Casey DeSmith wasn’t expecting to be named to the American Hockey League’s All-Rookie Team on Wednesday morning.
That’s because he didn’t even know the honor existed.
But the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins goaltender was more than happy to accept the recognition when he was told about his inclusion prior to yesterday’s practice at the Toyota Sportsplex.
“It was exciting. Obviously I had no idea going into [Wednesday],” DeSmith said. “And then Clarkie announced it on the ice in front of the whole team, and everybody was pretty excited for me.”
It’s hard to argue against DeSmith’s spot on the team, which also includeds current Pittsburgh Penguins forward Jake Guetnzel. As of April 6, DeSmith led all rookies and ranked fourth overall with a 2.14 goals against average, and had posted 19 wins in 25 appearances. He and teammate Tristan Jarry have helped the Penguins to the league’s lowest goals against total as the season enters its final two weeks.
DeSmith got his first taste of pro hockey least year with the Wheeling Nailers, but found it difficult to crack the lineup in the team’s three-goalie rotation. He saw some midseason action with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, winning his first AHL start on January 3 against the Hartford Wolf Pack. But still found himself the odd man out when he was returned to the Nailers.
Through a series of injuries in Pittsburgh and circumstances in Wilkes-Barre, DeSmith was signed to a PTO in late April and wrestled the number one goalie spot away as the Pens headed to the playoffs.
DeSmith backstopped the Pens to three straight overtime wins against the Providence Bruins, including a 59-save, double OT victory in the series deciding third game, and followed that up with a 33-save shutout win against the Hershey Bears in Game One of the Division Final. He appeared in nine of the Penguins’ 10 postseason contests, going 5-4 with a 2.44 goals against average.
That performance helped earned DeSmith an AHL contract for the 2016-17 season, where he’s continued to shine in his first full season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
“I guess going into this year I didn’t feel quite as much as a rookie as other people did maybe, just because I did have that time in the playoffs last year, getting thrown into the fire there. Really it helped me feel even more part of the team,” he said.