Chirps from Center Ice

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

2017-18 AHL Schedule Released

Weird that we aren’t even halfway through July and the AHL scheduled has been announced already. Last year, the schedule was released on August 22.

Anyway, let’s get right into it. We already know that the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins will be opening their 2017-18 campaign at home on Saturday, October 7, which was announced Monday afternoon. But now, the Penguins, in conjunction with the AHL, announced the full schedule Tuesday afternoon.

League release here. Penguins release here.

What I always do when these things come around year after year is a question and answer. So here goes…

1) Alright, so I know when the home opener is and against who, and we already know who the Penguins play and how many times, but refresh my memory again anyway please.

Okay sure. Here you go. 17 different opponents.

Belleville Senators – 2 (one home, one away)
Binghamton Devils – 6
Bridgeport Sound Tigers – 6
Charlotte Checkers – 4
Grand Rapids Griffins – 2
Hartford Wolf Pack – 6
Hershey Bears – 12
Laval Rocket – 2
Lehigh Valley Phantoms – 12
Milwaukee Admirals – 2
Providence Bruins – 6
Rockford IceHogs – 2
Rochester Americans – 2
Springfield Thunderbirds – 4
Syracuse Crunch – 4
Toronto Marlies – 2
Utica Comets – 2

2) Thanks, man. I see some new teams on that list there. When do we play these new teams?

– Belleville is in for their only trip to Wilkes-Barre on Saturday, January 6. The Penguins go up there on Friday, January 12.

– The new Binghamton Devils make their first trip to Wilkes-Barre on Friday, December 22. The Penguins head up there on Friday, November 17. The teams play four other times.

– Laval is in on Friday, October 20 and the Penguins head up to Quebec on Saturday, January 13.

– The Penguins open the season against the Charlotte Checkers on Saturday, October 7, then the Checkers come back in on Friday, December 8. The Penguins visit the Queen City on Tuesday March 13 and Wednesday, March 14.

3) It’s about time that the Penguins play some teams out West. Grand Rapids, Rockford and Milwaukee are the teams that the Penguins play this year. When do they play them?

The Penguins head Midwest trip on Friday, March 2 against the defending Calder Cup Champion Grand Rapids Griffins and then travel to Rockford to play the IceHogs on Saturday March 3 and then wrap up against the Milwaukee Admirals on Sunday, March 4. The Admirals come in first on December 1 followed by Rockford on Friday February 23 and then the Griffins come in on Saturday, March 10.

4) Longest road trip? Longest home stand?

Four games at home which happen three times and four road games which happen three times. So not too long on the road nor at home.

5) How many three in threes?

Eight. Down one from last year.

6) Got any charts back there?

Sure. Here they are, broken down into days and months.

Home Road Total
Monday 0 0 0
Tuesday 1 2 3
Wednesday 7 4 11
Thursday 0 0 0
Friday 11 14 25
Saturday 14 9 23
Sunday 5 9 14

 

Home Road Total
October 6 2 8
November 5 4 9
December 8 6 14
January 5 6 11
February 5 6 11
March 6 10 16
April 3 4 7

 

7) Any kids games?

Kids games are by definition any game that start in the morning. The Penguins don’t have any this year. All games start in the evening or in the afternoon.

8) Where is the All-Star game this year?

Hasn’t been announced yet. When it is, it will be played on Monday, January 29.

9) Are the Penguins playing in any special venues this year?

Nope.

10) What’s the theme the Penguins are rolling with this season?

I don’t think they have one. At least it isn’t on the schedule download calendar you can print out.

11) Anything else I need to know?

Broadcaster Mike O’Brien dropped in some schedule nuggets….

So there you have it. More than enough time to memorize the schedule in time for October.

I’d Like to Buy a Vowel: Pens Sign Kevin Czuczman

I saw the transaction as I was just finishing up listening to the New York Mets get smoked by the Washington Nationals on a lazy July 4 early afternoon.

Being it was a lazy National Holiday, there wasn’t an immediate press release from Pittsburgh or Wilkes-Barre until now, some week later.

Czuczman, a defender, was fifth overall on a bad Manitoba Moose team and led the blue liners in points with 32, a breakout season for the product of Lake Superior State University. I had him ranked #67 on my AHL Big Board.

Hit play on this next tweet for some highlights the Moose put together on him in May.

You may remember him playing for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers two seasons ago.

Oh, and you pronounce it “Churchman.” How do I know this? A deep rooted Twitter search back to February 2015….

His twitter feed made me chuckle too: @GoToCzucz

So now you know.

Schedule Tuesday; Two Signings

At 3 pm Monday, my Twitter feed filled up with AHL teams announcing their home opener date and opponent. In that announcement was mention that the full AHL schedule will be made available sometime Tuesday at 3 p.m.

Oh, October 7 the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins will open their 2017-18 campaign against the Charlotte Checkers. I’ve not seen where the Penguins are the visitors for any opponents home openers, for what it’s worth.

Two other noteworthy things happened since we last blogged.

Pittsburgh signed an undrafted kid by the name of Adam Johnson to a contract last week. Johnson attended the Penguins development camp and Mark Recchi called him one of the most impressive prospects at camp. He’s a University of Minnesota-Deluth product that was second on the team with 18 goals and tied for second with 37 points. IN 14-15 he was second in USHL scoring for Sioux City with 71 points.

The second signing occurred Monday morning. Remember Reid Gardiner? He is back, after starting the season last year with the Penguins, Gardiner went back to juniors and dominated again, putting up an average of 1.32 points per game. I said last year that he was a diamond in the rough type signing then, and by all accounts he can be the same again. He’s a natural born point producer.

Back Tuesday to breakdown the 2017-18 AHL schedule.

Penguins Call On Smith

Sort of an unexpected signing today and a big one made by the braintrust on Coal Street.

On Thursday, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins announced the signing of center Colin Smith to an AHL contract.

Smith is an automatic 40 point scorer in the American Hockey League and has scored 40 points in back to back seasons with San Antonio and Toronto in the AHL, an average of 42 points in his first four seasons.

Nathan Mallett saw Smith play the last two seasons and offered up this little piece of information on Smith, which he also offered up on the capsule on Smith when he helped out with my AHL Big Board….

…I had Smith ranked #44.

A big time signing made by the Penguins. And they may not be done.

2017 NHL Free Agency: Day 1

It was a pretty quiet first day of NHL Free Agency for the Pittsburgh Penguins. Before the market opened at noon, the Penguins announced that they re-signed Garrett Wilson to a two year deal.

Then fans on Coal Street waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

Then around 6 p.m., the floodgates opened.

All four guys I did not have ranked in my Top 100 on my AHL Big Board.

Chris Summers: Played on a bad Hartford team last year. Slowly rounding into form as a pro. I always liked what I saw from his play.

Jarred Tinordi: 102 PIMs with Tucson last year, second on the team.

Zach Trotman: Veteran of 67 NHL games, only played 9 games with AHL Ontario last season. You may remember him playing with the Providence Bruins.

Greg McKegg: 46 NHL games split between the Florida Panthers and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Had some success with the Portland Pirates and scored 22 goals with the Toronto Marlies in 2014-15. I always liked his play too.

In all, a nice crop of players picked up by the Pittsburgh Penguins, setting up the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins for success come the Fall.

But they weren’t done.

Biggest name in the group will end up being the steal of the day, Casey DeSmith. I had him number 10 on my board, knew he was going to play his way into an NHL contract, did not think for a second that the team to sign him would be the Penguins.

So now the Penguins have Tristan Jarry and Casey DeSmith ready to tend the nets on Coal Street again for another run, with a reloaded defensive corps dynamic forwards in Zach Aston-Reese and Daniel Sprong most likely starting in Wilkes-Barre with veterans like Tom Kostopoulos and Garrett Wilson. The signings today weren’t as explosive like in Buffalo for Rochester and Minnesota for Iowa, but they didn’t need to be because the Amerks and Wild were literal AHL doormats. The Penguins have been a good team for years and it helps that your parent team just won back to back Stanley Cups.

On DeSmith…

There are always moves made on Day 2. I don’t know for certain if there will be any more made from Pittsburgh for Wilkes-Barre, but if there is, I’ll have a blog about it here.

My AHL Big Board has now been pinned to the top of the site and will update for as long as it needs to be. Link here.

2017 AHL Top 100 Free Agents and Beyond – The Big Board

NOTE: Final update was made on Tuesday, July 18, 2017. No other updates will be made going forward.

Back for its third year on the blog is a concept thought up by the great Jonathan Bombulie and carried on by this blog with the help of many. It’s the 2017 AHL Free Agent Big Board. I have to think that Bombulie at the time saw board after board of NBA Free Agents, NFL Free Agents and NHL Free Agents and thought, “what the hell, let’s do one in the AHL.” The concept has been so well received by all parts of the AHL community that I had to make sure that the idea lived on after Jonathan moved to Pittsburgh to cover the Pittsburgh Penguins.

This project in and of itself doesn’t get done year after year without the contributions of many. They are, in no particular order, the following people.

Kyle Mace
Matt Trust
Chris Reynolds
Tracey Lake
Alan Saunders
Nathan Mallett

I personally would like to thank them all again for their insights and help on this massive project.

Information compiled on the names that follow was gathered from the following websites: The AHL, CapFriendly, HockeyDB and Elite Prospects.

Please feel free to reach out regarding corrections, errors or signings. NHL Free Agency begins Saturday, July 1 at noon.

Please hit the jump if you did not link in direct and please read, share and enjoy….

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Big Board Thursday – Other Stuff

All the teams AHL Free Agents have been identified and capsules for each have been created. A Top 100 has been selected with a best of the rest and we are all set to debut the 2017 AHL Free Agent Big Board on Thursday. Early leader in the clubhouse will be Thursday morning at 9 a.m., so check back here at that time to see the massive board of around 350 AHL Free Agents.

Three names came off the board Thursday which were actually Top 100 names. The Washington Capitals re-signed goaltender Pheonix Copley to a two year deal. Copley, if he doesn’t gun for a role in Washington come the fall, will be pegged as the Hershey Bears opening night starter. Copley single handed lay turned Hershey’s season around as the Bears charged out of the five seed in the ever competitive Atlantic Division all the way up to third.

Tampa Bay also re-signed Gabriel Dumont and Cory Conacher to deals Wednesday as well. There was scuttlebutt that Conacher was headed overseas because he didn’t want to toil around in the minors for another season. I didn’t have him high on the board because of this, only 90-something, but word came down today that he re-signed. I had Dumont higher, around the Top 50. 

Hopefully between now and tomorrow, no one else is signed. Check back tomorrow for the big reveal.