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What you missed…
Pens vs. Wolf PackOctober 15th, 2016
53 days to go.
A fan blog about the AHL's Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins
It was announced Friday morning that free agent forward Thomas Di Pauli signed a two year entry level contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Di Pauli, originally a Washington Capitals draft pick, never signed with the Caps and became a free agent this week.
He’s 5’11, 197 pounds. Speedy forward with good hands. Played on Notre Dame with Bryan Rust which, depending on what website you do to to get your hockey projections, plays the same style.
Di Pauli went 22-39-61 over his last two seasons with Notre Dame, so he knows how to get his name on the scoresheet.
If he doesn’t make the big club out of camp, you can expect to see Di Pauli here in Wilkes-Barre, probably getting booed by Bears fans who were excited to see him play for them next season if he didn’t make the Capitals roster. Di Pauli’s presence alone will provide a boost for what was looking like an offensively starved AHL Penguins team. You can only keep so many bodies in the NHL, so if Di Pauli sticks, another body gets sent down. It’s a win-win for Wilkes-Barre regardless.
Elsewhere, Lehigh Valley signed goaltender Mark Dekanich Thursday. Dekanich hasn’t been the same since his All-Star days with Milwaukee a couple years ago. He spent much of last season with South Carolina in the ECHL and I expect him to do the same with Reading in the ECHL.
Our ECHL affiliate in Wheeling announced Wednesday that they have extended their affiliation agreement with Pittsburgh and subsequently Wilkes-Barre for two more seasons, out to 2018.
No AHL schedule yet. Probably early next week, based off of tweets from some teams that I have seen. Only question that remains is how many times we see Hershey and Lehigh Valley, everyone else in the division and everyone else in the conference, because we aren’t going to play anyone from the Western Conference. You get your hopes up for variety and new teams only to be disappointed year after year with the same old, same old.
Back next week to break it all down.
Couple more things of note this week as, for the beginning of July, it’s been busy.
Down Interstate 81, Hershey announced the re-signings of Dustin Gazley and Ryan Bourque to AHL deals. In addition, they announced they have signed G Parker Milner and D Hubert Labrie to AHL deals. Milner had gaudy numbers playing in the ECHL for the Missouri Mavericks last season, the Mavericks were a very good team. Labrie has bounced around from team to team and is a third pair defender. Hershey also announced they have re-signed Joey Leach and Dominic Monardo. Monardo was with the Bears in their playoff run.
Pittsburgh signed Garrett Wilson on Thursday. Wilson, who was not ranked in the Top 100 of the AHL Big Board, played 29 NHL games last season with Florida. He had 38 points with San Antonio in 2014-15. Expect him to be the first or second call-up for Pittsburgh next season once the inevitable injury bug starts biting the Stanley Cup Champions.
Ex-Penguin Matt Carkner announced his retirement.
The annual Board of Governors meeting wrapped up this week in Hilton Head, South Carolina. With this, normally comes realignment and rules changes. This year was no different. From the release, the divisions look like this heading into 2016-17:
Penguins remain in the same division with the same divisional foes, sans Portland, who is now Springfield, who is now Tucson, playing 68 games in the Pacific Division.
If I was running things, I would keep all 68 game teams (every team in the Pacific except San Antonio and Texas) in their own division, I’d move San Antonio and Texas to the Central and move Lake Erie to the North Division and Charlotte to the East. But that’s just me editorializing.
Other rule changes include,
• The 2016-17 regular season will consist of 1,116 games, played between Oct. 12 and Apr. 16. All teams will play 76 games each with the exception Bakersfield, Ontario, San Diego, San Jose, Stockton and Tucson, who will play 68 games each. The full league schedule will be announced later this summer.
• Teams will receive two points for a win and one point for an overtime or shootout loss. The top four teams in each division ranked by points percentage (points earned divided by points available) will qualify for the 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs.
• The 2017 Calder Cup Playoffs will feature a divisional playoff format, leading to conference finals and ultimately the Calder Cup Finals. The division semifinals are best-of-five series; all subsequent rounds are best-of-seven.
• Teams will wear light jerseys at home until the Christmas break, and dark jerseys at home after the Christmas break.
Rule 46 (“Fighting”)/Rule 23 (“Game Misconducts”)
• Players who enter into a fight prior to, at, or immediately following the drop of the puck for a faceoff will be assessed an automatic game misconduct in addition to other penalties assessed.
• During the regular season, any player who incurs his 10th fighting major shall be suspended automatically for one (1) game. For each subsequent fighting major up to 13, the player shall also be suspended automatically for one (1) game.
• During the regular season, any player who incurs his 14th fighting major shall be suspended automatically for two (2) games. For each subsequent fighting major, the player shall also be suspended automatically for two (2) games.
• In any instance where the opposing player was assessed an instigator penalty, the fighting major shall not count towards the player’s total for this rule.
Rule 82 (“Icing”)
• In addition to not being permitted to make player substitutions, the offending team on an icing violation also may not use its team time-out.
Rule 1.10 (“Ice Cleaning”)
• The ice cleaning procedures used during promotional timeouts will also be used prior to overtime during the regular season, replacing the “dry scrape.”
In layman’s terms:
– No more crossover. The top four teams in each division make playoffs, based off of percentage. This will have no bearing on the Eastern Conference teams since they all play the same amount of games.
– White jerseys at home until Christmas then black, or dark jerseys, from there on out. They do this in the ECHL. I think it is a dumb rule and the Leagues meddling with things better left alone.
– No more time outs after icings. Another dumb rule. Teams will find a way around this. A goaltenders pad may fall off. A skate blade may fall off. A stick will break. Something.
– No more dry scrape. This I like. There was no standard from AHL arena to AHL arena on how exactly to clean the ice after overtime. Some places it would last up to 5 minutes. Now, the off-ice crew will simply shovel away the snow in the attacking zones like they do at the 14, 10 and 6 minute stoppages during the period. You’ll be in and out of games in a jiffy.
– The other rule involves convoluted words regarding fighting. Gone are the staged fights. If you do that you are thrown out of the game. Once you fight ten times, you are suspended a game. Do it again up to 13 times, and you are suspended again. After your fourteenth fight and every fight after that, you are suspended for two games. If you are in a fight and the guy gets an instigator that fights you, that fight does not count towards the ten that gets you sat a game.
If the League is going to trip over itself sideways to implement these rules to curb fighting, it should simply just be banned. Fight once and get an automatic ten games. Make it simple. You obviously want to eliminate this aspect of the game, so simply come out and do it, rather than confusing the common fan that doesn’t understand why staged fights are gone.
In the first hour of NHL Free Agency Friday, names were flying across the National Hockey League and some of those moves may have a direct affect on the American Hockey League affiliate in the near future.
Breaking the moves down as they affect the AHL’s Atlantic Division as things stand as of about 8 p.m. Friday…
Perhaps the biggest movers on Day 1, the Penguins announced the re-signings of Tom Sestito and Steve Oleksy before noon. Sestito brings much needed toughness in a pinch for the NHL team and Oleksy did hint on exit day that he would be open to returning.
Then the signings started.
First signing was Stuart Percy, a former first round pick from the Toronto Maple Leafs who was not tendered a qualifying offer by the Leafs. Best described as a two-way defenseman. Has battled injuries. 64 points (10-54-64) in 177 games with the Marlies.
Then Pittsburgh re-signed David Warsofsky. You will remember Warsofsky starting the season in Wilkes-Barre, getting called up and concussed in a freak accident with referee Tim Peel in an NHL game, his recovery and exposure to waivers where the New Jersey Devils claimed him and kept him on their NHL roster.
Third signing was Cameron Gaunce. I had Gaunce as 58 on my AHL Big Board. Gaunce was named a replacement to Derrick Pouliot in the AHL All-Star Classic in Syracuse. Gaunce led the Portland Pirates defenders in points last season.
Gaunce played with Percy for a season in the Ontario Hockey League.
The fourth signing was yet another defender (!!!) in Chad Ruhwedel. I didn’t have Ruhwedel ranked in the Top 100 on the Board but he is at least a half a point a game player for Rochester last year. A bit undersized, he will likely see a good majority of time with Wilkes-Barre. Back to back 10 goal seasons for Ruhwedel.
So the Penguins defense is stacked for next season:
The Caps lost more than they gained today depending on who you talk to. They signed Christian Thomas, Joe Cannata and Darren Dietz. A forward, goaltender and defender, respectively. Thomas was a non-qualified Arizona piece that is a good skater. He had 10 goals between St. John’s and Springfield last season. Joe Cannata, the fourth best goaltender o by Big Board, is a calm, cool goaltender that had 20 wins in a split role with the Utica Comets. There are only a handful of goaltenders that won 20 games last year in the AHL. Solid signing by Hershey in my opinion. The other signing, Darren Dietz, is a two-way defender that saw some NHL action last year with Montreal. He, too, was not qualified by Montreal.
Hershey lost Justin Peters to Arizona and Carter Camper to New Jersey. No linking there, just trust me on those.
Signed Anton Khudobin, a goaltender that was with them a few years ago. He won 19 games in 31 games for a stacked San Diego Gulls team. Khudobin will replace Jeremy Smith, who signed with Colorado.
Tommy Cross re-signed and the Bruins also signed Tim Schaller. I had both in the 60 range on the Big Board.
Adam Clendening came over from Calgary. Clendening had a few games with Wilkes-Barre during a conditioning stint. When he was called up to Pittsburgh and then exposed to waivers, he was claimed. It will be interesting to see if Clendening finds his way to Hartford this season.
Michael Paliotta was a non-qualified defender from Columbus. I didn’t have him ranked in the Top 100.
The Flyers made the biggest noise with some of the biggest signings this afternoon. They signed Andy Miele, Will O’Neill and Greg Carey, all Top 50 names on the AHL Big Board. Miele was the best forward available and O’Neill was the second best defenseman available. Carey was in the Top 50 and second in points on a terrible Springfield team.
Miele is a one way contract. That just means that he makes the same no matter where he plays. If he doesn’t get picked up on waivers should the Flyers expose him to them, he should bolster a Phantoms team that really disappointed last season.
The Florida Panthers and New York Islanders were silent on Day 1 as far as signings go for their AHL teams in Springfield and Bridgeport, respectively.
Some other out the door stuff…
Jim Rutherford signed a three year extension as General Manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Winning the Stanley Cup is like the fountain of youth.
Patrick Williams had a roundup of all the moves today affecting all 30 AHL teams worth a look.
My 2016 Offseason Moves List will be updated.
I am off to New York City for the weekend. Not to see my beloved Mets, but to visit my brother and his wife and see a Brooklyn Cyclones game on Sunday. The Cyclones are the proud Short-A affiliate of the New York Mets though and will be wearing these jerseys Sunday.
Look at that hat!
I’ll be around tomorrow on Twitter and will update Day 2 from New York City tomorrow as signings occur and affect the AHL’s Atlantic Division.
A couple of things to touch on before free agency begins Friday and the bedrock of a teams success starts building towards the Fall…
First, I am pinning the AHL Big Board to the top of the site so that it stays front and center for about a month and a handy reference tool to any that want to use it as free agency wears on. The changeover will be made tonight. You won’t notice anything other than the Big Board will be on the top of the site for the first month or so. Just scroll down to see the newer content.
Wilkes-Barre made a second signing this week, a kid by the name of Christian Hilbrich. A giant 6’7 forward that captained the Cornell Big Red last season. 27 goals and 21 assists in 111 collegiate games.
Pittsburgh, fresh off of winning a Stanley Cup about two weeks ago, opened their NHL Prospect Camp. The Skating on the Susquehanna blog, the team run WBS Penguins blog, has all the good stuff on local kids trying looking to make an impact, especially one from Kingston and more on Hilbrich’s signing.
Bookmark that blog and read it often.
Mattias Plachta went back to his German team, Adler Mannheim, and got a four year deal.
There was a goofy rumor about the Penguins breaking up with Wilkes-Barre and moving their affiliation to Hershey. Not only is that a nonsensical rumor this late in the season, it’s also an asinine thing to even assume. Wilkes-Barre will be playing as the AHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins until at least 2019. The Pittsburgh Penguins just won the Stanley Cup with a group of players developed in Wilkes-Barre. They got their coach from Wilkes-Barre too. Washington places their prospects in the oldest, most historic and decorated team in the American Hockey League which has led the 30 team league in attendance for years. The idea that Pittsburgh would want to uproot their affiliate, itself a shining star of its own right with the longest playoff record in the AHL, premier facilities and a passionate fanbase and place it someplace else, is nonsense. That Washington would even consider it is nonsense itself. You may not get along with the Bears fan sitting next to you at the game on Friday or that Penguins fan that is loud and obnoxious at the Bears game but trust me, it’s good for one another. This rivalry that we have is not only good for Hershey and Wilkes-Barre but Washington and Pittsburgh, playing competitive hockey in hostile environments 12 tines a year. It’s also good for the AHL, two healthy, passionate fanbases drive revenue and all that other stuff that makes this whole developmental thing successful.
240 words on a bunch of nonsense. Anything for clicks these days, I assume. File this one under the rarely used, “Just Rambling” blog category.
#57 is off of the Big Board, as Zach Sill has re-signed with the Washington Capitals.
The fun starts noon Friday. I will have a blog Friday night recapping the days events and how they affect the Penguins, Bears, Phantoms, Wolf Pack, Sound Tigers, Bruins and Thunderbirds. This weekend I am going to New York City, so I will do my best to update the Big Board and blog about any additions to any of the teams in the AHL’s Atlantic Division as time allows. Probably in the evening hours. Just keep it locked here this weekend.
Oh, and out the door, I don’t know if you heard the news but Scott Stuccio announced this week that effective this past Monday his services with Hershey Entertainment and Resorts (the corporate name of the group that runs the Bears) has been eliminated. Suffice to say, this news was shocking. Scott is a top notch broadcaster and better individual. Rest assured that he will not be unemployed for very long. Some other team will snatch him up sooner rather than later.
Back tomorrow with a recap of Free Agency Day 1.
Good news you guys, the AHL Free Agent Big Board is, for all intents and purposes, done.
– Full list of Unrestricted Free Agents? Check.
– Full list of Restricted Free Agents? Check.
– Capsules on every Free Agent? Through the efforts of many, check!
– Full list of Restricted Free Agents tendered qualifying offers? No. A good majority of teams announced theirs before 5 p.m. today. Teams that I do not have full information on are as follows, Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Blackhawks.
– A Top 100? Check.
Everything that is left is just taking the Top 100 from paper to online in a table then taking the 250+ names not listed in the Top 100 and alphabetizing by last name. I did that last year manually and it was a real pain and took me a half a day to do. Not this year. I was able to search the internet on how to alphabetize a list on a spreadsheet. I tinkered with it Sunday night on a small sample size and it worked. So that means that at some point tomorrow, the 2016 Top 100 AHL Big Board and Beyond will be out at some point. I am going to gun for 5 p.m. If, it goes later than that, I may push it to no later than 8 Tuesday or if push come to shove, noon Wednesday.
So stay tuned. This was a massive project that came together rather quickly this year.
There was news affecting Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Monday, so let’s get to that.
Tim Erixon re-signed with Pittsburgh. A one year, two way deal. Erixon was a pending RFA, and was part of the “Black Aces” crew that was called up to Pittsburgh after Wilkes-Barre’s season ended at the hands of the Hershey Bears in Game 7 of the Atlantic Division Finals in May. I took that as a positive sign and it panned out for Erixon who will be looking to crack Pittsburgh’s lineup in the fall.
Dominik Uher was the only other RFA tendered a qualifying offer. Uher has signed a deal with a team in his native Czech Republic. The Pens did this proactively to retain Uher’s North American rights.
Tyler Biggs, James Melindy, Dan O’Donoghue, Mattias Plachta, Harrison Ruopp, Justin Schultz and Anton Zlobin were not tendered offers and all are free agents. Biggs was a walking M*A*S*H unit, couldn’t ever stay healthy. Melindy and O’Donaghue were throw ins for Dustin Jeffrey in the trade with Arizona and never played a game for Wilkes-Barre. Plachta was a bit of a surprise, I thought he caught on a bit with the change of scenery. Ruopp was a dime a dozen ECHL also-ran that never made an impact to stick. Schultz may re-sign with Pittsburgh in a restructured deal and Anton Zlobin has a KHL tryout lined up.
Coal Street announced their first new player signing of the offseason.
Depending on how he does in camp, he could be a player that sticks in Wilkes-Barre. 95 points and a +60 isn’t anything to ignore. So it’s worth watching. If not, Wheeling has themselves a hell of a player.
I’ll update my woefully outdated 2016 Offseason Moves List in a bit. In fact, it may be updated by the time you read this.
So big board tomorrow or Wednesday. Check back often.
Not really much analysis wise I can offer on the guys that the Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins drafted on Day 2 of the NHL Draft. Consider this a one stop shop link off to the other areas of the internet that have knowledge and insight on the potential Wilkes-Barre / Pittsburgh Penguins.
First the picks…
Pens opened up the day at 55…
Then they picked again at 61…
Then a trade of a familiar face to move up to 77…
Bennett is an injury liability who got passed over for more durable players in the likes of Conor Sheary and Bryan Rust. He returns to the GM who drafted him in Ray Shero with the Devils and the Head Coach who knows him best in John Hynes.
With the pick, the Penguins selected…
Pens were up again at 121, 151 and finally at 181…
Masonius attended Penguins development camp last season and left an impression enough for the Penguins to select him with their last pick in the draft.
Analysis wise, Coal Street’s blog Skating on the Susquehanna has everything you need on these guys and more.
The AHL Free Agent Big Board is about half done as of Saturday afternoon. It was crowd sourced again this season and the help is appreciated. Depending on how quickly it comes together this weekend, look for it sometime early this week. The soft goal is Wednesday, if not sooner.
At the NHL level, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals are currently involved in a war. A seven game series, tied 1-1 currently, has been thrill a minute, back and forth hockey with neither team having the advantage as of yet.
Get ready for the same thing to happen with the AHL affiliates.
The Hershey Bears advance to the Atlantic Division Finals after defeating the Portland Pirates in five games with a 2-1 win tonight.
Here is your series schedule between the two teams, with Game 1 starting Wednesday in Hershey:
Blog wise, I will have a quick, “how’d you do” blog post looking back on the first round later tonight. Monday, I’ll have a Division Finals preview and then Tuesday I will have my series breakdown with prediction of the Hershey / Wilkes-Barre series.