Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: Mailbag

Asked and Answered 11/13

Let’s open up the Mailbag and get to your questions with some answers.

Best Pens Defenseman? Any younger D making an impression? -Rob

The answer is Jon Lizotte to both questions. In the larger sample size, he’s far and away the best Penguins defenseman when it comes to overall goals for and at even strength. I think in the long run Zach Trotman may give him a run for his money, but the answer, right now, is Jon Lizotte.

Honorable mentions to Nicolas Almari and Michael Kim. Almari moreso than Kim. Almari I feel is more polished because he played overseas and more NHL ready right now if you needed a recall.

If Stefan Noesen continues to play well do you think the penguins or another NHL team offers him a NHL contract. – Jim

Pittsburgh no, other NHL teams, possibly. I think Noesen likes it here and him leading the team and AHL in goals scored shows this. Guys that drop out of the NHL can go back to the AHL where they played 10-15 years ago and pout and go through the motions. Not Noesen. You’re not coming here and in a month start tearing the AHL to shreds if you don’t like it here.

Is Noesen playing in the NHL again this season? No, I don’t think so. An NHL team would have to be desperate enough to be out of options with their own AHL affiliate to offer Noesen a lucrative contract and at best he’s a fill in.

If you had to answer right now, Do you think Jake Lucchini will make the NHL for the Penguins? – Matt

He’s got to button up his own end defensively, 37.5% overall GF%, 42.11% at even strength, but yes I think he’s on the right track and his NHL debut for Pittsburgh shouldn’t be too far off.

Thanks for the questions. Gameday setup for tonight’s game vs. Hershey will be up at 3. I have to remember to not run a mailbag feature when there are Wednesday games.

Stat Board Update / Mailbag

I updated the Big Stat Board through November 9, 2019 vs. Syracuse. You can link to that here or just click into the menu bar at the top of the blog to be taken there.

Some notes:

– How critical is Zach Trotman right now for the Penguins? Wilkes-Barre’s defense was a mess before his arrival, but now have allowed just one goal in two games against some offensively explosive AHL teams.

– No surprise that Jon Lizotte, Trotman’s defensive partner last night, is right at the top of the board in Even Strength Goals For (ESGF) percentage for defenseman. Lizotte has been far and away the best Penguins defenseman so far into the season and an argument can be made that he’s the most consistent Penguins rookie as well.

– For forwards, no surprises. Adam Johnson, Stefan Noesen and Andrew Agozzino are the best at overall goals for (GF) average. All are over 60%. Johnson is at 75% in a small sample size.

– I think the market will correct itself on all of the sub-50% ESGF’s, which is more than half the team when you factor out the injured or recalled guys. I want more from Joseph Blandisi (28.57) Anthony Angello (28.57) and Jake Lucchini (42.11) – again, I think the market will correct itself as it goes, but Blandisi is a legitimate NHL recall option, Angello is in his second year and Lucchini doesn’t want to carry a tag of a guy who doesn’t play defense.

– David Warsofsky has the worst numbers at even strength with a 23.81% or five goals on and 16 against. That frankly needs to change, quickly. If you are advocating for a scratch, well he’s the captain and his power play numbers (9 on, 3 against) are too good to take out. The purest definition of risk / reward if there ever was one. Warsofsky is also third on the team in points, so you have to take the good with the bad and again, I firmly believe that there will be a regression to the mean and his even strength numbers will improve.

Take a look, let me know what you think about that and whatever other general questions you may have on the team in this edition of the Mailbag. Get your questions in and I’ll answer them Tuesday for you.

This mailbag is closed and your questions were answered here.

Asked and Answered 10/15

Opened up the Mailbag for your questions after four games. Let’s jump in…

Scarfo up. I wonder if there is an as yet undisclosed injury in WBS.
– CyGuy

Here’s a little insider information for anyone that wants to get ahead of these things. Normally, when a guy is coming up from Wheeling it is tipped a day in advance in the ECHL Transactions which always hit around 5 p.m. Wilkes-Barre time. The ECHL has very complex rules about rosters and such that I frankly don’t care to comprehend. Anyway, in the Transaction release Monday, Scarfo’s name was on it. Coal Street later made it official Tuesday morning.

I don’t think it’s an injury per se as much as it is just trying to get a look at what you have depth wise. Mike Vellucci went with the same forward lineup and didn’t switch up the lines at all Sunday in Hershey from Saturday at home against Utica. For all of he misconceptions about the way that Clark Donatelli ran a bench, he always switched things up. Perhaps its a coaching philosophy thing, I don’t know.

Here were Sunday’s lines…

Sam Lafferty, Joseph Blandisi and Adam Johnson are all in Pittsburgh. That leaves you with…

  • Ben Sexton. Hurt.
  • Justin Almeida. They kind of forced him into duty Friday in Allentown when Andrew Agozzino was returned to Wilkes-Barre late that day. I didn’t notice him as much as I should have but collectively, the Penguins were bad Friday.
  • Jamie Devane. Hurt.

So it does make sense to have an extra healthy forward if you aren’t going to use Almeida with Devane and Sexton are still a few weeks away. For what it’s worth, I didn’t notice Nick Hart on radio call out that a player was missing on the bench Sunday. They didn’t practice Monday so we will have to wait and see if someone did pick up a knock, but I like my theory better.

Steve Oleksy was released Saturday. Seems they didn’t really give him a shot.
– Dave

I disagree. They have nine defensemen on the NHL roster that they don’t know what do do with and a lot of defensemen in Wilkes-Barre on NHL contracts. They also have a veteran overage problem when healthy. Oleksy has those two things (he’s a veteran defenseman) working against him. There is no practical room for yet another defenseman, a veteran no less, eating up minutes that your rookie defenseman could be in the same situation in. It’s just how development at this level works.

Who do you think Matt Abt has incriminating photos of?
– Mike

I know I haven’t released my expanded charts quite yet because of the busy week of the mailbag, a Wednesday home game and the AHL Power Rankings coming Thursday, but Abt has been on the ice for six total goals against (five at even strength). I’d counter that Abt in comparison to his other defensive partners has company, because everyone as a unit have all been bad. Wilkes-Barre is only carrying seven defensemen right now, with Michael Kim as the extra. There are no players with Pittsburgh right now other than John Marino and Juuso Riikola who can come down without waivers. (Zach Trotman maybe, but he is currently injured and needs waivers) In Wheeling you have Blake Siebenhaler and Macoy Erkamps as viable recalls. Both are righties (Abt is a southpaw) and the only right hander on the WBS blue line is Niclas Almari. So you are kind of really stuck with Abt right now on a defensive unit who hasn’t really lit the world on fire through four contests. Hang in there.

Jason, your crystal ball please: barring a trade, who comes back when/if Pittsburgh gets healthy?
– John M.

I think it’s simple. Of the injured guys you have Evgeni Malkin, their second best player; Alex Galchenyuk, a guy they acquired when they traded Phil Kessel and Bryan Rust who they wanted playing with a line with Malkin and Galchenyuk. Pittsburgh’s entire fourth line on Sunday against Winnipeg was Wilkes-Barre call-ups. That said, provided no one else gets hurt, you’re looking at Joseph Blandisi, Sam Lafferty and Adam Johnson all heading back at some point, unless there is a trade. You aren’t sitting any combination of Malkin, Galchenyuk or Rust for Lafferty, Johnson or Blandisi, you just aren’t. So they will all be back in due time.

What is going on with Dustin Tokarski?
– Barbara T.

Good question. Honestly, they are trying to swing a trade for one or two of their excess defensemen and probably Tristan Jarry. So essentially what they want to do is continue to have Emil Larmi develop as a backup, keep letting Casey DeSmith get starters reps and let Tokarski rest up for good what ever it has been which has been ailing him. He’s a pro who has won two Calder Cups. He doesn’t need the miles on him now if there’s a logjam organizationally. Eventually, something will happen where Jim Rutherford swings a trade that frees up movement where DeSmith is recalled again and order is restored with Tokarski and Larmi as your one-two in Wilkes-Barre. The Penguins least worry right now is in goal. You basically have a Calder Cup winning goaltender waiting on the shelf ready to play whenever the coach taps him on the shoulder. This is a good thing.

Good mailbag again. Solid questions. Thanks for participating. We will do it again the final week of October after five more games to see where we are at that point.

Mailbag Monday 10/14

After a weekend three in three, the first of seven total for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins this season, it’s time to reopen the Mailbag for your questions this week. What you’ve liked, what you didn’t like, what can be improved after the Penguins 1-2-1-0 start.

If you participated in the first mailbag, then you know how this goes. Leave your name (it doesn’t have to be a real one) and your thoughts / comments in the form below. Depending on input, I’ll string together a post Wednesday morning or afternoon before the Gameday setup against Binghamton at home later that evening.

This Mailbag is closed. Check back for another on on or around October 28, 2019!

Asked and Answered 10/2

Well, the mailbag idea was a big hit which generated a lot of traffic and discussion. We will make it a bi-weekly thing going forward. For now, let’s hit the questions.

Hi! What’s your opinion of Oula Palve based on what you’ve seen so far? And what about Kasper Björkqvist?
– Mike

Palve played two preseason games. Small sample size, but I thought he looked good. Normally a good gauge on guys playing in their first contests is how tentative they are and whether or not they jump into a play or not. Palve mixed it up, had four total shots and played on second line with Ryan Haggerty in both games. If you’re trying to ease someone new into the North American game, you throw him on a fourth line and give him something like six minutes a period in low leverage situations. Palve didn’t and doesn’t fit that mold. It’s going to be interesting to see him adapt and develop to the North American game because the brass is really high on him.

Bjorkqvist played three games and while I thought he was invisible Wednesday, I started to notice his name more and more from Nick Hart on radio Saturday and Sunday. He had that nice goal Saturday in Hershey. It’s a transition game from college to pros no matter how strong you are. Everything you read with this kid shows that he is something special. Much like Palve, it’s all about building confidence with every shift.

Who do you think will be named Captain?
– Mike

I asked this question in part to Nick Hart on the interactive chat Sunday afternoon in the Penguins game against the Phantoms. From the sound of it, it didn’t seem like they were in a hurry to name one. Hart cited a “leadership group” vs. a straight up captain. I think that’s a fine idea in concept, but the concept didn’t work last season when Garrett Wilson went up and stayed up last year because in my opinion they lacked a direction last season. Tyler reported Tuesday that they would hope to have a captain named by Friday.

To specifically answer your question, my pick would be Ryan Haggerty. He has all the qualities you want in a captain. They have a plethora of options to choose from though; David Warsofsky, Kevin Czuczman, Joseph Cramarossa, Andrew Agozzino and Steve Oleksy off the top of my head would all be fine choices for the “C.”

How do you think they can improve attendance? I realize its not ” the new game in town” anymore, but they gotta draw more. With all these colleges around i would think there would be more interest from the students ( pitts ” student rush ” comes to mind. )
– icemanwbs

I mean they are doing all they can in ticket deals and the like. They have a strong season ticket holder base and realize that not everyone can shell out the thousand or so bucks every year to come to every single home game. The McDonald’s four packs, the $12 Friday deals with the beer specials are all fine ideas to get a casual fan with nothing to do on a Friday or Saturday to come to a game. The way that the schedule lines up (only eight weeknight games this season) it’s a weekend heavy matrix. As far as colleges go with deals and the like, you likely need to swing something with the school because not every student has a car or a viable means of transportation.

And I tell anyone who thinks that the attendance is bad here in Wilkes-Barre to attend a game in person at Hartford, Bridgeport or Springfield. If ours is what you could consider is bad, then in those arenas it would be seen as worse.

Glad to see Olesky back. I am guessing he is on a PTO because there is no contract space. At least two contract spots have to open up if they want him and the goalie.
– John C

Oleksy being signed to a PTO has no bearing on contracts because there is no cap on contracts or roster space in the AHL. You can have as many players as you want at any position in the AHL but you can only dress so many veterans on game nights. He’s a reliable insurance piece with Zach Trotman out with surgery.

Not a specific question or message at this time, but I like the idea very much of a bi-weekly feature and preferably on Monday as you say, after weekend action. And as a side note, has there been anything posted regarding AHL streaming? Is it the same as last year? Thank you for all you do!!
– Marilyn J.

Good to see that the idea of a bi-weekly feature works well. On streaming, AHLTV is back and the pricing structure is the same as it was last year with the addition of a $99.99 option to stream regular season and playoffs. The daily view (one price to watch all games that day) increased from $6.99 to $7.99. There is also a “Free View” this weekend you can also check out gratis.

Hey Jason, Excited for this new feature…Also still can’t wrap my head around that hockey season is here! Anyway, With the Big Pens not as deep on D, and a Jack Johnson trade potentially looming…Seems like the Baby Pens will need to rely heavily on young, inexperienced Blue Liners (Assuming the Penguins keep Trotman and Riikola up). Moreover, the Big Pens could call up Jon Lizotte or P.O Joseph, wiping out blue chip talent on the blue line..I know this is probably a little bit of a complex question ,but Is the Baby Pens blue line good enough for us to compete for a playoff spot?
– Matt

Ideally, if Jack Johnson is traded and there are prospects involved on defense, then the Penguins would likely go out and get a player like they did in Steve Oleksy. Oleksy is here because Trotman is out longer term after sports hernia surgery. (I’m as shocked you are that they disclosed the injury and means to correct it) So I like the fact that they are being proactive instead of putting all the pressure on the rookies.

Is the D corps right now good enough to compete for a postseason spot? I think so, but it’s a new season and we all are undefeated. Ask again in a month.

Great job as always. As a fan of “11 time”, I enjoy following your blog for news on the Bears rivals. Your coverage is not homerish (made that word up) which is enjoyable. Good luck to you and the Pens this year, just not against “11 time”
– Chris P.

I think the one thing that Penguins and Bears fans can agree on is that we all don’t like Lehigh Valley.

Will any of the new NHL rules also be used in the AHL?
– CyGuy

I think that any rule that they come up with in the NHL has been borne here in the AHL. I don’t think you are going to see anything with replay and coaches challeneges and all of that (for as much as I would like it)

Sam Lafferty, Jake Lucchini, Kasper Bjorkqvist, Anthony Angello. Which one of them do you think has the best shot at a steady NHL career.
– Josh

I want to back up this question to the opening night roster from three years ago and four, what you could consider “blue chippers” at the time. You had,

J-S Dea, 20 goals, 36 points the year prior. An undrafted kid that had huge potential. Now: Still in the AHL, 26 NHL games to his credit.

Josh Archibald – 176th overall pick. Not a lot of AHL points but speed got him to the NHL where he’s played over 100 games.

Oskar Sundqvist – 81st overall pick – kind of flamed out in Pittsburgh and ended up getting traded and blossomed with and won a Stanley Cup with St. Louis.

Jake Guentzel – the best homegrown player in the group, arguably all time.

Of that four, at that time, who would you have said?  Probably Dea, right?

So of your four, the obvious choice today is to say Kasper Bjorkqvist because of everything you’ve read about his off-season training habits and how strong he is along with his NCAA accolades. But I’d probably say that a player like Sam Lafferty has the best shot at a steady NHL career. He had a good training camp with Pittsburgh, is targeted for more this season in Wilkes-Barre and pretty much has all the assets.

Where are the AHL Previews that normally run this week?
– Barry

I scrapped the concept this season. Instead, I’ll have an opponent preview for all the teams that the Penguins play this season. Look for that noon Friday.

Good first mailbag. I’ll send you more stamps in two weeks. The Pens will have four games under their belts at that time and their first three in three. For the time being at anytime you want to leave a comment, you can do so at any time. Thanks.

Mailbag Monday – 9/30

Kicking around some ideas here as the preseason is now in the rear view mirror and the run up to the regular season is fast approaching. I’ve seen some other blogs do this and it was suggested in the Reader Survey from a few weeks ago to open up the forum to some questions, ideas or whatever you want to talk about surrounding the Penguins. Rosters, outlooks, line combinations, anything.

I’ll move this around as I see fit, but I like the Monday Morning end of it as it comes off of a weekend of action in the AHL. Provided there’s enough feedback, we can make this a recurring feature. Ideally, it could be a bi-weekly feature, with it going maybe once a month if the interest isn’t there or weekly if there is a lot of input.

Just leave your name, it doesn’t need to be a real name, and your input, comment or questions. I’ll include a bunch of them in the first installment of reader mail, if you want to call it that.

Fire away…

This Mailbag is closed. Check back for another on on or around October 14, 2019!