BLUEGER PLANS ON LEAVING A LASTING IMPRESSION AT TRAINING CAMP


CRANBERRY, Pa. – Teddy Blueger might be a fortune teller. Or a medium. Or a witch! Actually, none of the above is the most likely answer, but he has shown that he’s pretty good at reading the tea leaves.

Five months ago, Teddy Blueger stood in front of the media in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins locker room and was asked questions about his previous season. He had set career highs in goals and points, proved to be the Penguins’ most reliable penalty killing forward and a stalwart at the faceoff dot. Eventually, the subject of his NHL-readiness came to the forefront, and one reporter mentioned that the Pittsburgh Penguins would have some roster spots up for grabs.

Blueger quickly remarked, “They always say that now.”

Sure enough, Pittsburgh went out and signed a handful of free agents, making it a crowded scene at the center position. Blueger’s prophetic words of caution came to fruition, as those once open positions on the roster seem closed for the time being.

With that in mind, the third-year pro is less concerned with how Penguins management decided to approach free agency this past summer, and is zeroed in on making a name for himself this September at training camp.

“I want to show them that I’m ready to move up to the next level,” Blueger said after his first practice of camp at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex. “I’m capable of competing here, and helping the team win.”

Due to the logjam of centermen in the Penguins organization at the moment, Blueger expressed a willingness to relocate to either wing if it helped his chances of leaving a lasting impression with Pittsburgh’s coaching staff.

“I’ll play wherever they tell me to play,” he said. “I feel good, comfortable at center, but I’d welcome a move to the wing, too. During a game, things happen so fast that guys are always moving and changing positions. So during a shift, I’ve found myself on the wing sometimes and it doesn’t faze me.”

We still don’t know if he’ll be in Southwestern or Northwestern Pennsylvania to start the season yet, but he’s left little doubt that he’ll certainly help whichever team he makes. Building off of his career offensive numbers from last season, Blueger aimed to improve his skating even more during this most recent offseason. Skating has been a point of emphasis for the Latvian native since he turned pro out of Minnesota State University, and because his perseverance paid dividends last year, it’s reasonable to think it could help his case again.

Of course, it’s hard to see the future and tell exactly what kind of results Blueger’s hard work will yield once the season gets going. But based on his confidence, paired with his proven ability from April to forecast the near future, it’s likely that Blueger will realize his NHL dream soon.

“It’s out of my control, really. I’m doing what I can do to make the team, and I think I’m NHL ready.”

2018-19 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

2018 PROSPECTS CHALLENGE PREVIEW


WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – The long, sweltering summer is almost over. Another hockey season is on the horizon, and just before the dawn of training camp comes the annual prospects tournament that the Pittsburgh Penguins like to participate in. Before the Bills Mafia starts jumping through flaming tables in the parking lot of New Era Field, Buffalo sports fans will converge on Harborcenter for the 2018 Prospects Challenge.

Like last season, this year’s Prospects Challenge will be played between the Buffalo Sabres, Boston Bruins, New Jersey Devils, and Pittsburgh. For the most part, the mini-tournament acts as a tune-up for young players going into their NHL club’s camp, but it has demonstrated in the past to be a showcase for things like the arrival of Jake Guentzel two years ago, or intimated the progress of Teddy Blueger prior to his huge season last year. The Penguins roster has a bit of a different look than that of the 2017 Prospects Challenge (no more Blueger, Daniel Sprong, Thomas Di Pauli, Ethan Prow or Zach Aston-Reese,) but there’s still plenty worth keeping an eye on this weekend.

The Penguins’ full roster can be seen here, headlined by Adam Johnson, Anthony Angello and Jordy Bellerive.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton fans are already well-versed in what Johnson brings to the table. He posted 11 goals and 20 assists for 31 points in his rookie AHL season last year, he’s fast, he’s shrewd, and he is expected to take a big step forward this upcoming season. Johnson went into the summer with plans to bulk up and add muscle to his slender frame to assist him in excelling in the grittier side of the pro game as well as introducing even more explosiveness to his fleet-footed stride. Buffalo’s 2018 Prospects Challenge provides an early look at what kind of progress Johnson made, plus he’ll have plenty of opportunity to make an impact as he’ll likely be allocated top-six ice time over the weekend.

Anthony Angello left a lasting impression with his two-goal outing in the Penguins’ final game of the Calder Cup Playoffs. Though it was far from the desired team result for the fans leaving Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, Angello’s performance rightfully stuck out in a lot of people’s minds. They’ll want more of the same from Angello this season in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and he can start his season off on the right foot this weekend. Look for the big power forward to impose himself physically on the forecheck and generate countless scoring chances at the net-front for the Penguins prospects.

Jordy Bellerive was the breakout star for the Penguins at last year’s Prospect Challenge, leading the team in points despite playing in a fourth-line role. The undrafted, 1999-born forward earned a contract from Pittsburgh thanks to his performance, but his career hit a bit of a speed bump earlier this summer. An accident at a campfire gathering resulted in Bellerive and several of his friends ending up in a hospital after sustaining severe burns. What was surely the most frightening moment of Bellerive’s life briefly brought his hockey future into question, but he has since healed and will take the ice for the Penguins in Buffalo once again. He’s still a year away from AHL eligibility, but he’ll be leaned on by Clark Donatelli to contribute on the forecheck, penalty kill and maybe chip in a few goals along the way, too.

Other players to keep an eye on for the Penguins are two more guys expected to be with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this season: Linus Ölund and Freddie Tiffels. Ölund joined the Penguins late in their most recent playoff appearance and had coaches excited based on what he showed in practice, but he never got in a game. He flashed similar instances of intrigue earlier this summer at development camp, and now this weekend serves as his black and gold game-action debut. Tiffels went back and forth between Wheeling and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last year. If the speedy German wants to graduate to more full-time duty in the AHL, he has an early chance to stamp an impression with his coaching staff this weekend.

The Penguins prospects’ order of operations this weekend is as follows…
Friday, Sept. 7 – Pittsburgh vs. Boston, 3:30 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 8 – Pittsburgh vs. New Jersey, 3:30 p.m.
Monday, Sept. 10 – Pittsburgh vs. Buffalo, 12:30 p.m.

 

OPPONENTS TO WATCH

BOSTON: Ryan Donato

After scoring more than 20 goals and eclipsing 40 points for the second year in a row for Harvard University, Ryan Donato left college and played 12 games in the NHL for the Boston Bruins at the end of last season. He also managed to find the back of the net five times in those 12 contests and racked up a goal and two assists for three points for quite an impressive NHL debut.

The son of long-time NHLer and Harvard head coach Ted Donato, Ryan is ready to embark on his first full professional season. Based on his offensive production in college as well as the show, he could prove to be a key piece if Boston can improve upon its 2017-18 and win a crowded Atlantic Division.


NEW JERSEY: Marian Studenič

Those in the New Jersey Devils organization are excited about their 2017 mid-draft grab because of his incredible sniping ability. Marian Studenič provided reliable depth scoring for the OHL Champion Hamilton Bulldogs, using his twisted wrister to pot 20 goals. He also tied for the team lead with two goals during the most-recent Memorial Cup tournament.

Studenič will have to round out his game a bit more to each full-time NHL duty some day, but in the interim, he’ll likely be handed a similar depth scoring role for the Binghamton Devils this season. Depending on how quickly he can adjust to the pro game, the Slovakian’s shooting talent will be a welcome addition to a Binghamton team that scored the fewest goals in the Eastern Conference last season (193). That adjustment process starts in Buffalo.


BUFFALO: Rasmus Dahlin, Casey Mittelstadt

The Buffalo Sabres are the hosts of the 2018 Prospects Challenge, so they were going to have big crowds at Harborcenter regardless of what the team looked like. Once they released their roster, they were almost guaranteed sellouts thanks to the names Dahlin and Mittelstadt.

Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin and Casey Mittelstadt are being heralded along with Jack Eichel as the future of the Sabres. Dahlin was this past year’s No. 1 overall pick, and they hype surrounding him has had the young man spoken in the same breath as fellow Swedes Nicklas Lidström and Erik Karlsson. Mittelstadt was the Sabres’ first round selection the year before, and the former Minnesota high school hockey prodigy made a name for himself as a dominant offensive force for the United States at the 2018 World Juniors.

Dahlin and Mittelstadt are both likely to go straight to the NHL this season, making this tournament an early taste of perhaps what’s to come in Buffalo as well as a unique opportunity for Penguins prospects to see how they stack up against players of Dahlin and Mittelstadt’s caliber.

LINDBERG JOINS PENGUINS (FOR REAL)

The way Tobias Lindberg became a Penguin was… unorthodox. Part of a trade last February that saw him dealt by Vegas to Pittsburgh, Lindberg was swept up in a 24-hour whirlwhind that ultimately kept him exactly where he already was.

When the dust settled, Lindberg remained with Vegas’ AHL affiliate on loan and played out the rest of the season with the Chicago Wolves.

“When the general manager (Jim Rutherford) called me, he said to me, ‘This is a very complicated trade, one that I’ve never seen before,’” Lindberg recalled of the day he was technically dealt to the Penguins. “I didn’t try to let it bother me. I didn’t want to think about it too much. I’m just going to go crazy. I said whatever you guys want me to do, I’ll do it.”

For the time, that meant staying with a different club’s AHL affiliate, but Rutherford has since made it clear that what they want Lindberg to do is be a part of the Penguins’ future.

Lindberg re-signed with Pittsburgh prior to development camp, suggesting that he’s in their plans as a prospect. He might be skating for the Steel City someday, but he’s likely to stop in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton first. The Swedish forward is totally game for a stint in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

“To me, it doesn’t matter where I play. I just want to play a lot,” Lindberg said. “You see [Pittsburgh] has a lot of young guys that come up from Wilkes-Barre. When I was playing in Toronto, we played Wilkes-Barre and saw they always had a good team. If Wilkes-Barre is where I play, I’ll be fortunate to play there. Hopefully, I take on a leading role and play a lot.”

That most recent trade is just another chapter in what has been an eventful career for Lindberg. He has been traded three different times, once from Ottawa to Toronto, then Toronto to Vegas, and most recently Vegas to Pittsburgh, he won a Memorial Cup before turning pro, and has six NHL games under his belt already, too. All of these experiences have made Lindberg much more mature than your average 22-year-old.

“I still look at myself as a young player, even though I’ve packed in a lot in a few years,” he said. “It’s been a lot of trades, a lot of new cities, a lot of new teammates, a lot of injuries. I feel like I’ve learned to be more calm and work on getting a little better every summer and every day, I’m going to play in the NHL some day.”

Even if his path to the show has been full of sharp turns and changes in direction, maybe he can fully realize that dream now that he’s officially a Penguin.

Season ticket packages for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s 20th season, including full season, 22-game, 12-game and Flexbook plans, are available by contacting the Penguins directly at (570) 208-7367.  For more info on season ticket packages, fill in the form below, and a Penguins representative will contact you directly.

2018-19 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

MILETIC BRINGS HARD WORK, SCORING TOUCH TO PENS

Sam Miletic scored a lot of goals the season before the Pittsburgh Penguins signed him as an undrafted free agent. Sam Miletic scored even more goals the season after the Pittsburgh Penguins signed him as an undrafted free agent.

His impressive offensive figures and all-around demeanor have Penguins brass extremely excited for what he can bring to the table.

“The biggest thing with Sam is his attention to detail,” said Penguins development coach Jarrod Skalde. “He already looks like a pro. He conducts himself like a pro. You can see how he pays attention on the ice to all the little things.”

In typical hockey fashion, Miletic credits his offense to playing with quality teammates in both London and Niagara, but don’t let his soft-spoken humbleness mislead you into thinking he’s shy on talent. His shot explodes off his stick and packs a mighty punch. He’s also shown a willingness to drive to the front of the net with or without the puck.

As his skills developed and his scoring touch blossomed as an undrafted free agent in the Ontario Hockey League, Miletic became a prospect that Pittsburgh couldn’t ignore any more.

“We were so impressed with him last year, that’s why we signed him to the entry-level deal,” Skalde added. “We’re really excited to have him. He seems like a guy that’s already pro-ready.”

Miletic happily accepts any compliments that Skalde, reporters or fans will give him, but he’s always quick to try and deflect accolades to his teammates. That being said, he has no interest in taking a back seat to anyone at this year’s training camp. He’s determined to make coaches and anyone else notice him, one way or another.

“[Pittsburgh] seems to appreciate guys that work hard,” Miletic. “So I’m going to come into the season with that mindset, just like last year, and control what I can control.”

Season ticket packages for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s 20th season, including full season, 22-game, 12-game and Flexbook plans, are available by contacting the Penguins directly at (570) 208-7367.  For more info on season ticket packages, fill in the form below, and a Penguins representative will contact you directly.

2018-19 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

KOSTOPOULOS’ INFLUENCE BEING FELT BY D’ORIO, ALMARI

Tom Kostopoulos’ playing career might be over, but his legacy among teammates is going to live on for a long, long time. The long-time Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins captain has had his praises sung by more than a handful of Pittsburgh’s back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions in 2016 and 2017, and his name has been brought up by the prospects at development camp this week, as well.

Both Alex D’Orio and Niclas Almari mentioned Kostopoulos as a huge influence unprompted at different times during their media availability at the UMPC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry, Pennsylvania. It’s natural to understand why players that ascended from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to eventually getting their names inscribed on Lord Stanley would speak highly of Kostopoulos’ contributions to their development.

But what makes D’Orio and Almari’s comments stand out is the fact that neither of them was a teammate of Kostopoulos’ for more than a month. D’Orio and Almari joined Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on amateur tryout agreements late in the 2017-18 campaign (D’Orio didn’t even get in a game,) but they both felt compelled to share their stories of the captain’s impact on the start of their professional careers.

“Off the ice, I learned so much with Tom Kostopoulos,” D’Orio said. “How to be a pro, on and off the ice. He played what, 20 years pro? I just looked at him and how he acted, and I tried to lean and be just like him.”

In a different locker room at the opposite side of the hall at the UPMC  Lemieux Sports Complex, Almari echoed D’Orio’s thoughts. Almari also used the phrase “how to be a pro” before running down a laundry list of lessons Kostopoulos taught him during their brief time together.

“Things like how to prepare before games, what to do after games, how to eat, all those small things,” Almari said. “It’s big for young guys to learn.”

“They’re just saying that because I bought them dinner,” Kostopoulos said with a big smile before continuing, “They’re good kids. I’ve said it before, this organization prides itself on bringing in good people. That’s who they keep around. That makes it fun to work with kids like that, and if they appreciate it, it makes you feel really good about yourself.”

2018-19 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

D’ORIO FACED SHOTS, CHALLENGES LAST SEASON

Alex D’Orio experienced a baptism by fire this past season with the Saint John Sea Dogs. The reigning Québec Major Junior Hockey League champions had their talent pool pillaged by pro graduation and trades. D’Orio no longer had the security blankets of Thomas Chabot, Jakub Zbořil and Simon Bourque playing in front of him, so he faced a ton of shots on a nightly basis.

Imagine what you think qualifies as “a lot of shots”, and then add even more shots on top of that.

“I had sixty saves in sixty minutes,” D’Orio said, recalling a grueling contest on March 4 against the eventual Memorial Cup winners, Acadie-Bathurst Titan. “That’s a game I’m going to remember for a lifetime.”

That’s not cherry-picking one game where the floodgates opened in front of D’Orio, either. There were 15 different instances this season in which Saint John surrendered 40 or more shots while D’Orio was between the pipes. The then-18-year-old goaltender led the QMJHL in shots faced with 1651 (an average of 37.5 per game), and his 1478 saves topped league goaltenders, as well (33.6 per game). However, his save percentage finished below .900 and he only won nine games.

Despite the dramatic drop in his statistics from his draft year to last season, both D’Orio and the Penguins are taking his heavy workload as a blessing in disguise, perhaps even fast-tracking his development.

“It’s part of the junior process being part of a rebuilding team,” D’Orio said. “I received a lot of shots. I learned a lot this year. This year, I learned how to be a starter and how to receive shots… [I learned to] never stop competing. That’s a big thing.”

Goaltending Development Coach Andy Chiodo knows a thing or two about being peppered with shots from his time a professional netminder for 14 seasons. He knows the value of a young goalie getting the kind of experience D’Orio had in Saint John this past year.

“It’s all about how you react to that,” Chiodo said. “If you take it in a way where you improve your game, try to get better, make sure you can handle that workload night in and night out, and whether you get scored on or lose the game, your mindset stays where you’re trying to help your team get better and not get frustrated. Then it can serve you well. If you get frustrated, it wears on you and you start internalizing the losses.

“[D’Orio] has to handle that the right way. For the most part, it sounds like he did.”

2018-19 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

OLUND LOOKING TO MAKE THE JUMP FROM SWEDEN TO NORTH AMERICA


It may only be June, but Linus Ölund could be sending a message for what’s to come next season.

Ölund was one of the stand-outs during the first ice session at the Pittsburgh Penguins 2018 Development Camp at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry, Pennsylvania. Ölund tormented the Group A goalies by picking the top corner time and time again in every single drill the Penguins prospects partook in on Wednesday. His release was hard and heavy in addition to its accuracy, and he flashed some skill in puckhandling drills, as well.

The Swedish forward certainly passed the eye test in practice, but things might not come as easy once he has to make a big adjustment in-season. Ölund has spent his whole life playing on the expanded ice surface in European rinks. Expected to start the 2018-19 campaign with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, this season will be his first stab at trying to make his game translate to the smaller North American ice surface.

“I don’t think it’s going to be too hard,” Ölund said with some bravado in his tone. “Of course it’s going to take a few games to get to know the ice, but I’m going to use my head a lot when I play.”

Perhaps Ölund’s confidence carried over from his homeland’s surprising showing at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Before Ölund took the ice in Cranberry, he and his fellow countrymen at development camp watched Sweden dispatch of Mexico, 3-0, and win their group to advance to the knockout stage for the first time since 2006.

Understandably, the 21-year-old was a little excited by the result.

“We were jumping up and down,” he said. “I wouldn’t think they would go out and get this kind of results, but they kicked out Italy in (qualification) playoffs. Yeah, I’m really happy.”

Sweden’s performance has been fun viewing for fans of all countries, but if Ölund can adjust to North American hockey and play as impressively as he did at the first day of development camp, he should be a joy to watch this season, too.

2018-19 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

HOME AND ROAD JERSEY VOTE ON FACEBOOK

Fans, you helped us figure out the top Military Jersey in Penguins history recently (congrats to the 2011 sweater pictured to the right).  Now we’re looking for your help in selecting the best home or road sweater we’ve worn throughout the years.

There have been 10 different jerseys that have been considered ‘primary’ uniforms for the team over the years.  This is your chance to let us know which one is your favorite.

Preliminary round voting featuring four sweaters (1999 black vs 2007 white; 2007 black vs 2013 white) will get underway on Thursday, June 28 at 10am, and run for 24 hours.  Then, on Friday, June 29 at 10:00am, quarterfinals voting featuring the preliminary round winners, as well as the remaining six jerseys, will get underway.

We’ll take the weekend off, and return to action on Monday, July 2 with final four voting, and the overall winner will be decided in a head-to-head matchup culminating on July 3.

To participate, just head on over to our Facebook page, beginning at 10am on Thursday, Friday, Monday and Tuesday. Cast your vote in each of the daily polls (remember – there will be multiple polls on three of those days, so vote in them all) and check back to see who advances the next morning.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins 20th season home opener is set for Saturday, October 6 at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza.  The team’s full schedule will be announced in the near future.

Season tickets, including full season, 22-game, 12-game and flex packages, are on sale now, and available by calling the Penguins at 570-208-7367.  For more information, fill in and submit the form at the bottom of this page.

2018-19 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Season Ticket Information

THE NEW PENGUINS – 2018 NHL DRAFT RECAP


The 2018 NHL Entry Draft took place this weekend in Dallas, Texas. The Pittsburgh Penguins entered the draft without a first round pick, but based on the talent in this year’s prospect pool, team scouts and pundits agreed there would be plenty of promising young players available for the Penguins.

Below are Pittsburgh’s 2018 selections listed in sequential order. Every player has a quick profile and scouting report included in this draft recap so that you can get to know a little more about the newest members of the organization before they likely end up taking the ice for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in the future!

 

53rd – CALEN ADDISON: Defenseman, Lethbridge Hurricanes…

With Pittsburgh’s first selection in this year’s draft, they get an elite skater that fell right into its lap in Calen Addison. He has the ability to change directions on a dime, and he covers so much ground in any direction in an instant. Owns some offensive upside too thanks to his shooting ability. Addison has a quick wrister from the blue line that always gets past the first level. Always. This young man is an ace on the power play, as well. He’s a little undersized, but he competes enough to make up several inches in wall battles. However, doesn’t expect him to throw his weight around. Like a lot of young defensemen, his awareness on the defensive side of the game wanes, but he has time to remedy that before he’ll be called upon in Pittsburgh. They likely fell in love with him while keeping tabs on Jordy Bellerive, a Hurricanes teammate that the Penguins added to their prospect pool last year.

 

58th – FILIP HÅLLANDER: Right Wing, Timrå IK…

Pittsburgh traded up to take this player, and you could hear a tinge of excitement in director of scouting Patrik Allvin’s voice when he announced the selection of his fellow Swede. This is an energetic forward who can play wing or center. Filip Hållander relishes the forecheck and crashes the net. Acts as a fearless net-front presence. The Penguins have grown rather fond of Swedish players that play that style over the past few years, haven’t they? (Think Hörnqvist, Hagelin.) He’s a shifty skater skating and owns the puck abilities to possibly become more than a grind-it-out type player. His stride could use some refinement, it can look clunky at times, but he gets long extension from his powerful legs to generate deceptive speed. He shines in the east-west game, too, because of his skills and great edgework. Hållander shouldn’t be relied on to be a particularly creative playmaker, but he won’t make brainless mistakes either. No players were exchanged in the trade with Colorado to move up and take Hållander, by the way. It was only a pick swap.

 

129th – JUSTIN ALMEIDA: Centerman, Moose Jaw Warriors…

Quite some time passed between Pittsburgh’s second and third selections here, but the Penguins hope it was worth the wait as they grab the speedy and skilled Justin Almeida. Pittsburgh continues its trend of drafting over-age players, as Almeida was passed over in last year’s draft. A big reason why he wasn’t selected was his size. He’s thin as a rail and measures five-foot-nine, but his offensive output this season was too tantalizing to pass up. A great way for smaller players to make up for their diminutive size is by being a good skater, and Almeida can skate like the wind. He’s capable of making plays while operating at top speed, and his head can keep up with his feet. The 1999-born centerman possesses good puckhandling ability, but will grab your attention with a devastating shot. That pro-level release is a big reason why he jumped from 11 goals last season to 43 this year.

 

177th – LIAM GORMAN: Centerman, St. Sebastian’s School…

This is a strong young man that plays a gritty game. Every time you watch Liam Gorman, you’re going to see him driving to the front of the net. He scores a lot of his goals in that area around the crease, too. He has explosiveness to his stride, but needs to work on his overall speed. When he’s on top of his game, he excels at digging in the corners, gaining body leverage on opponents and winning possession for his team in the trenches. Gorman will go the collegiate route and is committed to attend Boston University, which surely will endear him to former Terriers Mike Sullivan and Clark Donatelli.

KOSTOPOULOS, CHIODO EXPRESS EXCITEMENT FOR NEW ROLES, WBS MEMORIES

 

Tom Kostopoulos and Andy Chiodo both spent the start of their careers basking in the adoration of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins fans. Both players quickly earned the favor of the team’s supporters and became fan favorites, but it was the 2004 Calder Cup Playoffs that the two cemented their legacies with the team.

As Kostopoulos and Chiodo were winning over Penguins fans with their play on the ice, that was around the same time that the fans carved out a special place in the players’ hearts, too. Chiodo says he can still hear the earth-shaking cheers of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton faithful ringing in his head.

“Those are the kind of memories that you just can’t forget,” Chiodo said. “It’s hard to describe. The fans were so engaged. They were so loud, and the energy that we got to experience from the crowd pushed us through those playoffs.”

Their careers eventually veered in different directions following that run to the 2004 Calder Cup Final, but Kostopoulos and Chiodo are back together again on the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey operations staff. On Wednesday, the long-time Penguins captain, Kostopoulos, was hired by Pittsburgh as Player Development Coach, and Chiodo was named Goaltending Development Coach.

“I think this development role will be good for me,” Kostopoulos said. “I’m learning a lot about it already, plus I’m really excited that [Chiodo] is coming in at the same time as me. Being able to work with him after playing with him and being good friends with him for a long time, I think it will be good for us.”

In a way, Kostopoulos was an extension of the Penguins’ development staff for years. Wearing the “C” in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton while playing on an American Hockey League contract, Kostopoulos and Pittsburgh had a mutual understanding that even though the veteran still wanted to score as many goals and win as many games as he could while his playing career was still active, he was to mentor the younger players and help prepare them for the next step in their careers. By all accounts, Kostopoulos thrived in that role as a leader (and his offensive production rarely waned during that time, too.) Current Pittsburgh stand-outs such as Jake Guentzel, Matt Murray, Conor Sheary in addition to likely future studs like Dominik Simon and Teddy Blueger all have been vocal advocates of Kostopoulos.

Given his success with helping talented players reach the National Hockey League as a locker room leader, it’s easy to understand why everyone in Pittsburgh felt that Kostopoulos would be a perfect fit as a development coach. The man himself agrees with that assessment, too.

“My role kind of evolved to where I was trying to do everything I could to help those younger players while at the same time competing,” Kostopoulos said. “Pittsburgh has drafted really good players, but to say something like I had even a small role in helping them get to the NHL means a lot. Now, I pick up off that, I get to be on the other side of it.”

Chiodo’s playing career didn’t last quite as long as Kostopoulos’ epic 19 seasons, but he had already carved himself out a niche as a broadcaster in Toronto before stepping into a coach’s role last year. After one season with the Ontario Hockey League’s Ottawa 67’s, Chiodo departed to rejoin the organization that gave him his start in pro hockey. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton fan darling plans on using his experience as goaltending coach with the 67’s in his new role with the black and gold.

“Every time I was in Ottawa, I felt like I learned something,” Chiodo said. “I had a great staff in Ottawa. Whether it was during individual meetings, the way they handled their video, the way they prepared for games, the way we all responded after games, I was absorbing it all. I think it was an ongoing process that I really enjoyed and I am grateful for.”

Kostopoulos and Chiodo’s jobs will take them across the continent, following draft picks and other prospects in the professional, collegiate and junior hockey ranks. Part of the appeal of the position is that you’re not quite as fully inundated in as season as one would be as a player. This made it attractive to Kostopoulos, who has made it perfectly clear that he wants to spend time with his family in retirement.

Furthermore, Kostopoulos, Chiodo, and Pittsburgh’s other development coach, Jarrod Skalde, are all based out the greater Toronto area. They won’t have to go far to congregate and discuss Penguins prospects and their progress, and Kostopoulos can still be close to home for his kid’s soccer game or a family movie night.

“Once my kids are finished with school in Dallas, (Pennsylvania,) we’ll be settling back in Ontario,” Kostopoulos said. “I think it’s a hub to travel and see Penguins prospects, but also get my kids back around their grandparents. It’s an exciting position for my whole family, and I’m looking forward to it.”

Of course, the job also requires frequent visits to Pittsburgh, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Wheeling. Kostopoulos and Chiodo will mostly be confined to the press box and coaches’ offices, but if you happen to cross paths with one of them in the halls of Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, feel free to say hello. Even though they’re hockey ops now, they still feel the connection made as players with Penguins fans.

“I have such fond memories of the fans, the organization and that time period in my career,” Chiodo said. “The time that I had in Wilkes-Barre is something that I really remember in a fond way, and I’m excited to go back.”