Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: Pittsburgh

2018 Draft Recap, The Old College Try

As with years prior, I use this piece as a recap of the recap of the NHL Draft and the haul that the Pittsburgh Penguins drafted. Here goes.

After no action at all in the first round Friday, all of the picks were made on Saturday. They were…

Pittsburgh then traded up to draft…

Then they waited to 129 and took…

And then in the sixth round…

They traded away their final pick to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for theirs in 2019.

Coal Street with a recap here of the picks and scouting reports on all. Also, if you have a subscription to The Athletic, you can find a recap and grade of Pittsburgh’s draft class here as well.

AHL Big Board will be out this week on the blog. I am aiming for a midweek debut because all I need are blurbs on any restricted free agents not qualified by Monday. Everything else is done but for ranking, but that is seamless because I have a top 30 and really just need 60 more which shouldn’t be that hard. I learned how to have a spreadsheet alphabetize for me two years ago so that’s a breeze.

The plan is to drop a blog post in here advising when the Big Board will be out to give ample time and build up the anticipation.

TK’s Back! (Sort Of)

When Tom Kostopoulos retired at the conclusion of the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins season at the hands of the Charlotte Checkers in a three game sweep in the Atlantic Division Semifinals, the question became, “what’s next?” regarding the Penguins captain and Wilkes-Barre legend.

The answer was discovered today.

The Pittsburgh Penguins announced Wednesday afternoon that Kostopoulous as well as Andy Chiodo have been hired in player development roles. Chiodo will serve as development coach for goaltenders.

Positive move for Coal Street. You keep a popular guy like Kostopoulos around and a likable fellow like Chiodo mentoring the next generation of goaltenders. Players genuinely wanted to win a Calder Cup for Kostopoulos in his final season.

Here is Tom on Tom with more…

NHL Draft is this weekend. I will probably run a recap of the Penguins draft picks if I get time Sunday.

AHL Big Board is coming along and will be out sometime next week. I will probably run a quick blog post advising of the time the big project drops to give people advance warning. So, stay tuned.

Updates 5/31

Getting closer to the start of summer, there have been a few things rolling around that don’t get a whole blog post dedicated to it, but have built up enough to warrant one now. In sum,

— Pittsburgh signed Juuso Riikola to an entry level contract. He’s a Finnish defenseman. Undrafted, steady handed puck mover was second on his Liiga team in points last year.

— The guys from the Pittsburgh faction of The Athletic had a feature piece on him that you can, as long as you are a subscriber, can check out here.

— Lukas Bengtsson made it official and signed in the SHL for next season. It’s a three year contract. Don’t be surprised if the Penguins simply protect his North American rights going forward, but his days are done on Coal Street.

— There is a new ECHL team in St. Johns, Newfoundland and they have a kick ass logo. They will be a Toronto affiliate.

— Etienne Marcoux, who was one of 167 goaltenders the Penguins used at the position last season, earned himself an AHL deal with the Laval Rocket.

— Wheeling has a new head coach. His name is Mark Dennehy. He has ties with Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan. A great hire.

— The AHL extended Dave Andrews through 2020.

— Ex-Penguin Bobby Farnham re-signed with the Springfield Thunderbirds.

— Mama, it’s those men again. Another Athletic piece on Jordy Bellerive, who is a man against boys with Lethbridge in the Western Hockey League. He may make NHL team out fo camp in the fall, but if he doesn’t, he will need to go back to the Hurricanes because he’s too young to play in the AHL.

Hitting on the news, I don’t see Riikola coming over here to play 50+ games in the AHL personally, but if he wants to learn the North American game he may have to….Dennehy is a good hire because he did more with less at tiny Merrimack College which was a small fish in the big pond known as college hockey in the Northeast….There are a lot of things I don’t like about the AHL (teams playing 68 games, linesmen who are in over their heads on a nightly basis, a training ground for referees who are cast in a bigger spotlight who are sometimes in the same boat, the high price of AHL Live, etc.) but the one constant is Andrews and his vision has catapulted the AHL into the second best brand of hockey in North America and some would say the world. The League will be at 31 teams in 2018-19 with the inclusion of the Colorado Eagles and may get to 32 if NHL Seattle is granted a franchise, so what better man to keep running the ship than Andrews. It was said that he was close to retiring, but he was talked into staying around for a little while longer. The League will be better for it.

Toronto swept Lehigh Valley in four games and Texas dispatched pesky Rockford in six. These two will play for the Calder Cup starting Saturday in Toronto.

That’s pretty much it. When news builds up on me I’ll drop another post in, but for now enjoy the warm weather.

Penguin Contract Statuses

I figured I would bring this back from the dead after not doing it last season. It’s the contract board for the offseason for the Penguins.

I discuss only players that played in the AHL for Wilkes-Barre. In my next blog post, whenever that is, I will pin this to the top of the blog and add it to a page and edit it as the summer goes on.

Here we go, in no particular order.

Player Position Status Description
Dominik Simon C RFA Serviceable enough that the Penguins may qualify him. If not, he’s definitely a upper echelon tweener type player.
Josh Jooris C UFA Didn’t really have much of an impact after coming over in the Greg McKegg trade. Was a full time NHLer when the trade happened with Carolina. Could fit in nice somewhere else.
Andrey Pedan D RFA Rumor is he is KHL bound. PIT may qualify his North American rights.
Thomas DiPauli LW RFA Should get qualified. Injury cut short the remainder of his season.
Ethan Prow D RFA Should be a lock to be qualified and will be playing meaningful AHL minutes in 18-19.
Teddy Blueger LW RFA Had an NHL cup of coffee but never dressed in a brief call-up. Expect him to be qualified.
Lukas Bengtsson D RFA May have a European deal lined up. Has health issues which has kept him from playing a full season.
Tobias Lindberg LW RFA Was one of the minor keys in the move that brought Derek Brassard to Pittsburgh. Never played a game with WBS.
Daniel Sprong RW RFA GM Rutherford indicated on breakup day that he expects Sprong to be with Pittsburgh in the Fall. In order for that to occur he must be qualified.
Kevin Czuczman D UFA He’s the type of player you want to see come back next season. I think he moves on though.
Frank Corrado D RFA He’ll be 26 next year and has played in just 7 games for PIT. I let him walk. We’ll see what happens.
J-S Dea C RFA Didn’t really do much to establish himself this season in the AHL. He’s an interesting case.
Tom Sestito LW UFA Have a sense that if he decides to re-sign, he does so here in WBS as I get the sense that he has enjoyed his time here. Otherwise, I think he retires.
Jarred Tinordi D UFA He may be looking for NHL work elsewhere, but that ship may have sailed.
Zach Trotman D UFA Same as Tinordi above, Trotman is a year older, too.
Michael Leighton G UFA At age 36, that’s a lot of tread on the tires. He’d fit in perfect next year with Anthony Peters as his mentor as PIT doesn’t have any other goalies under contract eligible to play in the AHL next year.
Vincent Dunn C RFA Was one of the minor pieces in the Derek Brassard mega deal and never played in WBS.
Tristan Jarry G RFA Question becomes did Jarry establish himself enough to be Matt Murray’s backup for next year. Casey DeSmith is already under contract so Jarry is already behind the proverbial 8-ball. Plus, Jarry would need waivers.

Below are the players on AHL contracts only.

Ryan Haggerty RW UFA Wilkes-Barre re-signed him last summer. I’m sure they would like to to the same, but will he return for a third year?
Christian Thomas RW UFA While auditioning for international work, still managed a good year in the AHL. He’s high on my list to get back here in 18-19.
Jarrett Burton C UFA He’s a love him or hate him type player. The coaching staff seemed to love him as Burton was a staple in the lineup night in and night out.
Joseph Cramarossa C UFA Hard nosed, lunch pail type player. More success with WBS then with Stockton, where he came over from in a trade for Colin Smith
Cody Wydo LW UFA ECHL depth player. I don’t see a fit here with the crop of draft picks at forward coming down the pipeline.
Reid Gardiner RW UFA Sort of got lost in the shuffle after getting re-signed by WBS out of juniors. Can he carve an AHL niche? Sure. Will it be with the Penguins? Remains to be seen.
Patrick McGrath RW UFA Local product limited to 19 games because of one dimension.
Kevin Spinozzi D UFA Made team out of training camp and was used as ECHL depth.
Kevin Schulze D UFA Dime a dozen defender.
Cam Brown C UFA Decent year in the ECHL with the Nailers. Was contracted out to two AHL teams, the Penguins had his services for one game.
Gage Quinney F UFA AHL depth. Plays a role, but so do a lot of other guys in a similar boat.
Troy Josephs C UFA? I can’t find anything on his status as far as U/RFA. I think it’s fair to say he was lost in the shuffle this season.

The Caravan is Here

With the Wheeling Nailers season ending last weekend, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins recalled seven players from their ECHL affiliate.

They are forwards Reid Gardiner, Troy Josephs and Cody Wydo, and defensemen Kevin Spinozzi and Dylan Zink. Cam Brown, a forward and defenseman Kevin Schulze were signed to professional tryout agreements.

Also, Anthony Angello, who Pittsburgh signed last week out of Cornell University, was signed to an amateur tryout contract.

I believe that the Penguins can lock up home ice over the Providence Bruins with a win in Springfield with a Bruins loss to the Charlotte Checkers. That would put Wilkes-Barre five points up on Providence with two games left to play for each team. Charlotte after Friday has one game left. All the Penguins would need to do would win one more game to get home ice in the first round because that would put them at 98 points. Charlotte can only max out at 96.

It’s still all up in the air and nothing is decided yet in the Atlantic but for the fact that Lehigh Valley is number one. Stay tuned, I guess and pick your poison for your first round opponent.

Stanley Cup Playoffs begin Wednesday. I do not believe that Pittsburgh will be sending any reinforcements. Dominik Simon would be the one name that I would watch for, but not yet.

I have the Penguins winning in five over the Flyers, by the way.

But for anything breaking, check me out again here on the blog Friday at 3 for the Springfield setup.

Daniel Sprong Named to All Rookie Team

Lost in the Tom Kostopolus retirement news Wednesday was the announcement from the American Hockey League that Daniel Sprong was named to the All-Rookie team.

Announcement here. Sprong joins his buddy Dylan Strome from the Tucson Roadrunners at the forward position.

From the Coal Street release, Sprong became the eighth Penguin ever named to the AHL’s All-Rookie Team, joining Casey DeSmith (2016-17), Jake Guentzel (2016-17), Matt Murray (2014-15), Alex Goligoski (2007-08), John Curry (2007-08), Michel Ouellet (2003-04) and Toby Petersen (2000-01).

Sprong leads all league rookies in goals, and he ranks second in points, shots (181), power play goals (10) and game-winning goals (6). His 57 points also place him ninth in the overall AHL scoring standings.

It’s a great accomplishment for Sprong and a credit to him as a professional and the coaching staff here in Wilkes-Barre to put Sprong in this position to succeed.

Does Sprong come close to these numbers in the NHL this season? No, not the way that the organization values so highly development. But that is what the American Hockey League is for, to have players like Sprong to thrive at this level, succeed and be awarded at seasons end.

ATO Season, Other Notes 3/27

Looking at all the news coming across the wire today, I had to fire up the blog and drop in with an update.

Wilkes-Barre made the Alex D’Orio and Jan Drozg ATO (amateur tryout agreement) signings official. Check out the link from the team on the nuts and bolts. Taylor Haase, who drops by from time to time with GIFs that you see from time to time in my game recaps, had some Grade A information today that I felt was too good to simply retweet on my Twitter timeline. First, on D’Orio…

On Drozg…

Here is the deal with these guys. Nothing is decided yet here in Wilkes-Barre (we’ve not clinched yet, the playoff seeding is not locked in) so all these next few weeks are going to be is essentially a taste of what life is like as a professional. There really may not be a better place in the minor leagues than Wilkes-Barre to learn how to be a professional. Am I expecting D’Orio or Drozg to get into an actual AHL hockey game this season? No. Call this what orientation was like when you were in college or on your first week of your job.

Pittsburgh sent someone else too.

Since Birks is older, it’s more likely that he sees action before Drozg and D’Orio this season with Wilkes-Barre.

Two other unofficial news of note. Taylor found something written in Finnish on Niclas Almari. But through the magic of internet translators, it showed that Almari is likely headed to Coal Street.

Also, there was a report that Lukas Bengtsson is going back to Sweden next season. He apparently wants to play closer to home. Bengtsson has struggled to stay healthy. If he does decide to defect, Pittsburgh should retain his North American rights.

Pens held an optional practice today at Coal Street. Tom was there.

I believe that covers everything. Back tomorrow for Wednesday’s head to head with the Providence Bruins.