Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: The AHL

2019 AHL Top 100 Free Agents and Beyond – The Big Board

Blogger Note: Big Board will be updated through July 20, 2019 and unstuck from top of blog on July 22, 2019.

Back for another year is an idea cooked up by the great Jonathan Bombulie a long time ago. This is actually Year Five of the on the blog of carrying the tradition that Bombulie conceived which was ranking the top AHL free agents available and putting out a list of the Top 100 and then a second list of the best available after that.

After hemming and hawing on the idea of whether I wanted to invest the time to carry this on for a fifth season, by the time I realized I was “all in” on the concept this year, I was done with half the teams. So I didn’t contract out to anyone this season as I had in seasons past. That’s not to say or suggest that I won’t ask for help in the future, but more of a, “can I do this myself” question that I answered with a resounding ‘yes’ as I was done well in advance of the July 1 start of NHL Free Agency.

Enough about how the idea came about this year and to the subject at hand, the Big Board.

All data compiled was taken from either Elite Prospects, Cap Friendly, the AHL and/or Twitter.

You will see some symbols / identifiers next to some players names. They mean the following:

^ – Group 6 Unrestricted Free Agent. Defined here.
* – Non-tendered Restricted Free Agent (RFA) – essentially a RFA who wasn’t given a qualifying offer.

They really don’t mean anything in the way that the Board was constructed, but in creating the Board I used these identifiers and just carried them over to the final product.

As always, if you spot any errors or omissions, please let me know in the comments. This Board will be updated as Free Agency begins and will be pinned to the top of the blog for a few weeks after the July 1 period.

If you didn’t link in directly from elsewhere, hit the jump and enjoy!

Read more of this post

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.

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?

Coupon Moves Continue

Seemingly out of nowhere, kind of like this blog post, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins announced two re-signings today. Blake Siebenhaler and Macoy Erkamps have re-signed and will be in the fold in 2019-20 for the Penguins. AHL deals for both.

Siebenhaler was acquired in a trade with Columbus in the Spring, played one game and then was sent to Wheeling. Erkamps was a fringe defender who appeared in 24 AHL contests with the Penguins.

So that’s 25 games between the two of them, with a whopping four assists, all scored by Erkamps.

Keeping with the theme of attempting to Boil Your Water on Two, the off season re-signings so far have been Joseph Cramarossa, Thomas DiPauli and Erkamps and Siebenhaler. Rarely do I like to compare what other AHL teams do because each developmental process is different, but Hershey has re-signed a boatload of really good players like Liam O’Brien, Steve Whitney and Brian Pinho. They are getting the band back together. A band, mind you, that had a resurgent second half of the season and made it to the second round of the playoffs only to be dismissed by eventual Calder Cup Champion Charlotte. The Penguins are doing the same, but they missed the playoffs for the first time in sixteen seasons with the group they have brought back.

There is a lot of summer left, yes. Free agency hasn’t even begun yet. But the Penguins, with these signings, haven’t made any attempt to give me hope that next year will be any different than the last.

If you are wondering, yes, I am planning on bringing back the AHL Big Board. I was actually working on it when this news dropped. I should, provided everything goes according to plan, have it done this week as far as heavy lifting goes, then it’s just primp and prime for a midweek release next week in time for the July 1 Free Agent Frenzy.

But for anything else breaking, look for a post on here announcing when the Board will be out, then the main show well in advance of the July 1 free for all.

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

2018-19 Calder Cup Playoffs Preview and Predictions

Well, the Penguins aren’t involved in this years playoffs, but that isn’t going to stop me from taking a stab at making some predictions as it pertains to the 2018-19 Calder Cup Playoffs.

But instead of going round by round, I am giving you the entire playoff preview from round one all the way to the Calder Cup Finals. Maybe I will come back sometime in June to see how right or how wrong I was. Here goes…

Eastern Conference

Charlotte vs. Providence: The Penguins would have faced off against the Checkers had they managed to usurp the Bruins. They didn’t, and it’s the Bruins that get the four spot. I can see Providence making it a game here and there, but the Checkers have been the overall best team in the AHL for months. Charlotte in four.

Bridgeport vs. Hershey: Calling the upset here. Bridgeport has at times struggled, but were better than the Bears in seeding for the sole reason that the Bears started the season in a hole with the way they were playing. Playoffs is all about momentum and Hershey certainly has it. They will, of course, have to steal at least one in Bridgeport which I think they will do. Hershey in five.

Rochester vs. Toronto: It’s hard for a team that won it last year to repeat the next season. I don’t see Toronto repeating no matter which way you look at it starting in the Western Conference, Charlotte or Syracuse. So fate would have it that the Marlies give the Americans a bit of a scare, but do not advance. Rochester in five.

Syracuse vs. Cleveland: I don’t want to say this, but Syracuse I would say is probably the most vulnerable division winner facing off against a four seed. I don’t see the same in the Central as much as I see it here in the North, but don’t let that fool you with my pick here. Crunch advance, just not as easily as one would think. Syracuse in five.

Charlotte vs. Hershey: Charlotte keeps rolling, but the Bears make it tougher on them. I really think that the winner of this series is bolstered by whichever NHL parent team goes out of the playoffs first. Since the Capitals and Hurricanes are currently in battle with one another and the odds factor the Caps advancing, so too I with the Checkers getting past Hershey. Charlotte in six.

Syracuse vs. Rochester: This is going to be a heavyweight battle for the ages. Every game could go to overtime and it very well may be a war of attrition. It’s the biggest toss up series that you will see in my opinion. Syracuse in seven.

Charlotte vs. Syracuse: Checkers, already battle tested and at full staff after having Carolina go out, make short work of a tired and weary Crunch team that emptied the tank in a war against Rochester. Switch it if you want if you think it’s the Amerks advancing, but Charlotte obliterates whoever comes out of the North regardless. Checkers in five.

Western Conference

Chicago vs. Grand Rapids: The Wolves qualified early while Grand Rapids sat on a magic number of one for weeks. I could go reverse momentum and pick the upset, but the Wolves are stout and are not trapped here by a lifeless Griffins side coming in. Chicago in four.

Milwaukee vs. Iowa: Admirals managed to finish second in the division because they finished a point better than the two other qualifiers in Iowa here and Grand Rapids. Iowa was good all season, stumbled at the end and righted the course. It’s probably the toughest series to call given the fact that the Admirals haven’t lost in fourteen straight coming in, but I like the Wild’s chances here nevertheless. Iowa in five.

Bakersfield vs. Colorado: Condors went on a long winning streak, surged to the pinnacle of the Pacific and stayed there when San Jose stumbled. Colorado made playoffs in their maiden voyage in the AHL. If this is a seven game series, I think that the Eagles have a better chance of stealing a few in Bakersfield and advancing. But the Condors advance in this short series. Bakersfield in five.

San Jose vs. San Diego: I think this is probably the most interesting AHL coaching matchup in the entire first round with the Barracuda’s Roy Sommer vs. Dallas Eakins and the San Diego Gulls. Sommer gets the best of Eakins on the guise of a more experienced team. Barracuda in four.

Chicago vs. Iowa: Could shape up to be a great series, but the Wolves exploit the flaws Iowa exhibited in the final weeks of the season and advance. Wolves in five.

Bakersfield vs. San Jose: The dream season ends for the Condors but they go down swinging and make the Barracuda work hard to advance. Barracuda in seven.

Chicago vs. San Jose: This far out, it’s harder to predict just with the unknown of the Western Conference vs. having a pulse over here in the East. Could see either team advancing, but going with my gut and selecting Chicago in six.

Calder Cup Finals 

Charlotte vs. Chicago: So I went chalk and picked the top two teams in their respective conferences. You make the argument that the Western Conference was the tougher conference to play in given the fact that there were so many teams that were still in it on the final weekend. Hell, Manitoba won 39 games and didn’t make playoffs. That said, Charlotte carved up the East all season, but they didn’t see a team quite like the Wolves. Checkers steal game one or two at home, then Chicago wraps it up in Rosemont. Chicago in six.

That’s how I see it breaking. You?