky.

Try to find holes. All three zones (goal, forward, defense) look solid. You have a head coach that just won a Calder Cup with a team in Charlotte which was a buzzsaw. True, you have to negotiate a 76 game season with call-ups, injuries, trades and the like, but the rebuild looks about done and it looks a lot better than it did before.

Jarrett Burton Defects, Mike Sullivan Extended

After the frenzy of Day One of NHL Free Agency, things fell off a cliff as far as news goes with respect to signings. My Big Board has been updated pretty regularly, but there just hasn’t been enough news this week to fill out a blog post.

Today is as good any to send you off into the weekend (mine started 3pm Wednesday, by the way) with news collected since we last did this Monday.

The Phantoms continued to sign guy after guy, announcing Tuesday that they re-signed a James de Hass and then signed Gerry Fitzgerald and Eric Knodel. Depth pieces, more or less. Knodel is good in shootouts.

Elsewhere, Chris Breen re-signed with Providence and Alex Lintuniemi signed with Carolina. Kale Kessy, he of his astounding 289 PIMs with the ECHL Idaho Steelheads, signed with the Hershey Bears.

Jayson Megna won’t score against the Penguins next season, not unless the Colorado Eagles are on the schedule which should be released next week or the week after, because that’s where he’s headed in the Fall.

Locally, Coal Street re-signed Christopher Brown, who joined the team late in the year last. Joseph Blandisi, who was a restricted free agent, accepted his qualifying offer and re-signed in Pittsburgh.

Burying the lede a bit, but Friday the Rochester Americans announced the signings of four players, one of them being Jarrett Burton. The Jason Botterill poaching of Coal Street continues with this move.

Burton was a fine AHL hand. Rochester has a good player in him.

Mike Sullivan was extended for four more seasons, quelling at least the, “Mike Vellucci is next in line” talks.

Funny.

That’s all, for now. No links on the signings for and around the division, just trust me on those.

Enjoy the weekend.