Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: Pittsburgh

Lafferty and Agozzino Recalled – More News

I’m late with this by more than a day, but figured I would drop in here and note that Sam Lafferty and Andrew Agozzino were recalled to Pittsburgh on Monday in the wake of Evgeni Malkin and Nick Bjugstead’s lower body injuries that will keep them out of action for a while.

Through the course of investigating because, you know, in this niche sport known as hockey they don’t divulge what the injury is like in every other sport, it looks like Malkin has a leg injury that will have him on the shelf for about six weeks. Bjugstead should be back before Malkin.

Locally, Tyler reported that D Justin Almeida and G Dustin Tokarski are back to 100%. I am speculating that both should be available for the three in three this weekend. Tyler also had lines from practice Tuesday:

I will concur with this statement by Tyler. Injuries happen, Wilkes-Barre is insulated somewhat because there is depth across all positions.

For now.

In other news, Michael Leighton retired Monday. A sure fire AHL Hall of Famer someday, Leighton played for 13 AHL franchises over the course of 18 seasons as a professional. From the release, they include the Norfolk Admirals (2001-05), Rochester Americans (2005-06), Portland Pirates (2006-07), Philadelphia Phantoms (2006-07), Albany River Rats (2007-08), Adirondack Phantoms (2010-13), Rockford IceHogs (2014-16), Charlotte Checkers (2016-17), Syracuse Crunch (2017-18), Chicago Wolves (2017-18), Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (2017-18), Ontario Reign (2018-19) and Utica Comets (2018-19).

Other Penguins alumni in the news include a pair of defensemen and a forward, Joe Morrow signed with the New Jersey Devils Monday and was placed on waivers for the purpose of a Binghamton assignment. If he clears, you’ll probably see him next Wednesday when the Penguins host the Devils at 7:05. D Reid McNeill was released from his PTO with the Charlotte Checkers and Cedric Lacroix, a forward with a handful of games with Wilkes-Barre last year, was assigned with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits.

That’s all I have. Remember, no charts or Power Rankings this week. Both will debut next week, with the charts again the week following and then staggering them each week going forward. But for anything else breaking, talk to you Friday at 3 getting you set for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

DeSmith, Tokarski, Warsofsky, New CBA, More

Alright so, a lot has happened this week in the run up to the regular season opener in Hershey Saturday.

G Casey DeSmith was placed on and cleared waivers and was assigned to Wilkes-Barre this week. He and Emil Larmi are the 1-2 combo in goal right now. That’s because Dustin Tokarski has picked up a knock and won’t be ready for Saturday’s game with the Hershey Bears. Also, Alex D’Orio was sent to Wheeling with Ryan Scarfo this week.

The goaltending position is the deepest position right now. You have quality depth with DeSmith (for now) and Tokarski. The Pens play four games in the next two weeks, so there is plenty of time for Tokarski to fully heal and be ready for next weekend’s three in three.

— David Warsofsky was named captain of the team with Andrew Agozzino and Kevin Czuczman serving as his alternates.

Really can’t go wrong with that veteran group.

— The AHL and the Professional Hockey Players Association (PHPA) announced Thursday they have a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place for five years.

Labor piece is always a good thing.

I thought when I sat down to hammer this piece out that it would be a long, 500+ word piece. It should check in at just under 200 words.

I’ll be back at noon Friday for a look at the Penguins opponents for the upcoming season.

A Little More Off the Top

Cuts continued Monday as the Pittsburgh Penguins trimmed their roster to 27, sending 15 players to Wilkes-Barre and two, Nathan Legare and Sam Poulin, to their junior teams.

The players sent to Wilkes-Barre are Andrew Agozzino, Justin Almeida, Anthony Angello, Kasper Bjorkqvist, Joseph Blandisi, Joseph Cramarossa, Thomas Di Pauli, Ryan Haggerty, Sam Lafferty, Jake Lucchini, Sam Miletic and Oula Palve; defensemen Niclas Almari, Kevin Czuczman, Pierre-Olivier Joseph and David Warsofsky and goaltender Emil Larmi.

Agozzino, Blandisi, Cramarossa, Czuczman, Di Pauli, Haggerty and Warsofsky all must clear waivers. I don’t expect them to get claimed by another team.

Updated roster from Pittsburgh here.

10 defensemen, 14 forwards and three goalies remain. Pittsburgh needs to trim four more players to get to the roster limit of 23 and also become cap compliant.

John Marino, Juuso Riikola and Zach Trotman are three names who are possibly battling for the final spot if Pittsburgh wants to go into the season carrying eight defenders with Chad Ruhwedel as the seventh defender.

In the other positions, it really depends on what to do with Matt Murray’s backup. One of Tristan Jarry or Casey DeSmith is hitting the waiver wire later this week. DeSmith would probably be the more cap friendly choice if you believe it.

Forward wise, it’s a tough call. Adam Johnson is the only name that sticks out as a name that could be odd man out due to roster size and pushing maximum cap limits. If the Pens needed to clear three more players, a case could be made that you send some combination of defenders and DeSmith down and keep Johnson up. But that isn’t the case, they need to shed four more bodies to  get to 23 and save cap space. It’s essentially two defenseman, one forward and a goaltender.

Tough calls.

In other news, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton area was named in the top ten of the minor league markets by the Sports Business Journal. Our area ranked eighth. Not bad, overall.

Camp opens Tuesday on Coal Street. Preseason game Wednesday at home against Lehigh Valley. More then, if not sooner.

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.

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.