Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: Pittsburgh

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.

Greg McKegg Traded at the NHL Deadline 2/26

Probably not the biggest ripple effecting the parent team, but Penguins Jim Rutherford made a move on the NHL trade deadline that had a direct result on his AHL team in Wilkes-Barre.

The Penguins acquired Josh Jooris for Greg McKegg in essentially a swap of AHL eligible players on NHL contracts. Jooris will report to Wilkes-Barre and McKegg goes to Charlotte to be with the Checkers.

Nick Hart with the scouting report…

Jooris was with the Carolina Hurricanes and has played in 37 games for them. He has over 200 games of NHL experience. I’ll consider this an upgrade for Wilkes-Barre. McKegg started in the NHL and was waived down, then sort of just got lost in the shuffle. Jooris steps down from the NHL and hopefully brings the right attitude for the Penguins and contributes.

As of 4 pm Monday. it doesn’t look like there were any more trades made effecting the organization. I didn’t see anything on the AHL Transactions page about players being assigned to Wilkes-Barre for the purposes of being eligible to play in the AHL after today.

UPDATE: As I was getting ready to close up shop for the night, Pittsburgh assigned Tristan Jarry and Dominik Simon to Wilkes-Barre and recalled Casey DeSmith. Zach Aston-Reese was not part of the news. Aston-Reese is the only other player on the NHL Penguins roster to be eligible for assignment to the AHL. Unless he shows up on a paper move, he’s up for good. EDIT: Aston-Reese was papered down per the AHL Transactions page. Dominik Simon is a huge add for Wilkes-Barre and DeSmith is indeed eligible for re-assignment since he was on the AHL roster at the 3 p.m. deadline.

Other news of the day…

Word out of practice was that Murray took a shot off of the head from an Olli Maatta stick.

If any other moves are made, I will either update this post or add another. This is a long way of saying keep checking back.

Weekend Setup – Peters, Schedule Strength, Primer, More…

Figured I would drop in here and post about the week that was on Coal Street and set up the weekend.

Coal Street announced Wednesday what we speculated to for a while here, they have signed G Anthony Peters to an AHL contract through the 2018-19 season.

Certainly not unexpected, Peters played better on his second professional tryout contract (PTO) than he did on his first, he had a six game winning streak that included a shutout against Hershey.

Wilkes-Barre could not sign Peters to a third PTO, so the standard AHL contract is what he gets. Insuring his rights through next season is a no brainer as well. His ECHL club in Cincinnati retains his rights at that level.

Pittsburgh has two goalies in the pipeline, Filip Gustavsson and Alex D’Orio. One or both could filter here on ATO’s once their seasons are over. It may be different for Gustavsson since he’s playing over in Europe, I’m not totally sure. Good on Wilkes-Barre to sort of fill out one goalie spot for next season at the very least.

Updates from practice this week go as follows…

Tom summed it all up in one tweet…

Update from Thursday…

About them IceHogs. The Pens put together a nice primer on them you can read here. They are sixth place in the Central, which is probably the most competitive division top to bottom in the entire AHL. Rockford is 3-6-0-1 in their last ten. Roster consists of names that don’t really jump off the page. It’s a hard working team that is looking to come in and play an opponent they have never faced before. Pens can’t be slouches.

Pens hit the road to play a Syracuse team in fourth in the North that has kind of become the forgotten team in the division. It’s a four team race essentially, Syracuse is fourth but got a big boost this week when Tampa Bay reclaimed Gabriel Dumont off of waivers and assigned him to Syracuse.

Hershey visits Sunday. Bears have won three in a row and beat Toronto Monday. Hershey’s got a lot of ground to make up to push for a playoff spot but are on the right track.

Pittsburgh sent Teddy Blueger back to Wilkes-Barre Monday. Patric Hornqvist practiced Thursday in full and Tom Kuhnhackl will accompany the team on their road trip to Carolina and Florida this weekend, so Zach Aston-Reese may end up being reassigned for cap purposes. Stay tuned.

Out the door, the AHL Playoff Primer is out again for another year. Penguins magic number to clinch a playoff berth heading into the weekend is 40. Lehigh Valley’s magic number is 30, but they have five more games played than the Penguins right now and are in first place and are expected to have a lower number. Penguins have the third weakest strength of schedule, 6th (.542) out of 8 team division ahead of Charlotte (.540) and Lehigh Valley (.536) Getting to be that time of year again.

Back tomorrow for the 3 pm setup against Rockford as Wilkes-Barre begins another three in three weekend.

News, Notes, Returns 1/23

A couple things to touch on before a midweek road game in Hershey Wednesday.

Pittsburgh re-assigned Daniel Sprong back to Wilkes-Barre Monday. Sprong had been a healthy scratch for Pittsburgh in their last two games and only played into the second period in Anaheim last Wednesday. Instead of letting him waste away up top, he was returned to the AHL with likely homework to do from Mike Sullivan and his coaching staff. Bryan Rust is set to return from injury any day now.

Wilkes-Barre recalled Jeff Taylor and Freddie Tiffels from the Wheeling Nailers Monday. This move preceded the Sprong move. Wilkes-Barre went with seven defensemen and eleven forwards on Sunday in Hartford, so this was not a surprise.

Edit: Then Tuesday afternoon, Wilkes-Barre sent Taylor back to Wheeling. Thanks for the fish, Jeff.

Tuesday, the following news came out of practice at Coal Street.

Tom followed up…

Big news, for sure. Donatelli was not fully committed to the trio being 100% enough to where they will most definitely return, but regardless this is a positive sign and step in the right direction.

Finally, up top, Casey DeSmith will start his third straight NHL game, with Sullivan telling old pal Jonathan Bombulie that he is staying with the hot hand. Pittsburgh hosts Carolina tonight at 7.

Gameday setup for Hershey Wednesday will hit the blog at 3. Check back then.

That’s All-Star Casey DeSmith to You…

The American Hockey League announced on Thursday afternoon the playing rosters for the All-Star Classic which will be held in Utica, NY on January 28 and 29.

Staying with the four divisions that make up the “teams” that will compete in a round robin four on four and three on three tournament, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins will have two nominees head to Central New York in a few weeks.

Forward Daniel Sprong and Goaltender Casey DeSmith were named today. First selections for both. Sprong is in his rookie year, DeSmith his sophomore season. Release from Coral Street here.

Sprong is currently with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Here’s the Atlantic Division roster…

Penguins are among the Providence Bruins, Bridgeport Sound Tigers and Lehigh Valley Phantoms to have two players represent their teams out of the 12 players selected for the Atlantic Division team. Hershey, Springfield, Charlotte and Hartford are only sending one representative.

Full roster and league release here.


Sounds like Clark is speaking in past tense regarding Sprong. Your interpretation may vary.

The ECHL also named their All-Star squads. They are adopting the same format as the AHL this year. Their games are being held in Indianapolis this year and will be hosted by the Indy Fuel. Wheeling’s Cody Wydo, currently up with Wilkes-Barre, was the lone Nailer selected.

Notes from practice today…

Casey DeSmith was not at practice on Coal Street today. Donatelli told media that he’s essentially in purgatory and playing, “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by The Clash at his apartment on repeat waiting on whether he is being recalled to Pittsburgh. Only part of that last sentence is true, I’ll let you decide which is correct. Of note, Tristan Jarry participated in practice with Pittsburgh earlier. The Pens host the Carolina Hurricanes tonight before traveling to Brooklyn to take on the Islanders Friday.

Zach Trotman and Adam Johnson were also at practice at Coal Street today. I’d suspect that if a recall was going to be made, it would have been done already.

Sebastian Caron was at practice again today. The plan is to go with DeSmith and Anthony Peters this weekend, but if that can’t happen because Pittsburgh does recall DeSmith, then the plan is to go with Peters the starter and Caron the backup. Personally I find this plan nonsensical but as I always say, I blog about the team, I don’t run it.

Gameday setup for Friday’s matchup vs. Springfield, provided they are able to get here safely with the winter weather, hits the blog Friday at 3.