What you missed…
Countdown to Opening NightOctober 16, 2021
25 days to go.
A fan blog about the AHL's Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins
We don’t exactly know when the start of the AHL season will be, targeted for December 2020, but we do know that the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins will be in the market for a new head coach (announced September 2) and a new captain (announced last week).
Let’s start with the older news. David Warsofsky was traded with other assets last week to the Toronto Maple Leafs for Kasperi Kapanen. The return, affecting Wilkes-Barre were forward Pontus Aberg and defenseman Jesper Lindgren. Both spent time in Toronto with the Marlies last year but will start their seasons overseas because of the pandemic here in the United States and the uncertainty of if, or even when, an AHL season may occur in the midst of all of this.
Kasper Bjorkvist will also play overseas next season. It’s going to happen a lot with the foreign born players. Development waits for no one.
Today’s news shouldn’t come as a shock, Mike Vellucci was named as an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Vellucci was always destined for Pittsburgh. You don’t steal a guy off of a team that just won the Calder Cup without some guarantee baked in that one day he will be behind the bench of your NHL team. It wasn’t a matter of if Vellucci would head to Pittsburgh, it was a matter of when. When the Penguins cleaned house and fired all of their assistant coaches and kept Mike Sullivan on, the writing was on the wall.
I have no idea who Wilkes-Barre has in mind for captain.
Candidates for head coach could include current assistants J.D. Forrest or Jarrod Skalde or the Penguins could go deeper in the organization and hire Mark French, who was recently named as the Wheeling Nailers head coach. If the name rings a bell, French coached the Hershey Bears when they won 60 games in 2009-10. I mean if you had to ask me now who the front runner is or would be, it would be French. He’s familiar with coaching in this neck of the AHL woods and is already under contract in the organization. It’s a no-brainer.
We don’t even have a schedule yet and have no idea if we will even have AHL hockey this season, so a new head coach may be a low priority thing at this point in time. The next blog post (whenever the hell that may be these days) may be introducing the new head coach after the announcement comes down from Coal Street on who that man or woman may be.
Wear your mask, wash your hands, stay six feet away from people and for god sakes, stay home if you are sick.
Late-ish announcement by Springfield with New Years falling on a Wednesday, but we know who is going to Ontario, California later this month to skate in the All-Star Classic.
If you don’t feel like clicking to expand, Andrew Agozzino was the sole Penguins representative named.
Friday was Andrew Agozzino’s birthday, and he leads the team in assists with 17 and points with 29.
Cases could have been made for the Penguins goal scoring leader Anthony Angello, but he just has 13 goals to go with 4 assists and also Casey DeSmith, but Hartford’s Igor Shesterkin is pretty much the sole reason the Wolf Pack have been the class of the Atlantic so far with his play in goal. Springfield’s Chris Driedger was the other goalie named and he’s been having an all-around great season for the Thunderbirds also.
Penguins alumni Ben Street (Binghamton) Derrick Pouliot (San Antonio) and Chris Wideman (San Diego) were named for the North, Central and Pacific squads, respectively.
In other news, Casey DeSmith and Thomas DiPauli are getting recalled later today. There is nothing to worry about in that with regards to injuries. Thomas DiPauli will serve as the extra forward on the trip to Montreal Saturday night and Casey DeSmith is going to back up Matt Murray on Saturday because Tristan Jarry is starting Sunday afternoon at home against the Florida Panthers.
Think of it this way, in baseball on the get away day (the game of a series on the road) the starting pitcher for the next days game is already in the city where that game is going to be played. That is what they are doing here.
If you are thinking, “wait a minute, Jarry DeSmith and Murray all came up in the AHL and rode those buses on those weekends where Wilkes-Barre played a three in three” you would be correct. This might be a new, trailblazing thing that Mike Sullivan is doing.
Taylor Haase has more here, including reassurance that Casey DeSmith will not require waivers when he’s reassigned next week, provided Pittsburgh’s plan goes off without a hitch.
Expect Emil Larmi to get recalled from Wheeling unless he isn’t and Mike Vellucci just rolls Dustin Tokarski Friday night against Hershey and Saturday against Springfield and Sebastien Caron gets the weekend PTO again. The Nailers are in Cincinnati for a pair of games against the Cyclones and the games this weekend are far too important to roll a backup out when Hershey is third and Springfield fifth, both visiting fourth place Wilkes-Barre this weekend.
Food for thought, we don’t have long to wait, the Gameday setup against Hershey is up already.
Tyler had some update from Penguins practice Thursday I figured I would pass along if you don’t already follow his beat.
Healthiest the club has been in a while, but for a few call-ups to Pittsburgh.
One of the early knocks on Joseph was the fact that he was as thin as a beanpole so as far as this type of illness, not the best thing for an athlete trying to put and keep weight and muscle on.
Jamie Devane is, in fact, what classifies as a veteran. With a team right now cycling in any combination of Joseph Cramarossa, Ryan Haggerty and Andreas Martinsen as their excess vet who gets in, a return from injury isn’t the only thing Devane has working against him.
They kind of re-debuted that on Saturday when Larmi backed up Dustin Tokarski.
These were from Tuesday and were all over the place social medially….
That made #2 on SportsCenter this morning.
It’s Emil Larmi, in case you didn’t know.
Pens will likely leave for Springfield Thursday for their game Friday against the Thunderbirds in Massachusetts. I will not have up to date tweets on the game because we have business partners affiliated with my big boy job taking us out to dinner. I don’t go all the time (they only come in to take us out as a group before Tanksgiving, and I only go if the Pens are on the road) so I am going this year. I’ll have some type of write-up about the action here for you Friday night.
If you are looking for Twitter coverage, Pens and Thunderbirds official Twitters should have you covered. From the Thunderbirds perspective, my friend Katy tweets every Thunderbirds home game and is a very good follow.
I’ll be back at the game calls Saturday when the Penguins host the reigning, defending, undisputed Calder Cup Champion Charlotte Checkers Saturday night.
More Friday after the game, sooner if I need to break in for news.
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.
That explains the Hawkins recall.
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.
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.
Couple of loose ends to tie off before the start of the Labor Day Weekend…
In a move that shouldn’t surprise you, Mike Vellucci was named General Manager of the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins this week. It is a dual capacity role that the reigning AHL Coach of the Year is familiar with, having served in the same position with the Charlotte Checkers last season.
Coal Street went hard on the Vellucci news this week. He’s here to win, and they have a series of video interviews where he says the right things to give fans of the AHL team hope for this season. Who am I to doubt a coach who was elected best last year who also led the AHL’s best team to the Calder Cup?
The Penguins are running the video series on their Twitter page and have the first two up. I’m likely not going to edit in the third or fourth here for the blog but if you want to see them, just watch their Twitter feed.
Ben Lovejoy retired this week. I have three all time favorite Penguins. He is one of them. The other two are Wade Brookbank and Casey DeSmith. Lovejoy came through Wilkes-Barre where he learned the pro game and was a likable, personable player. I’m hoping now that with the cloud of an extension agreement cleared that Coal Street starts adding to their Hall of Fame and that Lovejoy is one of the names who gets enshrined someday.
Patrick McGrath has found himself work. It’s with the Utah Grizzlies of the ECHL. That news was announced Thursday. McGrath plans on reporting to the Grizzlies AHL affiliate Colorado’s camp in the hopes of picking up an AHL contract. McGrath was an extremely popular player whom a lot of fans related to here in Wilkes-Barre. I wish him nothing but the best with the Grizzlies. Utah actually makes a visit to Wheeling on November 15 of this year and one has to guess that a lot of Nailers fans will want to see that one.
In other AHL news, Phantoms captain Colin McDoland signed with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. It’s assumed that McDonald will wear the “C” for the Sound Tigers this year as their long time captain Ben Holmstrom signed an ECHL deal with Norfolk earlier in the week.
Pittsburgh announced details on their prospect tournament for next weekend complete with a roster which Jonathan Bombulie dissected. A lot of these names you can look for in Wilkes-Barre at some point in the immediate or near future, when eligible.
AHL had this nice graphic.
I’m no math major, but that’s five weeks. Enjoy what’s left of summer until then.
What’s the old saying, “It Comes in Threes?”
The Penguins as an organization made a trio of moves Monday that are worth a blog entry. So here goes.
The Pittsburgh Penguins signed undrafted free agent Jake Lucchini to an entry level contract which will kick in in 2019-2020. For the time being, he will join Wilkes-Barre on an amateur tryout for the remainder of the 2018-19 season and report to Coal Street on Tuesday.
Coal Street’s press release has all the details for you. Captain of Michigan Tech this past season and had 11 goals and 15 assists in 38 games.
Check out his picture too, with link to the Coal Street release here. Look at that hair.
Zach Aston-Reese picked up a lower body knock in Sunday’s game against Boston. As a result, Pittsburgh recalled Joseph Blandisi on an emergency basis Monday afternoon.
Minutes after, Coal Street recalled Trevor Yates from Wheeling. Since coming over in the trade with Grand Rapids for future considerations, Yates has been a point a game player with the Nailers with 14 points in 14 games.
So that’s that on a Monday. Pens are in action Wednesday in Allentown taking on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at 7. Gameday setup is yours here on the blog then at 3.