Chirps from Center Ice

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

2018 AHL Top 100 Free Agents and Beyond – The Big Board

Back for a fourth year is the yearly summertime project here on the blog where I carry on the tradition left by Jonathan Bombulie. It’s the AHL Big Board. A Top 100 list of the best available players to help your AHL team.

I’d like to that Nathan Mallett from Runnin’ With the Herd for his help on San Antonio’s players as well as Tucson and San Diego this year.

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

Please feel free to reach out regarding corrections, errors or if guys on this list have signed previously.

NHL Free Agency begins Sunday, July 1.

Please click the jump if you did not link in direct and read, share and enjoy!

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Big Board Wednesday – Other Stuff

My massive summertime project is completed. The 2018 AHL Top 100 Free Agents and Beyond Big Board will be released here on the blog Wednesday afternoon at 5 pm. As of now, there are a total of 288 names that are going to be included in the list Wednesday, barring anyone signing between Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday at 5.

It’ll get pinned to the top of the blog once my next blog piece comes out, so if if you visit once a week, just scroll down.

In other news, Coal Street announced a home opener and five other guaranteed dates as well as the logo the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins will use to commemorate their 20th AHL season played in Wilkes-Barre:

Full release here. I would be fine if they punted on Sunday afternoon home games entirely, I detest them.

Anyway, see you back here Wednesday evening after 5 for the AHL Big Board.

Qualifying Offers, Czuczman Re-Signed, Other News 6/25

Today was the deadline for NHL teams to send qualifying offers to Restricted Free Agents. The Pittsburgh Penguins sent qualifying offers to everyone familiar with Wilkes-Barre in the past few seasons, except for Frank Corrado.

Corrado was acquired from Toronto as a piece in the Eric Fehr and Steve Oleksy trade back in March 2017. He  never lived up to they hype that came with him in the Toronto media. He only appeared in a handful of NHL games for Pittsburgh, didn’t really do anything memorable in his time with the AHL club and was injured in the blowout loss in Rochester earlier this year and never returned.

Pittsburgh also did not qualify Tom Kuhnhackl and Vincent Dunn, which was a throw in piece in the Derrick Brassard trade earlier in the season.

Pittsburgh re-signed Kevin Czuczman for another season as well as Daniel Sprong and Dominik Simon. I expect Sprong and Simon to challenge each other for playing time in the NHL and will be surprised if either play another game in the AHL. For Czuczman, its a big signing in that he was a key piece here in Wilkes-Barre. He will of course be looking to break through and stay in Pittsburgh come the fall but if not, it will be nice to have him here in Wilkes-Barre. I had Czuczman as the top player available in the PIT / WBS organization for my AHL Big Board, coming later this week.

Pittsburgh also announced their roster for their development camp. Interesting in this roster group is that there is not a single player invited to that camp that played in Wilkes-Barre last season.

Troy Mann was fired as the coach of the Hershey Bears. A good coach that coached a team that played thin but tough last year as Hershey finished dead last in the Atlantic Division. Unacceptable if you are a fan of the Chocolate and White, but since you can’t fire the players, Mann was the one that got the ax at the end of the season. Well, he was hired today by the Belleville Senators, the AHL affiliate of the Ottawa Senators who also played at or near the bottom of the North Division. Mann will have his work cut out for him in 2018-19, but he is the right man for the job, no pun intended.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have to finish up the AHL Big Board. Look for it, barring any last minute hangups, Wednesday. I will have a blog post announcing a date and time as sort of an advisory.

2018 Draft Recap, The Old College Try

As with years prior, I use this piece as a recap of the recap of the NHL Draft and the haul that the Pittsburgh Penguins drafted. Here goes.

After no action at all in the first round Friday, all of the picks were made on Saturday. They were…

Pittsburgh then traded up to draft…

Then they waited to 129 and took…

And then in the sixth round…

They traded away their final pick to the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange for theirs in 2019.

Coal Street with a recap here of the picks and scouting reports on all. Also, if you have a subscription to The Athletic, you can find a recap and grade of Pittsburgh’s draft class here as well.

AHL Big Board will be out this week on the blog. I am aiming for a midweek debut because all I need are blurbs on any restricted free agents not qualified by Monday. Everything else is done but for ranking, but that is seamless because I have a top 30 and really just need 60 more which shouldn’t be that hard. I learned how to have a spreadsheet alphabetize for me two years ago so that’s a breeze.

The plan is to drop a blog post in here advising when the Big Board will be out to give ample time and build up the anticipation.

TK’s Back! (Sort Of)

When Tom Kostopoulos retired at the conclusion of the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins season at the hands of the Charlotte Checkers in a three game sweep in the Atlantic Division Semifinals, the question became, “what’s next?” regarding the Penguins captain and Wilkes-Barre legend.

The answer was discovered today.

The Pittsburgh Penguins announced Wednesday afternoon that Kostopoulous as well as Andy Chiodo have been hired in player development roles. Chiodo will serve as development coach for goaltenders.

Positive move for Coal Street. You keep a popular guy like Kostopoulos around and a likable fellow like Chiodo mentoring the next generation of goaltenders. Players genuinely wanted to win a Calder Cup for Kostopoulos in his final season.

Here is Tom on Tom with more…

NHL Draft is this weekend. I will probably run a recap of the Penguins draft picks if I get time Sunday.

AHL Big Board is coming along and will be out sometime next week. I will probably run a quick blog post advising of the time the big project drops to give people advance warning. So, stay tuned.

Penguins Find New Voice

The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins will have a new, yet familiar voice handling play by play duties in their 20th season in October 2018.

Coal Street announced Monday morning the logical and best man for the job, installing Nick Hart as the new play-by-play broadcaster/media relations director for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins.

In addition, Jason Spess was named manager of team services. Spess served as assistant general manager of the Toyota SportsPlex for the past two years and was an assistant coach with the Wheeling Nailers last season.

From the release…

“Mike did a tremendous job during his seven year tenure in Wilkes-Barre, not only behind the microphone, but behind the scenes handling the team services functions for the club,” said CEO Jeff Barrett.  “We are also happy to hand these new duties to Nick and Jason, who have worked tirelessly for the team over the past several years.”

O’Brien is leaving to pursue other opportunities in Boston, Massachusetts.

In other news…

Gage Quinney signed an NHL deal with his hometown Vegas Golden Knights. If he doesn’t stick in the NHL, he’ll skate in the AHL with the Chicago Wolves next season.

— Tom Sestito is moving on.

I do not necessarily think that Sestito is done playing hockey. We will have to wait and see where Tom ends up.

Finally, the 2018 AHL Free Agent Big Board is being constructed and again this year I am going to crowd source this. If you are interested in contributing, please contact me either on the blog or through Twitter, @nafsnep – many hands will do for clean and light work.

That’s all for now.

Updates 5/31

Getting closer to the start of summer, there have been a few things rolling around that don’t get a whole blog post dedicated to it, but have built up enough to warrant one now. In sum,

— Pittsburgh signed Juuso Riikola to an entry level contract. He’s a Finnish defenseman. Undrafted, steady handed puck mover was second on his Liiga team in points last year.

— The guys from the Pittsburgh faction of The Athletic had a feature piece on him that you can, as long as you are a subscriber, can check out here.

— Lukas Bengtsson made it official and signed in the SHL for next season. It’s a three year contract. Don’t be surprised if the Penguins simply protect his North American rights going forward, but his days are done on Coal Street.

— There is a new ECHL team in St. Johns, Newfoundland and they have a kick ass logo. They will be a Toronto affiliate.

— Etienne Marcoux, who was one of 167 goaltenders the Penguins used at the position last season, earned himself an AHL deal with the Laval Rocket.

— Wheeling has a new head coach. His name is Mark Dennehy. He has ties with Pittsburgh head coach Mike Sullivan. A great hire.

— The AHL extended Dave Andrews through 2020.

— Ex-Penguin Bobby Farnham re-signed with the Springfield Thunderbirds.

— Mama, it’s those men again. Another Athletic piece on Jordy Bellerive, who is a man against boys with Lethbridge in the Western Hockey League. He may make NHL team out fo camp in the fall, but if he doesn’t, he will need to go back to the Hurricanes because he’s too young to play in the AHL.

Hitting on the news, I don’t see Riikola coming over here to play 50+ games in the AHL personally, but if he wants to learn the North American game he may have to….Dennehy is a good hire because he did more with less at tiny Merrimack College which was a small fish in the big pond known as college hockey in the Northeast….There are a lot of things I don’t like about the AHL (teams playing 68 games, linesmen who are in over their heads on a nightly basis, a training ground for referees who are cast in a bigger spotlight who are sometimes in the same boat, the high price of AHL Live, etc.) but the one constant is Andrews and his vision has catapulted the AHL into the second best brand of hockey in North America and some would say the world. The League will be at 31 teams in 2018-19 with the inclusion of the Colorado Eagles and may get to 32 if NHL Seattle is granted a franchise, so what better man to keep running the ship than Andrews. It was said that he was close to retiring, but he was talked into staying around for a little while longer. The League will be better for it.

Toronto swept Lehigh Valley in four games and Texas dispatched pesky Rockford in six. These two will play for the Calder Cup starting Saturday in Toronto.

That’s pretty much it. When news builds up on me I’ll drop another post in, but for now enjoy the warm weather.