DONATELLI, FORREST TO LEAD TEAM USA AT HLINKA TOURNAMENT


Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins training camp is still more than a month away, but two members of the team’s coaching staff will be back behind a bench later this week.

For the second consecutive season, Clark Donatelli will guide the United States Under-18 Select Team at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup.  The eight-team tournament will be held in Breclav, Czech Republic and Bratislava, Slovakia, starting on August 7.

Among the assistants joining Donatelli with Team USA will be Wilkes-Barre/Scranton assistant coach, J.D. Forrest.

The tournament features the top players under the age of 18 from the major hockey playing countries.  The teams are split into two groups (Group A – Czech Republic, Sweden, Switzerland, USA; Group B – Canada, Finland, Russia, Slovakia), with each team playing once against the other countries within its group.

The top two teams in each group will advance to play in semifinal and medal rounds, while the lower ranked teams will face off to determine places five through eight.

Donatelli and Forrest were among the coaches and administrators who helped select the team of 22 skaters from a pool of players at USA Hockey’s Boys Select 17 Player Development Camp, held last month in Amherst, NY.

Last year Donatelli led the U.S. to a second-place finish in the competition, guiding the team to a 4-0 record before falling to the Czech Republic, 4-3, in the championship game.

We will have updates after every game online, and J.D. Forrest will be keeping us updated from overseas with blog posts and photos throughout the tournament.  We hope you’ll follow along with us.

The full U.S. team schedule for the 2017 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup:

 DATE  OPPONENT  TIME (E.T.)  ROUND  LOCATION
 Thursday, August 3  Hungary U-20  2:00 pm  Exhibition Game  Budapest, Hungary
 Saturday, August 5  Slovakia U-18  11:30 am  Exhibition Game  Bratislava, Slovakia
 Monday, August 7  Sweden  9:30 am  Preliminary Round  Breclav, Czech Republic
 Tuesday, August 8  Switzerland  9:30 am  Preliminary Round  Breclav, Czech Republic
 Wednesday, August 9  Czech Republic  1:00 pm  Preliminary Round  Breclav, Czech Republic
 Friday, August 11  TBD  TBD  TBD  TBD
 Saturday, August 12  TBD  TBD  TBD  TBD

Ivan Hlinka played in 256 games as a member of the Czechoslovakian national team and scored 132 goals in international competition. He also played in 544 games in Czechoslovak league, scoring 347 times.  Hlinka was among the first Czech-born players to suit up in the National Hockey League, joining the Vancouver Canucks in 1981.  He set a Canucks rookie record with 60 points (later broken by Pavel Bure).

In 2000, Hlinka took over the head coaching reigns of the Pittsburgh Penguins, guiding the team to a 42-28-9-3 mark, and a spot in the Eastern Conference Final.  He was killed in an automotive accident in the Czech Republic in August of 2004.

2017-18 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

SCOTT YOUNG NAMED PENGUINS DIRECTOR OF PLAYER DEVELOPMENT


The Pittsburgh Penguins have named Scott Young director of player development, Jarrod Skalde player development coach, and Brendan Sullivan goaltending development coach, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.

Young, 49, enjoyed a distinguished 16-plus year NHL career that included Stanley Cup championships with the Penguins in 1991 and the Colorado Avalanche in ’96. He also had a stellar international career with USA Hockey, all of which earned him enshrinement into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2017.

A native of Clinton, Massachusetts, Young most recently served on the hockey staff at his college alma mater, Boston University, since 2014. His tenure there began as the school’s director of hockey operations, before he moved behind the bench as an assistant coach for the last two seasons.

Young’s lengthy NHL career saw him skate for six franchises – the Hartford Whalers, Pittsburgh, Quebec/Colorado, Anaheim, St. Louis and Dallas – while amassing regular-season totals of 1,181 games, 342 goals, 415 assists and 757 points. His goal total ranks 10th all-time among American-born players. Young tacked on 87 points (44G-43A) in 141 career NHL playoff contests.

An eight-time 20-goal scorer and seven-time 50-point producer, Young enjoyed his best season with St. Louis in 2000-01, setting careers highs in goals (40) and points (73). In his final NHL season at age 38 in 2005-06, Young led the Blues in scoring with 49 points in his second tour of duty with the club.

The Whalers’ first-round (11th overall) draft pick in 1986, Young played two seasons of college hockey at Boston University, where he was named Hockey East Rookie of the Year as a freshman. During his time with the Terriers, Young was teammates with Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins bench boss Clark Donatelli.

At the international level, Young represented the United States in three Olympic Games (1988, 1992, 2002), three World Championships and three World Junior Championships. Young was also a member of the U.S. team that won the 1996 World Cup of Hockey. The Americans won silver in the ’02 Olympic Games.

As a player, Young skated for a handful of legendary coaches that included Bob Johnson, Herb Brooks, Jack Parker, Joel Quenneville and Marc Crawford.

Skalde, 46, joins the Pittsburgh organization after accumulating a wealth of professional experience as both a player and coach in professional hockey leagues all over the world.

The Niagara Falls, Ontario native enjoyed a 17-plus year professional playing career that included stops with eight NHL clubs over parts of nine seasons.

Skalde was originally a 1989 second-round (26th overall) draft pick of the New Jersey Devils. He broke into the professional ranks in the early ‘90s with the Devils and their American Hockey League affiliate in Utica, where he was teammates with Penguins assistant general manager Bill Guerin, who was chosen fifth overall by New Jersey in ’86.

Since hanging up his skates, Skalde has embarked on a nine-year coaching career that most recently saw him serve as head coach of the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League over the last two years. Skalde has also been a head coach in the American Hockey League (Norfolk Admirals, 2014-15), ECHL (Cincinnati Cyclones, 2010-13) and the International Hockey League (Bloomington PrairieThunder, 2008-10).

As Cincinnati’s head coach in the ECHL in 2013, Skalde won that circuit’s Coach of the Year award. His coaching career includes a stint as assistant coach of Canada’s entry into the 2016 Under-18 World Junior Championship, and one year as Norfolk’s assistant in 2013-14.

During his playing days, Skalde logged over 1,000 career professional regular-season and playoff games in North America, appearing in 622 AHL contests, 322 games in the now-defunct IHL, and 115 NHL appearances. In addition, he played in professional leagues in Sweden, Switzerland, Asia and Slovenia.

A captain of five different clubs, Skalde was a champion twice as a pro. He won the IHL’s Turner Cup with the Orlando Solar Bears in 2001 and won a championship in Slovenia with HK Jesenice in 2008.

As mentioned, Skalde broke into the NHL with New Jersey, followed by stints with Anaheim, Calgary, San Jose, Dallas, Chicago, Atlanta and Philadelphia. He notched 34 points (13G-21A) with those clubs. He also laced up the skates with nine different franchises in the AHL and seven in the IHL.

Before joining the Devils organization, Skalde played four seasons of junior hockey in the Ontario Hockey League, mostly with the Oshawa Generals, plus a late-season stint with the Belleville Bulls. Skalde and the Generals won both the OHL and Memorial Cup championships in 1990, when one of his teammates included Eric Lindros.

Sullivan, 29, has worked closely with newly-appointed Penguins goaltending coach Mike Buckley for the last eight years as a staff member at Buckley’s GDS Elite training school. Sullivan has also spent the last two years as a scout for the Sioux City Musketeers of the United States Hockey League.

Sullivan, who hails from Fall River, Massachusetts, played four years of college hockey at Lake Forest College, an NCAA Division III school, between 2009-13. He was a four-year starter between the pipes at Lake Forest, earning First-Team All-Conference honors and setting many school records.

Prior to jumping into the college ranks, Sullivan played one year with the Aurora Tigers of the Ontario Junior Hockey League in 2008-09, and he played high school hockey at Catholic Memorial High School, where he was one of the top players in the Boston region. While at Catholic Memorial High School, where he was named his team’s MVP after backstopping his club to a pair of championships, Sullivan began working as a student under Buckley’s tutelage.

2017-18 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

A YEAR IN THE LIFE : CASEY DESMITH


by Nick Hart

When Casey DeSmith wasn’t stopping pucks on the ice this past season, he often found himself dodging playful jokes from his teammates in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins locker room. It wasn’t an everyday occurrence, but all too frequently, someone would deliver DeSmith an insult regarding his car.

For a pro athlete, DeSmith drives modestly. He arrived at the rink every day in a gold 1998 Toyota Celica, a vehicle with a burnt-out taillight as well as the grit and character of a veteran fourth-liner.  Affectionately known as “The Golden Snitch” in some circles, it was the low hanging fruit, perfectly ripe for his teammates to pick.

DeSmith probably got it so hard from his teammates about his obsolescent automobile because there was little else they could tease him about, especially when it came to his play on the ice. One season after his sudden and shocking ascent from being a third-string goalie in the ECHL to the Penguins playoff starter, DeSmith picked up right where he left off for his first full AHL campaign.

Day in and day out, game after game, he was a dominant force between the pipes. That kind of consistency lent itself to one of the best rookie seasons a goalie has ever had in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins history. Not only did his gaudy statistics earn him a series of individual accolades, but his year culminated in the once undrafted DeSmith signing his first NHL contact on July 1.

“A personal goal that I set was just not necessarily to sign an NHL contract, but having a year to give me the possibility or opportunity to do that,” he said. “I’m glad that I was able to do that, and obviously it’s super exciting.”

An NHL contract wasn’t the only goal DeSmith set for himself at the start of the 2016-17 season, though. He came right into camp with the motivation to prove that his unpredictable playoff success the spring before was no fluke.

Anyone anticipating the New Hampshire native being a flash in the pan was proven wrong, not only when he started the season with an 8-0-2 record, but when he ultimately finished the season with an AHL-best 2.01 goals against average.

“That was important for me,” DeSmith said. “Obviously, the year before I didn’t have a ton of playing time or exposure or anything like that. So I definitely made the most of what I had. But this year, I knew I would have more of an opportunity to prove myself, and I wanted to take advantage of it.”

That’s exactly what he did. The coaching staff and his teammates, already familiar with his wizardry from the previous playoffs, grew to trust him even more. Just because the Penguins didn’t have their A-plus game on a given night, that didn’t mean their chances of victory were sunk. Just because Tristan Jarry wasn’t in net, it didn’t mean the Penguins would have a “back-up goalie mentality” when the other guy went in. Because the other guy was Casey DeSmith.

The rest of the league took notice of DeSmith, too.

Before the season’s end, he was named to the AHL’s 2016-17 All-Rookie Team. Once the season concluded, he and Tristan Jarry stood tall as statistically the best netminding tandem in the league, earning them the Harry “Hap” Holmes Award given annually to the goalie(s) with the fewest goals against at the end of the season.

With the playoffs gearing up at that stage of the year, DeSmith wasn’t really in the state of mind to appreciate the weight of the individual accolades he had received. However, when he returned home for the summer, he took the awards that were stashed in the back of the good ol’ Golden Snitch and handed them over to his mom and dad. It was in that moment that the reality of his accomplishments sunk in.

“I took them out and showed my parents, and you kind of realize how cool it is to get an award for All-Rookie Team or lowest goals against average as a tandem,” he said. “That’s not easy to do. [All-Rookie Team] is something only one goalie gets a year. One tandem as far as the Holmes award. It was handing those trophies to my parents and being like, ‘Man, this was a really good year.’”

DeSmith’s banner year didn’t end with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s season, though. On the first day of NHL free agency, the Pittsburgh Penguins inked him to a one-year, two-way contract.

“Excitement” is the emotion DeSmith cites most often when he thinks back to the day he put pen to paper, making the deal official. But he doesn’t dwell too much on what he’s already done. He’s already prepared to move forward and forge another unforgettable year like the one he just had.

“As a competitive athlete, it’s not enough,” he said. “You want to win the Stanley Cup. That’s the ultimate goal. So, it’s like a step in the right direction, rather than ‘Oh, I reached my goal. This is the top’. This doesn’t feel like the top of the mountain. This is another step in my climb to where I want to be.”

While DeSmith has his eyes on a greater prize as he continues to work to advance his career, certainly he had to celebrate the gigantic season and big contract signing in some fashion. And he did. After signing his first NHL contract, DeSmith went out and bought himself a new car.

Now, he’s the proud owner of a black Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Even though he’ll be traveling in style from now on, DeSmith isn’t so sure anyone will let him forget about his old ride anytime soon.

“You know, I might still hear about the gold car from time to time. But at least I won’t be driving to the rink in that anymore.”

2017-18 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

TIFFELS SHOWS HIS SKILL ON WORLD STAGE

You could say Freddie Tiffels has some history with the Penguins organization.  It is more than his sixth-round (167th overall) selection in the 2015 NHL Draft.  No, this is about a winner-take-all game on the international stage, but we’ll get to that later.

Tiffels signed a two-year, entry-level contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins on June 22, capping off a whirlwind Spring for the 22-year old from Cologne, Germany. 
His junior year at Western Michigan University was a memorable one.  After two down seasons, Tiffels was part of a resurgence that saw the Broncos thrive in a stacked NCHC that featured the last two teams standing in the NCAA tournament – Denver and Minnesota-Duluth – not to mention perennial powerhouse North Dakota.  Tiffels tied a career high with 21 points (9G-12A) in 37 games as Western Michigan spent 10 weeks in the top 10 and finished tenth in the final USCHO poll.  Though the Broncos fell to Air Force in the first round of the NCAA Championship, Tiffels would go on to make his mark in a not-so-small tournament a short time later. 
 
Though most North American hockey fans hone in on international play every four years at the Olympics, the World Championships takes place annually and is as big as it gets in international play.  Tiffels received an invitation to try out for Team Germany and was the only collegiate player to make the roster. Through training camp and exhibition games, he used his high-end speed to repeatedly catch the eye of Head Coach Marco Sturm.  The relatively-unknown Tiffels made a name for himself skating alongside players such Leon Draisaitl, Christian Ehroff and Dennis Seidenberg.
 
After Tiffels scored his first international goal in a loss against Russia, Sturm told DW, “”Freddie is giving us more than we had expected. He always goes all out.”
The German forward was hardly done and saved his biggest performance for the most important game of the group stage round robin.  And this is where the history comes into play.  Maybe not so much against the Penguins as a whole, but instead another prospect in their system. 
 
On May 16, in Tiffels’ hometown of Cologne, Team Germany took on a Latvia side that included Penguins forward Teddy Blueger.  The winner of this game moved on to the knockout stage. The loser was done for the tournament.  After a thrilling 65 minutes of regulation and overtime hockey could only net a 3-3 deadlock, the two teams headed to the shootout.  Five shooters skated out to center ice and all five failed to score on the opposing netminder. 
 
With the game on his stick, Tiffels raced into the slot and dragged the puck back to his forehand before unleashing a wrist shot through the five-hole of Latvian goalie Elvis Merzlinkins.
 
About the moment, Tiffels said, “I think I was a little bit lucky because Latvia missed three times and [Germany] only missed twice.  I could only be the hero.  If I don’t score, it just goes to another around.  So, I think there was not too much pressure, but when I scored it was probably the best moment of my life.”
 
After that goal, the celebration for Germany was on.  Not so for Blueger and Team Latvia.   The good times almost carried on for Germany, nearly shocking the world and hanging with Canada, but eventually falling 2-1.
 
Following the amazing World Championship run for Tiffels, the Penguins forward now turns his attention to the next phase of his career.  A participant in Pittsburgh’s development camp last month, Tiffels realizes his dreams of making the NHL include a first stop in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, but has been working this summer to get ready for the onset of his pro career.  With speed already a part of his game to go along with some good size (6-1, 201 lbs.), Tiffels is focused on the develop the cerebral element of the hockey skill set.
 
“I want to get better at everything, but I think I want to get smarter and making the right decisions on the ice.”
 
Though familiar with each other from past camps in Pittsburgh, Tiffels has yet to catch up with Blueger since that night at Lanxess Arena.  They will seem to have plenty of time to do so come Penguins training camp this fall.  Whether they reminisce or not, Tiffels will always have the fond memories of his entire World Championship experience. 
As one of the new guys on scene now with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Tiffels will to try to generate some more moments versus the rest of the AHL.

2017-18 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

A NEW DYNAMIC DUO ON DEFENSE


by Mike O’Brien

One.

That was the total number of defenseman taken by the Pittsburgh Penguins during the 2014 and 2015 NHL Entry Drafts.

The dearth of blueliners selected was the consequence of several factors: the Penguins had traded away a number of picks in trades which helped the Penguins win back-to-back Stanley Cups; following the formula of opting for the best player available when Pittsburgh was on the draft clock; and perhaps a slight organizational philosophical lean to help build up the forward prospect pipeline.

In recent drafts, the Penguins have since shifted their focus to the backline once again, with eight defensemen chosen over the last two drafts.

That one selection though – taken with pick number 203 in the seventh round of the 2014 draft – looks ready to make an impact on the Penguins starting this season.

Seeing him on the ice during the Pittsburgh’s recent development camp, Jeff Taylor seems the template of what Penguins defenseman have come to embody lately.  Taylor is not a towering figure (5-11, 185 lbs.) in the defensive zone, but he has good speed, awareness and passes the puck efficiently.

The 23-year old has a championship pedigree as well.  In his lone season in the USHL, he helped the Dubuque Fighting Saints claim the league’s Clark Cup.  The following year, as a freshman at Union College skating alongside future NHLer Shayne Gostisbehere, Taylor and the Dutchmen on to win the first NCAA Championship ever for the school.

Taylor was drafted that summer by the Penguins and his ability have had many speaking glowingly of the defenseman.

Penguins assistant general manager Billy Guerin told the Post-Gazette in December, “I remember his first development camp, everybody was like, ‘Oh, wow, look at this kid. He can move the puck, he can skate, he’s quick. He thinks the game well.’ He’s an undersized guy, but he has the ability to get himself out of trouble because he’s got great feet and he thinks the game well.”

Taylor officially signed his entry-level deal with Pittsburgh after completing his four-year college career this past March.  His first pro experience came via six regular season games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and, while it didn’t reach the lofty heights of his early success at Union, Taylor’s growth both on and off the ice over the short stint was evident.

“His improvement was impressive,” said Penguins assistant coach JD Forrest. “From game one to the last game he played with us, he got better every day.  I was surprised at how fast he picked up the game.  He’s a real smart player.”

Like most players coming out of the collegiate or junior ranks, Taylor will work on his power and strength to complement his already sound decision making with the puck.  Though he finished last season on a high note, Taylor’s experience in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was still an eye-opener.

“It was definitely huge for me to get my feet wet and understand how the pro game works,” said Taylor. “Just the preparation and the recovery, and all that stuff you don’t see that’s behind the scenes. That was big for me coming in.”

Taylor wasn’t the only defenseman to get a taste of AHL life late last year, though.

Dylan Zink, an undrafted free agent who skated four seasons at UMass-Lowell, signed an AHL contract with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and joined the team on an ATO in April.

After averaging 25 points through his previous two seasons, Zink broke out his senior year with 36 points (10G-26A) in 41 games, ranking fourth among NCAA defensemen.  He helped lead the Riverhawks to the Hockey East Championship, a berth in the National Championship and was named a Second Team All-American.

Offense has been a mainstay of Zink’s game for the majority of his college career.  He stands as the only defenseman in school history to record three consecutive seasons with double digit goals.   Penguins management was pleased to be able to sign the 24-year defenseman, and Zink also saw a match with the Pittsburgh organization, noting “the way they develop their players.  They’ve been using their minor league systems a lot up through the NHL.”

As he maps out a path in his mind for career success, Zink doesn’t have to look too far to find someone who has already blazed a trail that he might want to follow.  Penguins defenseman Chad Ruhwedel was also once a similarly-sized, undrafted free agent skating for UMass-Lowell, where he too earned a Hockey East title and was named an All-American. Turning pro after his junior year in 2012-13, Ruhwedel signed with the Buffalo Sabres and spent most of three seasons in the American Hockey League with the Rochester Americans.  Joining the Pittsburgh Penguins last off-season, Ruhwedel graduated full-time to the NHL in January, hoisted the Stanley Cup a few months later and re-signed with Pittsburgh on a one-way deal on June 22.

Zink would not mind following a comparable model.

“I think I kind of play pretty similar to him and just to see the success he’s had.  He’s spent some time in the minor leagues in the ‘A’, but he got his chance and he’s been rewarded with it.”

For now, Zink’s focus is on preparing for his first season as a pro.

“Right now, I’m just trying to become a better skater,” Zink said. “Working on that and just want to put on a lot of strength. I know the next level, it’s a long season so it can definitely take some wear and tear on your body so I’m really just trying to work on my skating and get as strong as I can.”

Come the start of the 2017-18 season, Taylor and Zink will officially begin their first seasons as pro hockey players.  That puts these two talented players at the forefront of the prospect group that could be next to man the backline for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

2017-18 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

FORMER PENS REUNITE AT GOAL IN ONE GOLF CLASSIC


December 28, 2005 is a date that Colby Armstrong will likely never forget.

It was immediately after recording a goal and two assists against the Hartford Wolf Pack that night that the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins forward received a promotion to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and he spent the next seven seasons as an NHL regular.

That night was also the last time the foursome of Armstrong, Dennis Bonvie, Chris Kelleher and Alain Nasreddine appeared together until this week.

That handful of former Penguins returned to NEPA to take part in the team’s inaugural Goal in One Golf Classic, presented by GWC Warranty.  Those skaters joined past and present Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coaches at a VIP reception on Sunday night, before hitting the links with more than 80 golfers on Monday afternoon.  The tournament, a benefit to raise funds for the Penguins GOALS Foundation and Blue Chip Farm Animal Rescue, was held at Blue Ridge Trail Golf Club in Mountaintop.

“Honestly, time flies, but it doesn’t seem like that long ago,” said Armstrong, who spent parts of four seasons with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.  “But the cool thing about it now is these guys are all involved in hockey, and I kind of get to do it from the other side now.”

Armstrong now serves as a post-game analyst on Pittsburgh Penguins television broadcasts, and Nasreddine is entering his third season as an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils.  Bonvie and Kelleher, who still make their homes in Luzerne County, are scouts with the Boston Bruins and Minnesota Wild.

“We’re all a little fatter, a little older,” quipped Armstrong. “But we’re still involved with the game and i think it’s pretty cool.”

The group had plenty of time to catch up with one another, as they teamed to shoot a 61 and take home the title in the team’s inaugural summer tournament.

“Every time we get together, it’s still those stories.  And I know you want to hear one or two but, they’re definitely stories we can’t really tell you,” laughed Nasreddine.

“It’s a good thing there was no social media back when we played,” replied Kelleher.

The group, which one social media user call the ‘Mount Rushmore of WBS Penguins’, also spent time reminiscing with former coaches during the two-day event, including Glenn Patrick, Michel Therrien, John Hynes and Mike Sullivan.

“It just shows too how Wilkes-Barre had an impact on a lot of people,” said Nasreddine.  “Everyone’s back.  Even Sully, who just won two Cups, and he’s here.  [It just shows] how important Wilkes-Barre was to us four and all of these people who showed up.”

2017-18 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

A YEAR IN THE LIFE : CARTER ROWNEY


BY ALYSSA HERTEL

The year is just slightly more than half way over, but it’s safe to say that nobody is having a better 2017 than Carter Rowney.

In the span of five months, Rowney appeared in his first NHL game, netted his first NHL goal, saw the birth of his first child, and lifted the Stanley Cup.

But Rowney is no overnight sensation.

An undrafted free agent out of the University of North Dakota, Rowney broke into the pro ranks on a professional tryout contract with the Abbotsford Heat following his 2012-13 senior season.    After splitting the next two seasons between the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Rowney finally found firm footing with the AHL Pens in 2015-16.

And how did he respond? Simply by leading the team in regular season scoring (56 points), finishing second on the club in goals (24), third in assists (32) en route to being named Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s MVP for the year.

That performance also put the Grand Prairie, Alb., native firmly in Pittsburgh’s picture, as the NHL club signed him to a two-year deal in March of that season.

Less than five months after signing his first NHL contract, Rowney married longtime girlfriend, Danielle, in August of 2016. He began the 2016-17 season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, but was promoted to Pittsburgh in late January.

He played his first NHL game on Jan. 31 against Nashville. At the time, that one game after grinding his way up from the ECHL as an undrafted free agent out of college seemed like the  fairy tale ending.

But Rowney’s remarkable story continued as he recorded his first NHL point on February 4, and netted his first goal a little over a month later on March 17.

With each game, Rowney continued to carve out a niche for himself. Despite not being a big goal-scorer, his reliable physical player and penalty killing prowess earned praise and, by the time the playoffs rolled around, he was a staple of the Penguins formidable attack.

“That’s something I take pride in,” said Rowney. “Find a role that I could be on the team, accept that role and try to do my best in that role.”

That he did, and his best performances came during the Eastern Conference Final against the Ottawa Senators, an exciting time both on and off the ice for Rowney.

Between Games One and Two in Pittsburgh, his first child, a son named Anders, was born. With the due date actually being later that week, when Rowney would’ve been playing Games Three and Four in Canada’s capital, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.

Following Anders’ arrival, Rowney played some of his best playoff hockey. In Game Four, his ice time was more than any forward, aside from captain Sidney Crosby, and even then he was only 21 seconds short. But it was Game Five where he really showcased what he was capable of. Rowney notched three assists and a plus-four rating, besting superstars like Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel to earn the number one star of the game.

After years of shuffling through minor league contracts to get his foot in the door of pro hockey, Rowney’s season of firsts culminated in hockey’s ultimate prize, with the Penguins standing triumphant, the Stanley Cup hoisted over their heads.

“Every time I would suit up in that Penguins uniform and get on the bench, I would just take a second and look in the crowd and realize where I was,” said Rowney, reflecting on his first NHL playoff experience. “It was just a fun time to play. And to cap it all off, to lift Lord Stanley, that was just unbelievable.”

In just half a season, Rowney became an inexpensive, but crucial part of the team. There’s even talk that he could be the perfect long-term replacement for Matt Cullen, should the wily veteran decide to retire. With his average of 15 minutes of ice time per game and his 21 draws at center being the most of the team behind the four regular centers, Rowney has certainly proved his worth. If the comparison bothers Cullen, he hasn’t shown it.

“It’s easy to get behind a kid like that who’s had to work for everything he’s earned,” said Cullen, following the Penguins shut out of the Senators in game five.

For now, at least, Carter Rowney can focus on his new, growing family as he’s had to delegate most daddy duties to his wife for nearly a month while helping the Penguins win their second Stanley Cup in as many years. He’ll spend the time off trying to figure out, much like everyone else, how the undrafted kid from the prairies now has his name etched alongside the greats.

2017-18 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

PITTSBURGH SIGNS CZUCZMAN TO ONE-YEAR CONTRACT

Defenseman Kevin Czuczman has appeared in 200 AHL games with he Bridgeport Sound Tigers and the Manitoba Moose (photo courtesy of Manitoba Moose).

The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed defenseman Kevin Czuczman to a one-year contract, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.

The contract is a two-way deal and it has an average annual value of $650,000 at the NHL level.

Czuczman (CHUHRCH-muhn), 26, broke into the NHL with the New York Islanders as an undrafted free agent following a three-year collegiate career at Lake Superior State. He jumped into the NHL immediately upon signing in 2013-14, collecting two assists in 13 games with the Islanders.

Last year, the Port Elgin, Ontario native spent the season with the Manitoba Moose of the American Hockey League, where he served as an alternate captain. Czuczman posted the best offensive numbers of his pro career, leading all Manitoba blueliners with 32 points (9G-23A) in 76 games.

A 6-foot-2, 206-pound defender, Czuczman played the majority of the ’14-15 and ’15-16 seasons with the Islanders’ AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. In three-plus professional seasons, Czuczman 54 points (14G-40A) in 200 career AHL regular-season games, plus AHL playoff appearances, split between Manitoba and Bridgeport.

As a junior in his final year at Lake Superior State in ’13-14, Czuczman was named to the All-WCHA Second Team after setting collegiate career highs in goals (10), assists (11) and points (21) in 36 games played. His 10 goals that year were tied for second-most among all NCAA defensemen. Czuczman was Lake Superior State’s “Most Valuable Defenseman” as a sophomore and its “Most Outstanding Freshman” in his debut campaign.

2017-18 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

PITTSBURGH INKS ADAM JOHNSON TO TWO-YEAR DEAL


The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed undrafted free agent forward Adam Johnson to a two-year, entry-level contract, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.

The deal will run through the 2018-19 campaign.

Johnson, 22, attended the Penguins’ prospect development camp at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry last week. He is coming off an impressive sophomore season at the University of Minnesota-Duluth where he scored 18 goals and tallied 37 points in 42 games. He finished second on the club in both goals and points.

A 6-foot, 174-pound product of Grand Rapids, Minnesota, Johnson clinched Minnesota-Duluth’s berth in the 2017 Frozen Four when he scored an overtime, power-play goal to defeat Boston University, 3-2. Johnson and the Bulldogs eventually fell to Denver, 3-2, in the NCAA championship game.

Johnson proved himself to be plenty versatile at Minnesota-Duluth, as he played all three forward positions in 2016-17 – center, left wing and right wing – before filling in on defense late in the season when the Bulldogs had a rash of injuries on the back end. He also manned the point on the power play.

Johnson was Minnesota-Duluth’s top-scoring freshman in ’15-16, racking up 18 points (6G-12A) over 39 games. He wrapped his two-year college career with 81 games played, 24 goals, 31 assists, 55 points, nine power-play goals and five game-winning markers.

Before advancing to the college ranks, Johnson skated for two-plus seasons in the United States Hockey League. He broke in with the Indiana Ice near the conclusion of the ’12-13 campaign, before spending his final two campaigns with the Sioux City Musketeers.

In his second and final year with Sioux City in ’14-15, Johnson produced 31 goals, 40 assists, 71 points and a plus-25 to earn First-Team All-USHL honors. That year, Johnson’s 71 points ranked second in the league, while his plus-25 and seven game-winning markers placed third overall.

2017-18 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

PITTSBURGH SIGNS FOUR TO TWO-WAY DEALS


The Pittsburgh Penguins added further depth to their organization on Saturday with the addition of four players, it was announced by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.

Signing contracts to join the Penguins were defensemen Chris Summers, Jarred Tinordi and Zach Trotman, and forward Greg McKegg.

All four contracts were two-way deals with values of $650,000 at the NHL level. Summers inked a two-year deal, McKegg, Tinordi and Trotman signed one-year deals.

As junior players, Tinordi and McKegg teamed with Olli Maatta to win a 2012 Ontario Hockey League title with the London Knights. Tinordi was the Knights’ captain that season.

Summers, 29, played the majority of the last two years with the Hartford Wolf Pack, the top minor-league affiliate of the New York Rangers. Summers was an alternate captain for the Wolf Pack in 2016-17, when he recorded 12 points (4G-8A) in 74 AHL regular-season contests.

A 6-foot-2, 207-pound Ann Arbor, Michigan native, Summers has skated in 70 career NHL games with the Arizona Coyotes and New York Rangers, tallying nine points (2G-7A). The Coyotes’ first-round (29th overall) draft pick in 2006, Summers has played 386 career AHL contests with San Antonio, Portland and Hartford, notching 59 points (13G-46A). He was a 2013 AHL All-Star while skating for Portland.

Summers spent four seasons of college hockey at the University of Michigan, where he was teammates with Carl Hagelin. Summers was the Wolverines’ captain as a senior, and an alternate captain as a junior. At the 2008 World Junior Championship, Summers was an alternate captain for Team USA, and he was voted one of the team’s ‘Top Three Players.’ He won a gold medal with Team USA at the 2006 Under-18 World Junior Championship.

McKegg, 25, split this past year between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers, tallying seven points (3G-4A) in 46 contests with those clubs. He also saw action in seven AHL games for the Springfield Thunderbirds, netting four points (2G-2A).

McKegg, who stands 6-foot, 191 pounds and hails from St. Thomas, Ontario, was originally chosen by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the third round (62nd overall) in 2010. He has nine points (5G-4A) in 65 career NHL games with Toronto, Florida and Tampa Bay.

At the AHL level, McKegg has skated in 244 career regular-season games with the Toronto Marlies, Portland and Springfield, totaling 135 points (62G-73A). As a junior player, McKegg was a two-year captain for the Erie Otters before his midseason trade to London in ’11-12.

Tinordi, 25, spent last season with the Tucson Roadrunners of the AHL, where he had 11 points (1G-10A) and 102 penalty minutes in 64 games. He was an alternate captain for Tucson.

Montreal’s first-round (22nd overall) selection in 2010, the 6-foot-6, 230-pound Tinordi has split 53 career NHL regular-season games between the Canadiens and Arizona Coyotes, picking up six assists. He has one helper in five career NHL playoff contests.

Tinordi was the captain of the United States’ Under-18 World Junior Championship team in 2010 that won gold, and an alternate captain for the U.S. entry at the 2012 World Junior Championship.

Tinordi, a Burnsville, Minnesota native, is the son of long-time NHL defenseman Mark Tinordi. The elder Tinordi competed against the Penguins in the 1991 Stanley Cup Final as a member of the Minnesota North Stars.

Trotman, 26, adds further size to the blue line as a 6-foot-3, 217-pound right-handed shooter. He spent the ’16-17 campaign with the Ontario Reign of the AHL, the top affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings. Trotman was limited to just nine games played because of an upper-body injury.

A native of Carmel, Indiana native, Trotman was originally a 2010 seventh-round (210th overall) draft pick of the Boston Bruins. He has 67 games of NHL experience, all with the Bruins, during which he has produced 12 points (3G-9A).

At the AHL level, Trotman has put up 58 points (13G-45A) in 159 career regular-season games with Ontario and the Providence Bruins. He has five points (1G-4A) in 17 AHL playoff games. Trotman skated for three seasons at Lake Superior State, where he was an alternate captain his final year.

2017-18 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information