Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: The AHL

AHL Power Rankings: Mid-November 2019

We are halfway through November and just two weeks away from American Thanksgiving and there has been some shake up in the Power Rankings.

Hartford and Springfield were the first teams in the Eastern Conference to ten wins. I don’t think anyone predicted that a month ago. They are winning with goaltending and the ability to win close games in regulation, unlike some teams who play close games but can’t either get that extra goal or that extra point.

Tucson was the first AHL team to ten wins this season and while they are not in the top five this week, they are in the top ten.

Top five go this way this week; Hartford, the leaders in the Atlantic look to widen the gap while other teams in the division figure things out.

Stockton, firing in over four goals a game, are locked in an early battle with Tucson, who they have seen a ton of recently, are second this week.

Laval, the surprise team in the AHL so far, are third and lead the North Division. They are a lot like Hartford that even in defeat they are piling up loser points.

Milwaukee is fourth this week. They are hot in a division which has gone cold.

Discount Toronto, our fifth place team this week, at your peril.

After the Marlies, jump in and see where your favorite team ended up this week if you didn’t link in direct. Enjoy.

1

Last Games: HFD 1 @ LAV 2 (SO), HFD 4 @ BEL 5 (SO), HER 1 @ HFD 2, BEL 4 @ HFD 3 (SO), HFD 2 @ PRO 1
Don’t adjust your computer screens, this is a very good team. Even in losses, they get points.

+2

Next Games: @ PRO 11/15, vs. PRO 11/16, vs. SYR 11/20, @ ROC 11/22, @ SYR 11/23
Record: 10-1-0-4

2

Last Games: SJ 2 @ STK 3 (SO), TUC 4 @ STK 3 (OT), STK 2 @ TUC 3 (SO), STK 6 @ TUC 7, SD 3 @ STK 6
Tops in goals for (an eye popping 4.08) and also in power play have the Heat just running teams over in the Pacific. It’s going to be fun watching them counter punch with Tucson in this battle through the winter.

+3

Next Games: vs. TUC 11/15, vs. SJ 11/16, @ BAK 11/21, @ SD 11/23, @ ONT 11/27
Record: 8-2-1-2

3

Last Games: HFD 1 @ LAV 2 (SO), TOR 5 @ LAV 6 (SO), LAV 2 @ CLE 1, LAV 4 @ CLE 0, BEL 5 @ LAV 4 (OT)
I think it’s safe to call Laval the surprise team in the the North a month and a half into 2019-20. Rocket lead the North with 20 points and even in defeat are getting points.

+13

Next Games: vs. MIL 11/15, vs. BRI 11/16, @ TOR 11/20, vs. UTI 11/22, vs. UTI 11/23, @ BEL 11/27
Record: 9-5-2-0

4

Last Games: IA 1 @ MIL 0, CHI 2 @ MIL 5, MB 4 @ MIL 6, MIL 3 @ SA 1, MIL 4 @ SA 3 (SO), CHI 3 @ MIL 6
Admirals sit atop the Central in the middle of November. Their run of seven wins in their last ten game shot them there. Interesting games ahead for Milwaukee.

+7

Next Games: @ LAV 11/15, @ BEL 11/16, @ IA 11/19, @ GR 11/22, vs. GR 11/23, vs. MB 11/27
Record: 9-3-1-2

5

Last Games: TOR 7 @ BEL 4, TOR 5 @ LAV 6 (SO), TOR 1 @ RFD 3, TOR 1 @ GR 4, TOR 5 @ GR 2
Marlies are setting up fine, just two regulation losses and don’t have to travel at all now till Thanksgiving. Who thought that the Laval Rocket would be keeping pace with Toronto like this?

-3

Next Games: vs. TEX 11/16, vs. TEX 11/17, vs. LAV 11/20, vs. MB 11/23, vs. MB 11/24
Record: 8-2-2-1

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AHL Power Rankings: End of October 2019

So we are through October and there is one team that hasn’t lost at all and a team that hasn’t won at all.

Somewhere in between, unless you are a fan of the Utica Comets or the San Diego Gulls, is your team.

Early days as the calendar flips to November, so take these Rankings and hope that your club stays in the top half if you are there or hope that your club jumps into the top half if you are near the bottom.

Moral of the story is that nothing really gets figured out before Christmas. But, some teams are already digging themselves a deep hole.

Toronto, Hartford, Iowa and Stockton round out the top five this week. We kind of expected Toronto to be good, Hartford and Stockton are a bit of a surprise and Iowa picked up where they left off last season.

After the Heat, click through the jump if you didn’t link in direct.

1

Last Games: CHA 2 @ UTI 8, ROC 1 @ UTI 7, BNG 1 @ UTI 5, UTI 2 @ HER 1 (SO), BNG 1 @ UTI 3
The lone unblemished team are your Utica Comets. Utica is a complete team and are getting lights out goaltending from Zane McIntyre who has five of those eight Comets wins.

+2

Next Games: vs. PRO 11/1, vs. ROC 11/2, @ BNG 11/6, vs. WBS 11/8, @ BNG 11/9, vs. SYR 11/11
Record: 8-0-0-0

2

Last Games: CLE 0 @ TOR 2, CLE 5 @ TOR 6 (SO), TOR 2 @ BNG 3 (OT), TOR 3 @ SYR 4 (OT)
Pair of OT losses to close out the weekend, but the Marlies still haven’t lost in regulation. They may stay that way until at least that weekend trip to Grand Rapids.

-1

Next Games: @ BEL 11/1, @ LAV 11/2, @ RFD 11/6, @ GR 11/8, @ GR 11/9
Record: 6-0-2-0

3

Last Games: SPR 0 @ HFD 1, HFD 4 @ BNG 3 (OT), LAV 1 @ HFD 2 (OT), BRI 1 @ HFD 4, HFD 2 @ BRI 1 (OT), HFD 1 @ LAV 4
Dealt their first loss Wednesday in Laval. Lead the Atlantic. Early days, but they may be onto something in Hartford. Talk to us in a month.

+2

Next Games: @ LAV 11/1, @ BEL 11/2, vs. HER 11/8, vs. BEL 11/9, @ PRO 11/10
Record: 8-1-0-1

4

Last Games: IA 6 @ MB 4, IA 4 @ MB 2, IA 1 @ TUC 3, IA 1 @ TUC 2 (OT), IA 4 @ GR 3 (OT)
Wild at the top of the Central isn’t a fluke. This is a solid team from top to bottom. Problem is, there’s no separation because the division as a whole is stacked.

n/a

Next Games: @ MIL 11/1, @ RFD 11/2, vs. CHI 11/7, vs. ONT 11/9, vs. ONT 11/10
Record: 6-1-1-1

5

Last Games: STK 5 @ SD 1, STK 4 @ BAK 3, BAK 3 @ STK 2 (SO), STK 6 @ BAK 3
Heat remain hot as October closes out. The run should continue but those three with Tucson could prove to be early tests for both teams.

+1

Next Games: vs. SJ 11/1, vs. TUC 11/2, @ TUC 11/8, @ TUC 11/19, vs. SD 11/11
Record: 6-1-0-1

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Tuesday Transactions

There was a lot of activity on Coal Street Tuesday.

Well this doesn’t make sense. The Pens already have Ben Sexton in town and Pittsburgh skated with 14 forwards on Monday which means some combination of Joseph Blandisi, Adam Johnson or Sam Lafferty are headed back soon.

But wait….

That explains the Hawkins recall.

Later…

Now Wilkes-Barre has Zach Trotman down on a conditioning assignment for six days (three games essentially, at Binghamton Wednesday, home vs. San Antonio Friday and Saturday). Because Trotman had the LTIR tag associated with him as part of the assignment, it is different than a straight up conditioning assignment where the player had been a healthy scratch night in and night out prior to the assignment.

Roster jockeying, tea leaves and conditioning assignments. It’s not even November.

Binghamton Wednesday night. Gameday setup here on the blog Wednesday at 3.

AHL Power Rankings: Mid-October 2019

You know as I was doing these first Chirps from Center Ice AHL Power Rankings for the 2019-20 season, I kind of missed doing these weekly. However, for now, I am committed to running these bi-weekly as opposed to weekly to start. If you really want these to go back to weekly, let me know down in the comments section and I’ll see what I can do. The Power Rankings portion of the blog content is the most up in the air feature I have here. It isn’t going away, I just don’t know where to put it or when to run it anymore.

Anyway, with that out of the way, it’s time to see where your favorite team sits two weeks into the season. There are two undefeated teams and two teams still sitting on preseason points (0).

The Marlies, of course, are the early class of the field. Toronto is out to a 4-0 start after a pair of wins over Manitoba and victories over Belleville and Hershey to start the season.

The San Antonio Rampage, yes, the Rampage, are out to a 3-0-0-1 start and lead the Central Division which is as wide open as far as where you’d expect contenders to be early on.

Utica is the other undefeated team in the league and are third. You have to like the early start that the Comets are on.

Iowa hits the ground running and are out to a great start as well and are fourth and the surprise leader at the top of the Atlantic are the Hartford Wolf Pack which round out the top five.

Hit the jump past the Wolf Pack if you didn’t link in direct to see where your favorite team sits just two weeks into this early season.

1

Last Games: BEL 1 @ TOR 4, TOR 3 @ MTB 2, TOR 4 @ MTB 0, HER 3 @ TOR 4
Toronto debuts at number one this season after a 4-0 start, tying a franchise record. The Marlies are beating all types of teams. Monsters stop by this weekend.

Next Games: vs. CLE 10/19, vs. CLE 10/20, @ BNG 10/26, @ SYR 10/27
Record: 4-0-0-0

2

Last Games: MTB 1 @ SA 2, TUC 2 @ SA 5, CHI 0 @ SA 3, CHI 2 @ SA 1 (SO)
Raise your hand if you thought that the Rampage would have points in all of their contests. Now put your hand down, you liar.

Next Games: @ TUC 10/18, @ TUC 10/19, @ WBS 10/25, @ WBS 10/26, @ RFD 10/30
Record: 3-0-0-1

3

Last Games: UTI 4 @ BNG 3, UTI 4 @ WBS 3 (OT), SYR 2 @ UTI 6
Comets are 3-0 and off to an undefeated start. Utica stays busy over the next two weeks against some good competition.

Next Games: vs. CHA 10/18, vs. RCH 10/19, vs. BNG 10/25, @ HER 10/26, vs. BNG 10/30
Record: 3-0-0-0

4

Last Games: RFD 2 @ IA 3, MIL 2 @ IA 5, TEX 4 @ IA 5 (SO), TEX 2 @ IA 1 (SO)
Points in all of their games, which have been four at this point, has to feel good for Tim Army’s crew as the season kicks off. No rest for the weary, as Iowa has five games inbound in the next two weeks.

Next Games: @ MTB 10/18, @ MTB 10/19, @ TUC 10/25, @ TUC 10/26, @ GR 10/30
Record: 3-0-0-1

5

Last Games: CHA 3 @ HFD 5, BRI 3 @ HFD 4 (OT), SPR 1 @ HFD 3, RCH 3 @ HFD 2 (SO)
Hartford are still unbeaten in regulation. How long does this run continue? Busy week with some healthy competition coming up for the Wolf Pack.

Next Games: vs. SPR 10/18, @ BNG 10/19, vs. LAV 10/25, vs. BRI 10/26, @ BRI 10/27, @ LAV 10/30
Record: 3-0-0-1

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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.

2019 Opponent Outlooks

I decided to go in a different direction this season with what I guess you could consider a season preview for the AHL. Instead of dedicating an entire day and an entire post to the AHL’s Pacific Division, a division that the Penguins will never see in the regular season, or have to look up the name of the arena that the Iowa Wild play in¹, I decided to dedicate this seasons previews to the teams that the Penguins face off against in the regular season.

So that’s everyone in the Atlantic, everyone in the North Division but for Toronto, Laval and Belleville and Texas and San Antonio in the Central.

I’ve slimmed it down this season, giving you the parent team, last seasons record and playoffs and the outlook. Less is more, I suppose you could say.

Let me know what you like, you don’t like and if you’d like for me to bring back who the Bakersfield Condors broadcaster is² in next years version of this.

Here goes, starting in the Central, traversing through the North and ending in familiar territory in the Atlantic. Note that for the “vs. WBS:” section, Penguins home games are listed in bold.

Texas Stars

NHL Affiliation: Dallas Stars
Record and Playoffs: 37-31-4-4 (82 pts., 6th place Central, no playoffs)
Outlook: The Stars did not make playoffs last season after representing the Western Conference in the Calder Cup Finals the season before. The prognosis for this season is kind of up in the air. Nothing really to write home about signings wise either. Are the days of the Stars being the best AHL team in Texas over?
vs. WBS: 12/6, 12/7, 1/15, 1/17

San Antonio Rampage

NHL Affiliation: St. Louis Blues
Record and Playoffs: 31-38-6-1 (69 pts., 8th place Central, no playoffs)
Outlook: Everyone was competitive in the Central Division last year but for the Rampage, who finished with 69 points, 11 points back of the seventh place team who were just seven points out of a playoff spot. That obviously needs to change this season and we think it will with some solid additions made in the offseason.
vs. WBS: 10/25, 10/26, 1/18, 1/21

Binghamton Devils

NHL Affiliation: New Jersey Devils
Record and Playoffs: 28-41-7-0 (63 pts., 8th place North, no playoffs)
Outlook: The Devils rearranged the deck chairs on the Titanic this season. A team that finished in last place last year comes into the campaign with marginal upgrades across the board with the biggest question in goal. For a team that gave up the most goals against (278) last year faces a steep challenge in a loaded division.
vs. WBS: 10/16, 10/23, 2/5, 3/6, 3/8, 3/27

Cleveland Monsters

NHL Affiliation: Columbus Blue Jackets
Record and Playoffs: 37-29-8-2 (84 pts., 4th place North, lost in four games to Toronto in North Division Finals)
Outlook: It is shaping up to be another good season for a fairly solid Cleveland side who yo-yo’d in and out of a playoff spot down the stretch last season. If they can improve and run with the Toronto’s and Syracuse’s of the division, they may be able to make a deep playoff run with a talented group of players.
vs. WBS: 12/13, 12/14, 3/18, 3/20

Rochester Americans

NHL Affiliation: Buffalo Sabres
Record and Playoffs: 46-23-5-2 (99 pts., 2nd place North, lost in three games to Toronto in the North Division Semifinals)
Outlook: The Amerks laid an egg in round one of the playoffs last year, getting swept by rival Toronto. A solid offseason of veteran signings should get them to playoff consideration again this season and Rochester could challenge for the division crown.
vs. WBS: 12/11, 3/28

Syracuse Crunch

NHL Affiliation: Tampa Bay Lightning
Record and Playoffs: 47-21-4-4 (102 pts., 1st place North, lost in four games to Cleveland in the North Division Semifinals)
Outlook: The Crunch had a disappointing end of the season when they went out in four games to Cleveland in Round 1 unceremoniously. They were, at one point, without any goaltending prospects for a short time during the offseason. They have a decent crop of players who will most likely get Syracuse to another playoff appearance.
vs. WBS: 11/9, 2/28

Utica Comets

NHL Affiliation: Vancouver Canucks
Record and Playoffs: 34-34-6-2 (6th place North, no playoffs)
Outlook: Utica played bland, .500, uninspiring hockey last season and it didn’t translate to a playoff spot. Nice upgrades in goal with Zane McIntyre and up front with Carter Camper give Comets fans hope on what could be a season where Utica pushes back to the playoffs.
vs. WBS: 10/12, 11/8

Bridgeport Sound Tigers

NHL Affiliation: New York Islanders
Record and Playoffs: 43-24-6-3 (95 pts., 2nd place Atlantic, lost in five games to Hershey in the Atlantic Division Semifinals)
Outlook: You can expect Bridgeport to contend again, with the additions of Colin McDonald over from Lehigh Valley as the shoe-in captain with returning players which helped the Sound Tigers to second in the Atlantic Division last season. If things break the right way, Bridgeport can be a contender for a division title and definitely a team you can pencil in for playoffs.
vs. WBS: 10/19, 11/30, 12/21, 2/1, 2/15, 3/7

Charlotte Checkers

NHL Affiliation: Carolina Hurricanes
Record and Playoffs: 51-17-7-1 (110 pts., 1st place Atlantic, won Calder Cup in five games over Chicago)
Outlook: This team buzzed its way to the Calder Cup with a chainsaw and then turned the chainsaw on themselves and were ripped apart after the parade and trophy celebration. Most of, if not all of, the key cogs which got the Checkers to the pinnacle last season have defected or graduated. The biggest name was their head coach Mike Vellucci, who took the head gig and GM position with the Penguins. The Checkers will struggle this season. Don’t expect them to see playoffs and don’t be surprised if they finish last overall in the division.
vs. WBS: 11/23, 1/8, 1/24, 1/25

Hartford Wolf Pack

NHL Affiliation: New York Rangers
Record and Playoffs: 29-36-7-4 (69 pts., 8th place Atlantic, no playoffs)
Outlook: The rebuild continues in the Connecticut capital. The Wolf Pack should improve this season and could be a late contender for a playoff spot, but it seems like an amalgamation of a lot of good players, and not a single great player.
vs. WBS: 1/11, 2/12, 2/22, 4/3, 4/4, 4/11

Hershey Bears

NHL Affiliation: Washington Capitals
Record and Playoffs: 43-25-4-4 (94 pts., 3rd place Atlantic, lost in four games to Charlotte in the Atlantic Division Finals)
Outlook: It’s going to be interesting to see how the Bears start the season, as they left off last year as one of the hottest teams in the second half. The pieces are there with a lot of solid veterans mixed in with hungry first and second year players. It could very well be a three horse Pennsylvania race for the top spot in the division with the Bears leading the charge.
vs. WBS: 10/5, 10/13, 11/13, 12/8, 12/28, 1/3, 1/10, 2/7, 2/21, 2/29, 3/14, 3/21

Lehigh Valley Phantoms

NHL Affiliation: Philadelphia Flyers
Record and Playoffs: 39-30-4-3 (85 pts., 5th place Atlantic, no playoffs)
Outlook: The Phantoms signed tons of solid scoring in the offseason and should, on paper, have one of the best offenses in the AHL this upcoming season. Consistency bit the Phantoms all season last and as a result Lehigh Valley failed to qualify for the playoffs. Head Coach Scott Gordon has the key elements to win a lot of games in Allentown this season. Phantoms have to execute, which is something they lacked consistently last season.
vs. WBS: 10/11, 11/1, 11/6, 11/16, 11/27, 11/29, 12/27, 1/31, 2/8, 3/11, 3/13, 4/5

Providence Bruins

NHL Affiliation: Boston Bruins
Record and Playoffs: 38-37-8-3 (87 pts., 4th place Atlantic, lost in four games to Charlotte in the Atlantic Division Semifinals)
Outlook: They always field competitive teams in the Rhode Island capital and this year shouldn’t be any different. Do we see the Bruins as head of the class? No, but they aren’t the school dunce either. Expect another 85-95 point campaign and another playoff appearance from Jay Leach’s crew.
vs. WBS: 12/18, 12/20, 2/14, 2/23, 2/26, 4/8

Springfield Thunderbirds

NHL Affiliation: Florida Panthers
Record and Playoffs: 33-29-9-5 (8- pts., 7th place Atlantic, no playoffs)
Outlook: The Thunderbirds were an average hockey team in an above average division last year, and don’t expect that to change this season. There isn’t really a lot that jumps off of the page here when you look at their lineup, and compared to the Lehigh Valley’s and Bridgeport’s of the division, spells another season looking outside of the playoff picture.
vs. WBS: 11/2, 11/15, 11/22, 12/31, 1/4, 4/10

 

Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins

NHL Affiliation: Pittsburgh Penguins
Record and Playoffs: 36-30-7-3 (82 pts., 6th place Atlantic, no playoffs)
Outlook: Disappointing finish to a disappointing season for the Penguins, who come in rebuilt top to bottom with reigning AHL Coach of the Year Mike Vellucci ready to guide the Penguins back to the playoffs. Decent signings like Andrew Agozzino, David Warsofsky and Dustin Tokarski coupled with returning prospects should have Wilkes-Barre back in the playoff hunt come the Spring. Navigating through the divisional opponents may prove to be a challenge, but one that Vellucci & Company may be up for.

If you have a team going Friday good luck, but not too much if it’s one of the teams encapsulated above when facing off against the Penguins. Pens open up their 21st season of hockey in Northeastern Pennsylvania Saturday night in Hershey. The first Gameday setup of the season hits the blog Saturday afternoon at 3.

¹ – Wells Fargo Arena
² – Ryan Holt

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.