Chirps from Center Ice

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

Training Camp Schedule, Roster Revealed 9/21

Coal Street announced Saturday morning their roster for their training camp, which starts Tuesday morning.

Link here, but I’ll cut and paste the schedule and roster here for you.

Tuesday, Sept. 24
10:00 a.m.          Group A Practice                Toyota SportsPlex
11:15 a.m.               Group B Practice                Toyota SportsPlex

Wednesday, Sept. 25
7:05 p.m.            Game vs. Lehigh Valley     Mohegan Sun Arena

Thursday, Sept. 26
10:00 a.m.          Group A Practice                Toyota SportsPlex
11:15 a.m.               Group B Practice                Toyota SportsPlex

Friday, Sept. 27
7:05 p.m.             Game vs. Hershey             Mohegan Sun Arena

Saturday, Sept. 28
7:00 p.m.             Game at Hershey              Giant Center

Sunday, Sept. 29
3:05 p.m.             Game at Lehigh Valley     PPL Center

If you scroll to the bottom of that post I linked, you’ll also see the roster construction for players who will be at camp Tuesday morning. They are, and I’m cutting and pasting from the Coal Street release again, as follows:

Player Pos. Hometown Birthdate Ht Wt
Matt Abt D Leduc, AB 1993-07-25 (26) 6-4 180
Jordy Bellerive C North Vancouver, BC 1999-05-02 (20) 5-11 194
Chase Berger C St. Louis, MO 1994-11-14 (24) 6-0 194
Chris Brown C Bloomfield Hills, MI 1996-02-22 (23) 6-0 179
Jamie Devane LW Mississauga, ON 1991-02-20 (28) 6-5 239
Alex D’Orio G Sherbrooke, QC 1999-04-28 (20) 6-3 208
Jan Drozg LW Maribor, SVN 1999-04-01 (20) 6-2 175
Macoy Erkamps D Richmond, BC 1995-02-02 (24) 5-11 193
Brandon Hawkins RW Macomb Township, MI 1994-04-25 (25) 5-10 198
Yushiroh Hirano RW Tomakomai, JAP 1995-08-18 (24) 5-11 216
Michael Kim D Toronto, ON 1995-06-28 (24) 6-0 183
Renārs Krastenbergs LW Jelgava, LAT 1998-12-26 (20) 5-11 183
Jon Lizotte D Grand Forks, ND 1994-11-10 (24) 6-0 210
Myles Powell C Courtenay, BC 1994-07-24 (25) 5-9 174
Ryan Scarfo C North Chelmsford, MA 1994-03-03 (25) 5-11 193
Ben Sexton RW Ottawa, ON 1991-06-06 (28) 5-11 195
Blake Siebenaler D Fort Wayne, IN 1996-02-27 (23) 6-2 207
Craig Skudalski D Trucksville, PA 1995-05-12 (24) 6-6 215
Aaron Titcomb D Charlestown, MA 1993-05-16 (26) 6-4 220
Dustin Tokarski G Watson, SK 1989-09-16 (30) 6-0 198

No surprises this season. Of the names listed above Chase Berger (AHL contract), Jordy Bellerive, Jan Drozg, Ben Sexton (AHL), Matt Abt (AHL), Michael Kim (AHL), Jon Lizotte (AHL), Alex D’Orio and Dustin Tokarski (AHL) were all cut from Pittsburgh’s camp Friday. The only names that may be foreign to you are Aaron Titcomb and Craig Skudalski are non-contracted (to Wilkes-Barre at least) invites. A welcome change from years past when you had names you never heard of on a line with one another in a preseason game.

The release mentions that players will be added as time wears, which is obvious because Pittsburgh still has 46 players on their roster at present, and only 23 can make the team at opening night. So essentially the Penguins need to cut half the roster as it stands today. There are players who will get assigned back to juniors (Calen Addison was yesterday) so you can expect an influx of two more goaltenders (or maybe just Emil Larmi if Tristan Jarry is traded or claimed on waivers) six or seven defensemen depending on how Pittsburgh wants to carry to start (Niclas Almari, Kevin Czuczman, P-O Joseph, John Marino, David Warsofsky are sure bets to either get cut or be placed on waivers, then a battle between guys like Juuso Riikola, Chad Ruhwedel and Zach Trotman for that seventh or eighth spot. Riikola wouldn’t require waivers, while the other two would.

Up front, Andrew Agozzino, Justin Almeida, Anthony Angello, Joseph Blandisi, Joseph Cramarossa, Thomas DiPauli, Ryan Haggerty, Adam Johnson, Sam Lafferty, Jake Lucchini, Sam Miletic and Oula Palve are sure bets to get cut and waived / re-assigned to the AHL. That’s twelve. Sixteen forwards left.

I have Kasper Bjorkqvist, Nathan Legare and Sam Poulin as the outliers. Forget about Poulin and Legare, as they are too young for the AHL. They would have to go back to juniors. Subtract those two, fourteen forwards left up top. Bjorkqvist I think you can make a case gets an extended look with Pittsburgh to start. That would mean that there would be a player like Ruhwedel or Trotman to hit waivers with Riikola as a straight reassignment to Wilkes-Barre while Pittsburgh carries seven defenseman and gives Bjorkqvist a longer look. Or, they may, for the sake of fear of losing Trotman or Ruhwedel to waivers, leave both on the NHL roster, carry eight defensemen and assign Bjorkqvist to Wilkes-Barre to tear the AHL to shreds. Who knows. I like that option better as a safer bet but like I’ve long said, I blog about the team, and don’t coach / run it.

Things get cute if they lose Jarry to waivers or a trade involving him or anyone else. Or, if they decide to give Poulin a longer look and let him start the season in Pittsburgh, like they did Daniel Sprong.

Like I said, easier to blog about the team than run it. We’ll see. More as it comes.

Reader Survey Analysis

Thanks for the feedback on the Reader Survey. I’ve decided to share with you the feedback and give a preview of coming attractions as far as what to expect with the blog for the 2019-20 season with the Penguins.

Most of you follow me on Twitter and get to the blog based off of tweets of mine which link stories for you to read here. (42.2%) The other half of you (39.1%) access the blog he most direct way, directly through the website. 29.7% of you see something I post on Facebook and link in that way and 18.8% of you are signed up for the e-mail notifications.

Analysis: Pretty much as I expected, I use Twitter to drive people to the website, Facebook is secondary and the e-mail signups are just an added vehicle for those who have neither.

Half of you read the blog weekly and 45.3% of you daily and just 6.3% of you monthly. I’d assume, and I will get to this here soon, that there is a small portion of readers from out of town that access the site from other AHL cities.

A vast majority of you read the blog on your phones. (68.8%) and I have to consider that when putting out content because it shows up differently on the phone vs. the computer (35.9% of you) or tablet (just 12.5%)

Analysis: The blog is really set up for reading on a laptop or PC, but WordPress plays nice enough to allow for reading on a phone. I’ll go in on the back end and see if there are any improvements that can be made for viewing on mobile devices.

The next parts are of interest in what I talk about during the season:

Gameday Setups and Postgame Summaries are a popular thing which I don’t intend on tinkering with and a vast majority of readers come here for that sole purpose.

AHL Power Rankings was balanced all the way through with, 21.9% voting “2” and 29.7% voting “5” with “3” and “4” somewhere in the middle. More on this in a minute. (the scale was “1” being least interested and “5 being most interested)

Next and with this being a blog about the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins, the 57.8% of you who marked “most interested” in the feature for WBS News and Notes doesn’t surprise me. I would like to mix in more non-gameday stories throughout the season as they come.

AHL News and Notes was also balanced with about 25% for categories 3-5. I always try to mix in news about the Penguins or their opponents here.

Now, some pie charts:

This is actually what I was hoping for and what I was expecting. There are a cadre of readers who like the Power Rankings but most people don’t read all of them all the time. Well, for me, I can’t just put half the scores or work on 2/3’s of the teams. It’s a time consuming process that I moved to Thursday’s because I wanted my Sunday evening’s back instead of sitting in front of a computer at 9 o’clock in the evening knowing that in twelve short hours I would be back at my regular job doing it again. So I moved them to Thursday’s last year and it was a lot better for me.

Doing both on ice and Power Rankings at the same time in the same week is not an option, but I threw it in there anyway. Leads to my next pie chart.

You’ll be getting that. I am planning on going deeper this year and bringing back the on-ice stats for the Penguins.

Next pie was how, if you followed on Twitter, how it could best be served you.

Good to see Hershey fans have a sense of humor!

I just tossed in this next question to see where the base of the readers come from.

Decent spread, with the majority full share members, the die hards and the ones that the blog really caters to.

Last was a free form field that if you wanted you could drop a note. Here are some with my response.

First off, thank you so much for all the time you put into the blog. You don’t understand how much at work I look forward to a new post. Moreover, I think you should go live on Twitter an answer questions from readers… I would love to have a more open discussion about the Baby Pens…And hear not only other people questions, but your thoughts!

Sounds like a good idea.

We are from MN and don’t go to all the games. We watch all the games on AHL TV stream. We buy the season pass. Thank you so much for your blogs. Enjoy them.

Some of the responses were like this one above. You are welcome.

Time on ice for wbs players

Trust me, if there was a way I could freely access this and share, I would. You can’t. I have looked. A lot.

Maryland loves Nafsnep

Thanks, Dan!

I always check your blog. You do a great job. The questions above didn’t ask about game day updates. I go to your live feed for that. If I am out travelling that is where I go. Not the AHL scoreboard. I like to see who scored etc. I always look for the capital letters because that means we scored. I also listen to the game on my phone. Lets see if the next couple of years we can get over the hump and get a championship!

If that day comes, I wonder what the postgame story would be and what it would look like. Likely an incoherent mess put up at 3 am after the celebrations.

I think you do a tremendous job with your blog. Your level of detail & dedication are very much appreciated. I’m from the Pittsburgh area and your blog is a daily read during the season & a weekly read during the off season to see what you will post next. I hope you can keep it up & look forward to what changes you may make. Thanks again!

Blog isn’t going anywhere so don’t worry. Thank you for the kind words.

You’re doing a great job and are now basically the only reliable blog to read up on the WBS Penguins since the Penguins Insider one is pretty much dead. I’m a reader from Bulgaria, so there’s virtually no other way for me to get some insider info on the AHL Penguins. Even the radio that covers WBS games is geoblocked for some reason. Not following you on twitter just because I don’t have one (never hopped onto that train;). Cheers!

Get a VPN and connect into the USA to allow yourself to listen to the games on the internet radio… Jonathan left for Pittsburgh and his inspiration for me to start my own blog has grown into this… Tom Venesky doesn’t cover the Pens anymore and I’m not going to step on Tyler’s toes as he does this for a living and I a hobby. I’ll never encourage folks to prefer the blogger over the paid professional but I’m not going to tell the person where to get their news.

Thank you to all who contributed to the reader survey. I truly do appreciate your input in helping me improve the blog.

So anyway, I’m going to make the AHL Power Rankings a bi-weekly feature and in weeks where there are no Power Rankings offer up a deep dive into Penguins on ice stats. Long time readers of the blog will remember this feature from a few years ago. I have to work on a few things as to how to best apply this so look for more information on this in the coming weeks.

Training camp and rosters will be out soon for the Penguins as camp opens on Coal Street next week. I’ll be back with a look at the names attending the camp. First preseason games get going next week as well.

It’s about that time.

2019-20 Chirps from Center Ice Reader Survey

It’s been a few years since I did one of these, but I am interested your input on the blog and what, if anything I can do to improve for the upcoming season. So, with that said, I created a Reader Survey for you to complete. I have a couple things I would like to change up this season, but before I run anything out there unannounced, now is as good a time as ever to get input on my ideas.

But before I get to the form, let me offload one bit of news from Tuesday. I saw the Laval Rocket tweet it this afternoon so you may not know about it yet because I don’t think anyone else did, but the 2019-20 pricing structure is out for the AHL’s streaming platform, AHLTV.

In summary, the only changes are to the Daily Pass, a $1 increase to $7.99 a day from $6.99 a day. The other pricing structures didn’t change at all.

New this year is the option to purchase a regular season and playoff pass for $99.99 which gets you every AHL home and away game including playoffs. The playoff package was separate last year and cost $24.99, so if you are confident enough that your team is going to make the playoffs, you can pay the extra $20 upfront and enjoy the entirety of the AHL season from October to June.

That’s pretty much it for now. Rookie tournaments start this weekend. News will be sparse this week so it’s actually a great time to do a survey.

Click here to be brought to the survey. Thank you in advance for your input.

Friday Potpourri

Couple of loose ends to tie off before the start of the Labor Day Weekend…

In a move that shouldn’t surprise you, Mike Vellucci was named General Manager of the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins this week. It is a dual capacity role that the reigning AHL Coach of the Year is familiar with, having served in the same position with the Charlotte Checkers last season.

Coal Street went hard on the Vellucci news this week. He’s here to win, and they have a series of video interviews where he says the right things to give fans of the AHL team hope for this season. Who am I to doubt a coach who was elected best last year who also led the AHL’s best team to the Calder Cup?

The Penguins are running the video series on their Twitter page and have the first two up. I’m likely not going to edit in the third or fourth here for the blog but if you want to see them, just watch their Twitter feed.

Ben Lovejoy retired this week. I have three all time favorite Penguins. He is one of them. The other two are Wade Brookbank and Casey DeSmith. Lovejoy came through Wilkes-Barre where he learned the pro game and was a likable, personable player. I’m hoping now that with the cloud of an extension agreement cleared that Coal Street starts adding to their Hall of Fame and that Lovejoy is one of the names who gets enshrined someday.

Patrick McGrath has found himself work. It’s with the Utah Grizzlies of the ECHL. That news was announced Thursday. McGrath plans on reporting to the Grizzlies AHL affiliate Colorado’s camp in the hopes of picking up an AHL contract. McGrath was an extremely popular player whom a lot of fans related to here in Wilkes-Barre. I wish him nothing but the best with the Grizzlies. Utah actually makes a visit to Wheeling on November 15 of this year and one has to guess that a lot of Nailers fans will want to see that one.

In other AHL news, Phantoms captain Colin McDoland signed with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. It’s assumed that McDonald will wear the “C” for the Sound Tigers this year as their long time captain Ben Holmstrom signed an ECHL deal with Norfolk earlier in the week.

Pittsburgh announced details on their prospect tournament for next weekend complete with a roster which Jonathan Bombulie dissected. A lot of these names you can look for in Wilkes-Barre at some point in the immediate or near future, when eligible.

AHL had this nice graphic.

I’m no math major, but that’s five weeks. Enjoy what’s left of summer until then.

Bill Guerin Named General Manager of Minnesota Wild

Usually when things like this happen, it’s the worst kept secret in town. Well on Wednesday, it was made official. Bill Guerin was named the General Manager of the Minnesota Wild.

That news obviously leaves a vacancy now in Wilkes-Barre as the AHL Penguins are without a General Manager, the spot previously filled by Guerin.

My guess for a replacement is Mike Vellucci, the current head coach of the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins. He would make the most logical choice as natural replacement as he had experience in the position with the Charlotte Checkers.

This piece, buried behind a paywall, notes Vellucci as well as Scott Young and Tom Kostopoulos as candidates for the GM position in Wilkes-Barre.

These things normally come about fairly quickly as contingency plans are in place weeks before news becomes official, so we probably won’t have to wait long for the name of the person who will fill the role that Guerin left behind.

Other news…

– Jeff Taylor has found a home in 2019-20, signing this past Tuesday with the Hartford Wolf Pack. Taylor was a non-tendered restricted free agent Pittsburgh did not qualify.

If you read the blog last week, you knew about the home dates for the preseason action the Penguins will be participating in, well on Monday they filled us in on the road schedule. Saturday, September 28 in Hershey at 7; Sunday in Allentown against Lehigh Valley at 3:05.

That’s all for now.

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.