Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: Pittsburgh

Mike Vellucci Named Head Coach of Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins

In a move that came from out of nowhere Friday, AHL Calder Cup Champion Head Coach Mike Vellucci announced that he was leaving the team he guided to the Calder Cup and the undisputed number one overall team in the League last season, the Charlotte Checkers.

Strange, that a guy who had as much success that he had in guiding the Category Five, 51-win regular season team that the Checkers were this past season, would just up and leave as quick as he did, weeks removed from winning the Calder Cup championship over the Chicago Wolves in mid-June.

Then, this tweet from an NHL insider got the gears moving.

I saw this, then started to dig deeper. I found this tweet from the AHL which I expounded on via a series of tweets.

I’ll die on that hill that Clark Donatelli was not the problem for the team. It’s been explained here on the blog in the post mortem of the past season. Hell, Donatelli was in Pittsburgh this week for the Penguins Development Camp.

I continued…

Had no idea that it would take Coal Street three hours and ten minutes later to announce it formally.

Clark Donatelli resigns and J.D. Forrest and Jarrod Skalde stay on with the team as assistants.

Is Vellucci, who has long been rumored as next in line to graduate up to the NHL as a Head Coach one day just waiting in the wings if/when Mike Sullivan gets shown the door one day? Why would Vellucci leave the Carolina organization and take a job in the Pittsburgh organization when it would appear that the two franchises are headed in separate directions?

Those answers to those questions won’t be known for some time, if at all. But it would appear that the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins have acquired the biggest off ice Free Agent this summer.

Time will tell.

Elsewhere, Linus Ölund was loaded to Brynäs in the Swedish League. Press release here if you can read Swedish and the 2019 Offseason Moves List was updated.

The AHL Big Board will get stuck to the top of the blog with this next post succeeding it, probably some time Saturday as this news has to marinate for a bit.

2019 AHL Big Board Thursday — Other Notes

I am essentially putting the finishing touches on the 2019 AHL Big Board which I took in house this season and did all on my own. The list, with a Top 100 and about 250 or so other names, will be out Thursday at noon, barring any last second snags which would delay it only by a few hours or so. Check back then and follow along as NHL Free Agency cranks up Monday, July 1 in the afternoon.

One name on the Big Board which was a restricted free agent was Penguins defenseman Jeff Taylor, who was the only player left without a qualifying offer. He will be an unrestricted free agent.

Update: After this blog post went up, Pittsburgh announced that they re-signed Kevin Czuczman and Zach Trotman to two year deals. Nice to have both in the fold for the foreseeable future. They were part of my “needs” list on the Offseason Moves List which was also updated to reflect these signings.

In Arena news, the LED board will be ready by the fall, but the zambonis won’t. Look for it later in the hockey season, around December or the start of the new year. Details here.

Back Thursday with the Big Board.

2019 NHL Draft Recap

Up front, I don’t know a single thing about the players that the Pittsburgh Penguins drafted other than what has been said about them. I figure that is the same boat that a lot of people are in. So consider this a bookmark so to speak when these players eventually make their way through Wilkes-Barre in the next 2-4 years.

Pittsburgh hasn’t had a first round pick in years, but this year they did and picked at 21.

Nick Hart dropped in on Twitter and had some things to say about Poulin.

He also led the Phoenix in QMJHL playoff points, 8-6-14 in 10 games.

Jonathan has some stuff on him too that you can read about here the standard way.

Penguins didn’t have any more first round picks, and on day two (Saturday afternoon) they traded their 98th, 151st and 207th picks to the Arizona Coyotes for their 74th overall pick.

He also finished the 2018-19 season with 45-42-87 in 68 games. His 45 goals were tied for second-most in the QMJHL.

Penguins then selected again in the fifth round.

Pens had some picks in round seven…

He is actually under contract with HPK for next season in Finland.

Pittsburgh then traded next years seventh round pick and for that, drafted…

So there you have it. Pittsburgh adds to their depth with a number of power forwards. It will be interesting to see how these kids develop and how many, if any, ever make their way through Wilkes-Barre in the hopes of one day playing in the NHL.

Big Board Update: I have a Top 100 rounded out. I am waiting on the news on Restricted Free Agents to be official before I move forward with the final product and move everything over to the blog12. Provided all of that is known, it’s possible that Wednesday or Thursday the 2019 Big Board will be here. Stay tuned, it’s shaping up to be a busy next ten or so days here on the blog with the start of NHL Free Agency kicking off next Monday.

Four More 6/20

Signing Week continued on Coal Street as the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins announced that defensemen Matt Abt and Jon Lizotte re-signed on Wednesday and forwards Renars Krastenbergs and Ryan Scarfo re-sign Thursday.

Earlier in the week, the Pens re-signed Blake Siebenhaler and Maoy Erkamps.

Abt was OK in his first year pro. I liked what I saw in an extremely small sample size out of Jon Lizotte late in the year. Scarfo and Krastenbergs are support pieces.

I mean in order to build the best looking building in town, you need to have a solid foundation and a good structure. Use that analogy when it comes to how the roster for 2019-20 is being built here in mid-June.

Tyler had a thought on the signings this week I thought I should add…

The only counterargument to that statement is that the game is getting away from goonery and there are referees and linesmen out there that also are paid to prevent the pushing around (to an extreme) from happening.

I think the Pens are done with making moves this week based off of this tweet from Nick Hart…

Just a hunch.

2019 Offseason Moves List has been updated.

The Pens are drafting this weekend and I’ll maybe do a catch all post of their haul Saturday or Sunday. Look for that this weekend.

Heavy lifting on the AHL Big Board is done, I’m identifying restricted free agents now, will list the top free agent from each team then round out a Top 100 list. I don’t want to give a date and deliver the Board late but some time next week, call it either Thursday or Friday, it will be out here on the blog for all to see. I’m well ahead of schedule. The day before, I’ll drop in here with a post letting you know the time it will be out.

Did you turn your A/C on in your home / apartment yet?

Wednesday Notes 5/15

Some news for Wednesday.

First, if you are a Penguins Season Ticket Holder (erm, Member) of any kind, check your e-mail. The Penguins have a new online account manager you can use to manage your tickets. For me, as a five year Member, my invoice for my seats are there on their portal. I can opt to pay now or wait for the actual invoice to come in the mail next week. I spoke to my ticket rep Brandon this morning about it. Here’s the page which has a little booklet on how to sign up for the portal. The Penguins have to have your e-mail in order for you to have access to the portal as that’s the only way to log in. It’s housed through Ticketmaster, so if you are comfortable giving your credit or bank card through there, you can get started.

Second, Anthony Peters is the first name off of the 2019 Offseason Moves List (tab above) as he has signed with the Isterholn Roosters in the DEL. Tyler had some nice words about Peters you can read here.

Peters, as a person, was probably a hell of a guy. Let’s just leave it there.

Third, the Penguins signed Kasper Bjorkvist to his two year entry level deal. Some words on him…

And then Jonathan had a thread that starts here:

I would guess that Bjorkvist, provided his shoulder doesn’t hinder him this summer, pushes for a good look in Pittsburgh before he’s sent here to tear up the AHL for a little bit before going up for good. Put him on a Jake Guentzel (his last season here) trajectory vs. a Teddy Blueger (overripened here) one, meaning that Bjorkvist is here for two months, maybe three, before going up for good in January or February 2020.

Or he could get a whole season here with a few looks here and there in the NHL. Who knows. This is professional hockey now. They aren’t kids anymore.

Finally, the Buffalo Sabres have their new head coach and it’s not Clark Donatelli. There had been some scuttlebutt recently due to the Jason Botterill connection that Donatelli was a candidate for the position based off of an article I saw from The Athletic Buffalo a while ago.

I think that’s everything. I signed up for Elite Prospects Premium to help cobble together the AHL Big Board this summer and to stay on top of the signings before during and after the free agent frenzy. I also found a way to easily (well, it takes some work) to port all the names into a spreadsheet to work off of in the build. Cobbling together all the names is the hardest part. Work smart, not hard.

More as it comes, as always. I didn’t see anything on a schedule matrix of opponents and there wasn’t anything from the League on division changes out of their Meetings last week, so you didn’t miss anything on that front. If I see something, it will run here.

Oh, Charlotte, Toronto, Chicago and San Diego are your final four. I still like the Checkers and Wolves chances of advancing to the Finals.

Have a great rest of the week.

Extension Announced in Principle 5/6

“Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated” – Mark Twain

In a joint statement made around noon on Monday, the Luzerne County Convention Center Authority and the National Hockey League’s Pittsburgh Penguins jointly announced this morning that both parties have reached an agreement in principle on a 10-year contract lease extension to keep the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League in Northeast Pennsylvania. Terms of the deal were not immediately disclosed, with that coming Wednesday, May 8 at a press conference after the regularly scheduled Authority meeting.

If you have been following the story since the beginning, I am sure you have heard and maybe even shared some rumors as to the fate of the team. I sure have heard a lot. In part and in some form or fashion, I’ve heard the following:

– The New Jersey Devils are coming in and placing their AHL affiliate here. This one came up a lot during the season. They allegedly toured the Arena a couple times.

– Clark Donatelli’s maid works with someone who has tickets to games and he came home mad one day that he had to pull his kids out of school and move them back to Wheeling, West Virginia because the teams higher ups told him they were moving the franchise to Wheeling.

That was a good one.

– The Penguins were moving the AHL affiliate either to Johnstown, the Penguins practice facility, Wheeling, West Virginia, Youngstown, Ohio, State College, Altoona or some other ridiculous outlier territory.

I heard my fair share.

Someone in Pittsburgh told one of our Booster Club members that the team was moving. It was heard either in a restaurant, a parking lot, at the actual game, in the street, the hotel or otherwise. Pittsburgh Penguins Head Coach Mike Sullivan can see one of his players go down in the first ten minutes of a game and when asked two hours later what the status of said player is he would respond, “I don’t know.” – so you are telling me and want me to believe that a team that is so tight lipped about injuries is somehow going to let leak what the status is with its top farm team and actual contract negotiations?

P.T. Barnum was right, there is a sucker born every minute.

Best one I saw that caused a lot of stir was that because the team store out in Pittsburgh wasn’t selling Wilkes-Barre merchandise was a sure sign that the team was pulling out. I still laugh at that one, as if the part time associate selling pins and stickers really has a pulse on top level, behind closed doors, non-disclosured negotiations.

As. If.

I could go on and I can pile on, but the fact of the matter is this. No one has it better than we do. No one. There is going to be hockey in the 2019-2020 season here in Wilkes-Barre and beyond, foreseeable for the next ten seasons.

I didn’t believe a thing anyone one told me regarding negotiations because a) Hello! Non-disclosure! And, b) What they were slinging at me was easily discounted when you apply common sense. The cities presented didn’t make any sense. Wheeling’s building is 40 years old and the one in Johnstown is older than that, and explain to me again how you can play AHL hockey in Altoona next year when there’s no building to play in again? Or did you mean Erie? Or was it Altoona? Oil City? What a pity….

Exactly.

I’ll leave you with this. It’s a song from the most successful all female rock band of all time, The Go-Go’s. It’s the song, “Our Lips Are Sealed,” and it’s kind of apropos when you think of it, because you didn’t hear a peep, chirp or single squeak from anyone on, associated with or employed by 40 Coal Street, which is where the Wilkes-Barre / Penguins offices are located regarding lease negotiations. I listened to and consumed pretty much every product that the team put out this season in print, audio, visual or otherwise. No one said a thing, leaked a thing or led on to anything. Their lips were indeed sealed.

Meanwhile, the noise. The Devils are moving in, the team is moving, because of this, means that, or whatever. I took it all in. I read the nonsense, heard the rumors. I applied logic. Give this a spin, read the lyrics, and think of the last six to nine months and all the ridiculousness you’ve heard.

We are here. We are staying here. No one has it better than we do. And now, to play me off my soapbox, ladies and gentlemen, The Go-Go’s……..

Can you hear them?
They talk about us
Telling lies
Well, that’s no surprise

Can you see them?
See right through them
They have no shield
No secrets to reveal

It doesn’t matter what they say
In the jealous games people play
Our lips are sealed

There’s a weapon
That we must use
In our defense
Silence reveals

When you look at them
Look right through them
That’s when they’ll disappear
That’s when we’ll be feared

It doesn’t matter what they say
In the jealous games people play
Our lips are sealed

Pay no mind to what they say
It doesn’t matter anyway
Our lips are sealed

Hush, my darling
Don’t you cry
Quiet, angel
Forget their lies

Can you hear them?
They talk about us
Telling lies
Well, that’s no surprise

Can you see them?
See right through them
They have no shield
No secrets to reveal

It doesn’t matter what they say
In the jealous games people play
Our lips are sealed

Pay no mind to what they say
It doesn’t matter anyway

Our lips are sealed
Our lips are sealed
Our lips are sealed

Di Pauli Re-Signs 4/30

Some more signing news as it was announced Tuesday that Thomas Di Pauli re-signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Di Pauli, considered “week to week” since going down with an injury in late December against Bridgeport is the second signing made by Pittsburgh to set up their farm team in 2019-20* in the wake of Joseph Cramarossa signing last week.

Di Pauli has battled injuries for most of his professional career. He was limited to just 29 games last year. He’s a decent penalty killer and always scores against Hershey it seems. His trajectory was pointing upward until his season was derailed from whatever his “week to week” injury was that cost him the final 15 weeks of the season.

The gamble is that the injury issues are behind the Notre Dame product and he’ll shape out to be one of the better players on the AHL roster for next season. It’s a low risk, potential for high reward signing.

* – still no announcement on a lease agreement for 2019-2020 and beyond between the Penguins and the Arena Authority. It is going to be May 1 on Wednesday. The next arena meeting is May 8. Are we going to get more, “we are negotiating” and “the sides are close” or is this really going to drag out yet another month coming into the month of June and the 11th hour when the lease expires on June 30? I am honestly tired of waiting, am about all out of patience and would like some closure on this in some form or fashion as it has been percolating since the season began in October 2018. 

We’ll wait as we have been, non-disclosures be damned, but as Benjamin Franklin once said, “You may delay, but time will not.”