Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: Pittsburgh

The Very Humid and Flooded Notebook

I didn’t think, going back and compiling the bits and pieces of information I had stockpiled since the last time I blogged here in the summertime that I had a lot of stuff to blog about.

Well, I do. So here goes.

First, if we are Facebook friends and you get your information on when I post stuff on here through that platform, I regret to inform you that Facebook killed that avenue as of August 1. Blame the Russians I suppose. I will try to remember to cut and paste after stuff gets posted on here over there, but in the off chance that I miss, keep the blog as part of your internet bookmarks. I will not be creating a Facebook Page (apparently the posting from WordPress to Facebook still works on that platform) because it’s too much work and there enough pages out there.

Anyway, now to the good stuff…

Penguins announced their promo schedule to their season ticket members. They also announced the hat designs for the McDonald’s giveaways. They are….

Mike Bavis was announced as the new coach of the Wheeling Nailers. If you are wondering why the Wheeling Nailers now have two head coaches, well their old new coach, Mark Dennehy was named head coach of the Binghamton Devils. Extremely coy of the New Jersey Devils organization to sweep in and and ask for permission from Pittsburgh to interview a coach already under contract like that. You’ve think you’ve seen it all in this industry and then that happens. Anyway, Bavis looks like Ed Kopec from Edward’s Garden Center in Forty Fort, for some local local inference / humor.

Wilkes-Barre signed D Johnny Austin. Some information on him…

Pittsburgh was listed #23 on Corey Pronman’s Farm System Rankings over on The Athletic. Subscription required and highly recommended to read his thoughts on Penguins prospects here.

This happened at some point during the summer and yes I am channeling my 14 year old self with this proud accomplishment…

Ex-Penguin and current now former Hershey Bear Zach Sill signed with HC Sparta Praha.

Coal Street is offering a neat little internship to college students. You will probably cross paths with me at some point! Yay education!

Finally, Tom Sestito’s name popped up in the news cycle. He’s probably headed West, story here from out of Syracuse. Sestito is from nearby Rome, NY.

Less than 50 days to the start of the new season. Spend these days wisely.

Thursday Tidbits 7/19

Emptying out the notebook with the following pieces of news from the last week or so.

– It was announced today that Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins assistant coach Tim Army was named Head Coach of the Iowa Wild. The Wild play in the Central Division, and will not see the Penguins on their regular season schedule. The job opened up when Derek Lalonde took a job as an assistant with the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Wild were primed to be a strong team to start last year and were for large parts but they fizzled, losing seven of their last ten games and falling out of playoff contention. Lalonde fails upward, and gets an NHL gig while Army comes over in an attempt to get Iowa to the playoffs in 2018-19.

– Army may not be the only Penguins assistant on his way out the door…

– Pittsburgh re-signed Teddy Blueger, Thomas DiPauli and Ethan Prow this week. The only RFA left outstanding is Tristan Jarry.

Couple things from Coal Street this past week. First, the Penguins Podcast is back (on SoundCloud, which means half the people can’t just download it on iTunes and listen to it on their commute home read: me if any Penguins staffer reads this, please put the podcast on iTunes sooner rather than later)

Finally, in conjunction with the 20th anniversary, the Penguins are looking for your fondest memory of the last 19 years. You can let them know right here.

Enjoy your weekend.

2018 NHL Free Agency – Day 1

Day One of NHL Free Agency is about in the books and the Pittsburgh Penguins signed five players and re-signed another.

They were…

  • Jack Johnson – this had been known for a few days now. Defender that is in the NHL.
  • Matt Cullen – well liked Cullen is 41 years old and will likely push down a Dominik Simon or a Zach Aston-Reese at least to start come October.
  • Jimmy Hayes – defender who played for HV71 last year overseas. Last saw AHL time in 2015-16 with Milwaukee. Elite Prospects has this scouting report on him: “Elliott is a defenseman with decent two-way ability. Offensively, he has a great shot and fine puck skills. Could improve his physical game.”
  • Stefan Elliott – this forward played with New Jersey last year, just 33 games with the Devils. 334 games of NHL experience. Could be another tweeter between Pittsburgh and Wilkes-Barre.
  • John Muse – I had Muse 18th on my AHL Big Board. He was 11-2-2 playing on a loaded Lehigh Valley team in a backup / third goaltender role. He and Anthony Peters will make a good tandem here in Wilkes-Barre come the fall, or Muse could fall to Wheeling depending on what shakes out with Tristan Jarry / Casey DeSmith. Regardless, it’s good to have insurance in this regard.
  • Zach Trotman re-signed.

Announcements on the Hayes / Elliott / Muse and Trotman signings here. I didn’t include Johnson or Cullen because they aren’t direct impacts on Wilkes-Barre.

Elsewhere…

  • Jayson Megna and Michal Sgarbossa signed with Washington. Megna has been in the NHL or injured with the Vancouver organization and Sgarbossa put up 40 points with a good Manitoba team.
  • Providence lost a lot in defections like Tommy Cross to Columbus and Austin Czarnik to Calgary, but had a pair of signings that can help out come the fall. Mark McNeill and Cody Goloubef.
  • Philadelphia / Lehigh Valley was quiet. They don’t need to re-tool as much.
  • I didn’t see anything with Carolina, or the New York Rangers affecting Charlotte or Hartford respectfully.
  • Unconfirmed, but G Chris Gibson and Seth Helgeson have re-signed with the Islanders.
  • Florida signed my top goaltender available, Michael Hutchinson.

Jarred Tinordi signed with Nashville. I was hoping that the Penguins would be able to sway him into staying, but it was not to be.

Pretty quiet otherwise in the AHL’s Atlantic Division. The big arms race was in the North, where a ton of players got signed in what looks like is an arms race to keep up with the defending Calder Cup Champion Toronto Marlies.

I totally forgot about my Offseason Signings Tracker. I will update that later on as well as this blog post (going up around 6:30 pm local) for any additions made to the Penguins or their Atlantic Division foes. (edit: updated here)

AHL Big Board is now pinned to the top of the site, a handy link here if you linked in direct.

Qualifying Offers, Czuczman Re-Signed, Other News 6/25

Today was the deadline for NHL teams to send qualifying offers to Restricted Free Agents. The Pittsburgh Penguins sent qualifying offers to everyone familiar with Wilkes-Barre in the past few seasons, except for Frank Corrado.

Corrado was acquired from Toronto as a piece in the Eric Fehr and Steve Oleksy trade back in March 2017. He  never lived up to they hype that came with him in the Toronto media. He only appeared in a handful of NHL games for Pittsburgh, didn’t really do anything memorable in his time with the AHL club and was injured in the blowout loss in Rochester earlier this year and never returned.

Pittsburgh also did not qualify Tom Kuhnhackl and Vincent Dunn, which was a throw in piece in the Derrick Brassard trade earlier in the season.

Pittsburgh re-signed Kevin Czuczman for another season as well as Daniel Sprong and Dominik Simon. I expect Sprong and Simon to challenge each other for playing time in the NHL and will be surprised if either play another game in the AHL. For Czuczman, its a big signing in that he was a key piece here in Wilkes-Barre. He will of course be looking to break through and stay in Pittsburgh come the fall but if not, it will be nice to have him here in Wilkes-Barre. I had Czuczman as the top player available in the PIT / WBS organization for my AHL Big Board, coming later this week.

Pittsburgh also announced their roster for their development camp. Interesting in this roster group is that there is not a single player invited to that camp that played in Wilkes-Barre last season.

Troy Mann was fired as the coach of the Hershey Bears. A good coach that coached a team that played thin but tough last year as Hershey finished dead last in the Atlantic Division. Unacceptable if you are a fan of the Chocolate and White, but since you can’t fire the players, Mann was the one that got the ax at the end of the season. Well, he was hired today by the Belleville Senators, the AHL affiliate of the Ottawa Senators who also played at or near the bottom of the North Division. Mann will have his work cut out for him in 2018-19, but he is the right man for the job, no pun intended.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to finish up the AHL Big Board. Look for it, barring any last minute hangups, Wednesday. I will have a blog post announcing a date and time as sort of an advisory.

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.