SIMON CLOSER TO NHL WITH WELL-ROUNDED SECOND SEASON


In addition to thrilling fans from coast-to-coast with the great game of hockey, the American Hockey League does not keep its other main objective a secret: development.

The Penguins organization knows that side of things well, having seen countless players cut their chops in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton before becoming impact players in the Steel City. In fact, Pittsburgh’s two most recent playoff runs have been littered with significant contributions from players who started the year in the AHL.

Dominik Simon was an incredibly impressive talent in his rookie year during the 2015-16 season, but he spent a majority of this past season making gigantic improvements in his overall game. By showing greater attention to detail in the defensive zone, pick-pocketing backchecks and becoming a handful along the walls, Simon is a lot closer to becoming another Wilkes-Barre/Scranton success story making waves in the NHL.

The beginning of the 2016-17 season wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for Simon, though. The same confidence he has now wasn’t showing through because of a lack of offensive production. In his first year in North America, he was leaned on heavily to produce and led Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with 25 goals. Now, he was visibly rounding out his game and becoming a more complete player, but as someone who prides himself on his scoring ability, it was a rough go for Simon.

“For half of the season, I felt bad,” he said. “I was frustrated, because it wasn’t rewarding for how I was working. I worked hard from the very beginning, but it didn’t go in at the start. But in the second half of the season, it was better. Goals started going in and other points, too.”

That’s when the Penguins coaching staff steps in. Finding ways to keep Simon’s confidence from completely deteriorating was an on-going topic of conversation for Chris Taylor and head coach Clark Donatelli during the first three months of the season. They wanted to reaffirm that everything that he was doing in all three zones was a marked improvement from his rookie season, although it was hard to measure as such.

“Dom played exceptionally hard this year, but he just didn’t get rewarded in the boxscores enough for his play,” Donatelli said. “He learned to play a little bit of defense this year and how to win his puck battles. Those 50/50 battles, he was coming off the walls with the puck a lot. Skating through the neutral zone with speed with and without the puck, all of it.”

“He made a big step, even though it might not have shown in the scoring department.”

The rewards hardly stopped for Simon once the second half of the season arrived. He found chemistry skating on a line with Teddy Blueger and Jean-Sébastien Dea that unlocked his scoring potential while maintaining that sharpness in the rest of his game. From the start of January to the end of the playoffs, Simon produced 34 points (11G-13A), 69.4 percent of his total offense.

Of course, a lot of those pucks go in because of Simon’s skill with the puck on his stick, but he and the coaching staff both believe that the avalanche of offense arrived in the second half because he continued to focus on the little details.

Simon’s sophomore season in North America was a big one for him, personally. While the numbers weren’t as daunting as his rookie year, he’s no longer a one-trick pony. There are several ways he can impact a game in a positive fashion now, and they all don’t show up on the scoresheet.

“I’m happy I could improve on a lot of other stuff, hockey-wise, that aren’t scoring,” Simon said. “It’s a good feeling to have to know you’ve improved.”

As far as his quest to the NHL is concerned, he and his mentors are very confident that he’s closer to the show today than he was at this time a year ago.

“Without a doubt,” Donatelli said. “It’s day and night.”


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WBS GRADS HAVING IMPACTS ON PITTSBURGH POSTSEASON

The Pittsburgh Penguins continue their quest for back-to-back Stanley Cups this Saturday night, when they host the Ottawa Senators in Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals.  And like last year, the Pens progress has been led by players with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton pedigrees.

Lets start at the top – as in the top goal scorer.  Jake Guentzel, who began the season in NEPA, has rattled off an NHL-best nine goals in his first 12 playoff games.  Included in his performance was a postseason hat trick in Game Three against the Columbus Blue Jackets and a total of three game-winning goals.  One of those was the OT winner to cap the hat trick agains Columbus.

Guentzel has posted 14 points so far, which is good for fourth in NHL.  His most recent point –  an assist on Bryan Rust’s goal in Game Seven against the Washington Capitals – broke Pittsburgh’s record for rookie scoring in a postseason.  That mark was formerly held by Jaromir Jagr, who needed 24 games to hit that mark in 1991.

Speaking of Rust, he continues to show clutch play in the biggest games.  Rust recorded both goals in a 2-1, Game Seven win against the Tampa Bay Lightning last season to get the Pens to the Stanley Cup Finals, and followed that up by notching the series clinching against the Caps earlier this week.

Rust has five goals in 12 games this postseason, including a pair of game-winners. Three of his 11 career playoff goals have been GWGs.

On the other end of the rink, Marc-Andre Fleury has been the saving grace, posting an 8-4 record with a 2.55 goals against average and .927 save percentage.  He turned aside 29 shots in the finale against Washington, giving him nine shutouts in his Pittsburgh playoff career.

The two-time Stanley Cup winner is Pittsburgh’s all-time playoff leader among goalies in games (112), starts (110) and wins (61).

Six other skaters who saw regular play with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton have also suited up in the 2017 playoffs for Pittsburgh, including Conor Shear (11gp, 0-3-3), Tom Kuhnhackl (11gm, 1-1-2), Scott Wilson (8gp, 1-1-2), Brian Dumoulin (12gp, 0-2-2), Carter Rowney (7gp, 0-0-0) and Chad Ruhwedel (2gp, 0-0-0).  Both Rowney and Ruhwedel spent time in NEPA this season, and made their Stanley Cup Playoff debuts this year.

Pittsburgh and Ottawa will face off at PPG Arena on Saturday at 7:00pm and Monday at 8:00pm.  The series moves to Ottawa for Games Three (Wednesday) and Four (Friday).  Both of those contests are scheduled for 8:00pm starts.


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STERN EMERGES AS QUALITY D-MAN DURING FIRST AHL SEASON


Fans of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have grown accustomed to seeing undrafted, unheralded players work their ways up from the ECHL and solidify themselves in the American Hockey League. Barry Goers falls into that category, as does Sahir Gill. Carter Rowney is perhaps the most notable example of these type of players, not only becoming a team MVP in the AHL, but now holding  a roster spot in the NHL.

Now, Brett Stern is trying to add his name to that list.

After spending the first season and a half of his pro career with the Wheeling Nailers, Stern played 17 regular season contests and one playoff game with the Penguins. All of those games came while on a professional tryout agreement.

Despite playing without an AHL contract, Stern left a big impression on Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s coaching staff.

“Stern played terrific,” said head coach Clark Donatelli. “When he came in, too, his first few games were all division games. Hershey, Lehigh, he was thrown right into the fire… He showed he could play. He’s an AHL player.”

Stern’s emergence was made all the more impressive considering who his colleagues were once he made it up from the ECHL. He wasn’t handed ice time on team bottoming out in the standings, he was making waves on the eventually MacGregor Kilpatrick Trophy-winning club. Furthermore, the Penguins’ defense boasted the likes of Tim Erixon, Cameron Gaunce, Frank Corrado and Derrick Pouliot, who have all logged significant time in the NHL at one point in their careers or another.

There weren’t exactly a lot of open spots on the Penguins’ blue line, and yet Stern continued to stick around.

“This group is a special group of players,” he said. “Just looking around the rest of the defensemen in this locker room, it’s pretty surreal to think you’re playing with them.”

The transition straight to the AHL wasn’t an easy on for Stern, though. While his strong, shut-down defense was turning heads right from the get-go, there was a lot going on beneath the surface.

“It’s hard at first,” Stern said. “You don’t feel comfortable, but at the same time, you want to play with confidence and the mindset that you’re there for a reason. It was tough at first, but I got settled in eventually. And I think I got better and better as the year went on.”

That gradual improvement has been a hallmark of Stern’s game since he turned pro following four seasons of unprecedented success with Minnesota State University’s hockey program. Stern claims that biggest steps he’s made from the start of his first pro season, is shaking the “college hockey mentality” that didn’t necessarily cater to his style of play.

“Because you only play 40 games in a season and mostly on weekends, college hockey is a little bit easier to just go, go, go,” he said. “It’s a lot of running around and hitting and guys ending up out of place. It’s not as structured. The pro game, you can’t be running around. If you’re out of position, they’ll expose you in a heartbeat. It’s a thinking game. You want to outsmart the other team a lot of the time as a defenseman, so it’s like a game of chess. It took me a while to adjust to that, but I think the pro game suits me more.

It’s more think then react, whereas the college game is more react then think.”

When he’s not hunting, fishing or visiting his relatives north of the border, Stern will spend most of his summer thinking about what the next move is for him in his career and then reacting accordingly.

“Hopefully, I see more time in the AHL next year,” Stern said. “But if not, I’m going to keep working. That’s not a reason to stop. I just need to take the lessons I learned from this year and apply them to getting better moving forward.”


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FORMER WBS PENGUINS LEAD PITTSBURGH TO GAME SEVEN WIN


The Pittsburgh Penguins pulled off the upset, defeating the Washington Capitals, 2-0, in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on Wednesday night at the Verizon Center to advance in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

And a few former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins played big parts in the win over the President’s Trophy winners.

Jake Guentzel, who started the season in Northeast PA, fed Bryan Rust, who spent parts of three seasons in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, for the game’s opening goal at 8:49 of the second period, a tally which turned out to be the game-winning  score.

On the other end of the ice, Marc-Andre Fleury, who played parts of four seasons (2003-2006, 2007-2008) turned aside 29 shots to post the shutout for Pittsburgh.

There were 10 players in Pittsburgh uniforms in Game Seven who once suited up for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (Bryan Rust, Jake Guentzel, Scott Wilson, Carter Rowney, Conor Sheary, Chad Ruhwedel, Brian Dumoulin, Olli Maatta, Marc-Andre Fleury and Matt Murray).

The Penguins now move on to meet the Ottawa Senators in the Eastern Conference Finals.


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KOSTOPOULOS STILL GETTING ENJOYMENT OUT OF THE GAME


Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins fans weren’t the only ones left with sour tastes in their mouths after the team was ousted in the first round of the playoffs by the Providence Bruins.

The club’s captain was equally as upset, if not more so.

“I think the way it ended was kind of disappointing,” said Tom Kostopoulos.  “We had a great regular season.  It was something to finish in first place [in the AHL], with all of the changes and movement on the team this year.  Then to go out in the first round was kind of disappointing.

“I didn’t want to leave the game that way.”

The franchise’s all-time lead in just about every offensive category, Kostopoulos signed a one-year contract on Monday to return to the Penguins for what will be his 19th season of professional hockey.

And if he had his way, the 2017-18 season would be starting today.

“It’s boring right now,” said Kostopoulos as he stood in an empty locker room at the Toyota Sportsplex on Monday morning.  “I like coming to the rink every day.  I like being around the guys and being around the sport.  So I’m happy to be signed and playing another year.”

Kostopoulos is coming off of one of the best seasons in his long and storied career.  The most senior member of the Penguins led the team in goals (24) and points (54) this past season, his highest single-season totals in more than a decade.

“I felt pretty good about my regular season,” recounted Kostopoulos, who has appeared in 149 of 152 regular season games with the club over the past two seasons.  “I was kind of disappointed with my personal playoffs.  So I think both of those played a part about coming back here.

“But for the most part I had fun. I think I can still compete at this level, and I still enjoy it.”

Kostopoulos’ accomplishments are well documented across the hockey world:

  • He’s one of just four players to appear in 600 games at both the NHL and AHL levels.
  • He captained the Eastern Conference squad at the 2015 AHL All-Star Classic.
  • He was named the 2016 recipient of the AHL’s Fred T. Hunt Memorial Award, for sportsmanship, determination and dedication to hockey
  • This past season he recorded his 200th AHL goal and 500th AHL point.

And after his club captured the Atlantic Division, Eastern Conference and AHL regular season championships this year, about the only significant piece of hardware eluding Kostopoulos is a Calder Cup.

Laying claim to the AHL’s ultimate trophy is important to the Mississauga, Ontario native.  But it isn’t the only reason he’s sticking around with the Penguins.

“I’d like to win,” he said.  “[But] I don’t want to put everything on that, because there’s a lot more things going on here.

“A big part of this team is moving guys up to the next level and developing guys.  A championship would be huge and that would be great.  But it’s not the only thing.”

During the past several seasons, Kostopoulos has played a big part in helping to develop a bumper crop of Pittsburgh regulars, including Conor Sheary, Bryan Rust, Tom Kuhnhackl, Carter Rowney and Jake Guentzel.

“I really get a kick out of it, watching guys excel in Pittsburgh now that were in Wilkes-Barre at one time,” he said.  “I feel like half of that Pittsburgh team developed here in Wilkes-Barre.  So it’s neat to see that.”

And at the ripe old age of 38, Kostopoulos is looking forward to helping yet another crew of youngsters – including Zach Aston-Reese, Troy Josephs and Teddy Blueger, to name just a few – achieve their dreams of playing in the NHL.

“I think it’s important to have a fun atmosphere here.  Have an atmosphere where the guys can develop and move up and guys are learning,” he said. “With that, we’ll try to win again next year.”


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KOSTOPOULOS HAS BLESSING FROM BOTH FAMILIES FOR RETURN


The numbers are too daunting to ignore. Tom Kostopoulos, at 38-years old, racked up 24 goals, 54 points and played in 74 games for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins this past season.

All of those figures led the team.

However, when Kostopoulos was contemplating on whether or not to return for the 2017-18 campaign, it wasn’t all about the stats. Kostopoulos’ family weighs in on the decision just as heavily on his mind as his on-ice performance.

Clearly, he has their blessing to play a 19th season of pro hockey,

“I think if it didn’t work for them, I would hang ‘em up,” Kostopoulos said. “But they’re all for it, and that keeps it fun for me.”

Kostopoulos’ wife, Lisa, and children, Lily and Luc, are often seen around Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza and the Penguins practice facility at the  Toyota SportsPlex during the season. For the kids, there hasn’t been a time in their lives when dad wasn’t playing hockey. Even though a life around the rink has become status quo for them, he still seeks their opinion and wants to know how they feel about living half their years in Canada and the other half in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

“When we’re here, we’re keeping our kids away from their grandparents and a lot of their friends, too,” Kostopoulos said. “I also try and explain to them that this lifestyle gives me time with them most afternoons, although I miss a lot of their sports games and activities on the weekends when [the Penguins] play. I get most weeknights with then, I can pick them up from school and stuff like that, but when hockey ends, that can change.”

All of these factors play into Kostopoulos and his family’s thought process when they sat down to discuss what the next step for him was going to be. A verdict was met, and now Lily and Luc will be seen hanging around with their dad after games for at least one more year.

The family isn’t the only one that grabs Kostopoulos’ attention, either. When he’s not at home, Kostopoulos is spending serious quality time forming bonds with his teammates. Hard practices, long bus rides and grinding through three-in-threes with one another fosters another family atmosphere for the Penguins’ captain.

Tom Sestito said after Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s final playoff game that he’d be in Kostopoulos’ ear to try and convince him to come back. Barry Goers claimed that whenever someone presses for an answer on Kostopoulos’ future, the veteran has “one of the best poker faces” around. Those two and many others got a chance to make their pitch to T.K. before everyone dispersed for the summer.

“Once our season was over, we got together a few times as a team. Tom was in my ear a little bit, and some of the other guys were saying why quit now? My teammates’ perspective weighs a lot in my decision.

“If they were looking at me like, ‘Eh, maybe it’s time to go,’ I’d probably give it up. But it’s great to have their support.”

So with the support of his two families, Kostopoulos made it official on Monday morning that he’d be returning for another year with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The challenge now becomes waiting for his 19th season to start.

“It’s boring right now, now that hockey’s over,” he lamented. “I like coming to the rink every day, I like being around the guys and being around the sport. I’m happy to be signed to back.”


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SESTITO LEADS KOSTOPOULOS APPRECIATION SOCIETY


There’s no way around it. Tom Sestito is a one of a kind individual.

His wit is sharper than an infomercial knife set and his verbal barbs come quicker than a swarm of angry yellow jackets. He’ll let you know exactly what he’s thinking at any time, and his unapologetic brazenness only adds to the big man’s charm.

You could travel all around the world for 10 years and never meet another Tom Sestito.

The Rome, N.Y. native has been a part of four different organizations over the course of his 10-year career, played for four different NHL teams, four different AHL teams, and even spent time overseas in the United Kingdom’s pro hockey league. He’s seen a lot. He’s never seen anyone like Tom Kostopoulos.

“He’s the best captain I’ve had in pro hockey,” Sestito said. “I’ve had a lot of captains and I’ve been on a lot of teams, too. He’s the best.”

Sestito, a one in a millions personality himself, is always appreciative of the unique attributes that personify his teammates. That’s why he’s going to be trying his hardest to tilt Kostopoulos’ offseason decision on his playing future back towards a return with the black and gold.

“Oh, I’ll be in his ear trying to get him to play another year,” Sestito said. “There’s no doubt about it. Hopefully, I’m back here too, but you can’t say enough about the guy.”

While Kostopoulos’ future is still unknown at this point, Sestito brings up the fact that he’s not exactly a sure thing to return either. An unrestricted free agent this summer, the 29-year-old forward has his pick of the litter when it comes to where he’ll play next. That list isn’t limited to the NHL and AHL either, mind you. Europe always remains a viable option to these players, as well.

Sestito doesn’t anticipate flipping through many brochures, though. Speaking his mind as always, he’s made it very clear that he’d want to return to the Penguins organization

“This has been my favorite place to play. The way they handle your family, my wife, my kid, it’s been great. It’s been home. It’s a first class organization.

“As an older guy, I don’t like waiting too long. Hopefully, we can get to it and get something ironed out.”

While the rest of us have no choice but to wait and see what his next move is, there’s one certainty he’s shown Penguins fans through his first two seasons with the team: You’ll never be left waiting for a response from Tom Sestito, no matter the subject.


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ASTON-REESE LOOKS TO BUILD ON EARLY SUCCESS

At first, Zach Aston-Reese was getting all the breaks. He scored in the first period of his first AHL game, he rattled off a franchise-best four-game point streak to start a pro career, and he was skating every night with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ top veterans.

Then, suddenly, his luck changed, and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. Aston-Reese suffered an upper body injury in the Penguins second-to-last game of the season.

He sought several second opinions from doctors in Pittsburgh. Every trip only garnered marginally better news, but nothing ground-breaking. One thing became painstakingly clear: there was no way he was going to be able to play in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs.

“I wish I could have kept going,” Aston-Reese said. “I really wish we could know how things would have went if I didn’t get this injury… I’m not sure if ‘disappointed’ is the right word, but it definitely doesn’t feel good.”

Aston-Reese was making progress towards a return as the postseason carried on, but he still wasn’t cleared to play in the Penguins’ decisive Game Five of their Atlantic Division Semifinal series against the Providence Bruins. He had to watch that game, and all of its prior contests, from suite level, a location that provided him with an excellent view of where he’d rather be.

The Hobey Baker finalist was left feeling powerless to the result playing out in front of him.

“It was tough, that last game, especially,” he said. “From up top, you see things from a different perspective. We totally outplayed them. [Providence] is not a bad team by any means, they cycle the puck really well and have some crazy good players. But a lot of our shots just couldn’t find a way in. It was tough because you get that feeling that you want to get out there and help, but you can’t.”

The sting from the loss was amplified by not only his lack of influence on the series, but by the fact that he quickly grew invested in the Penguins’ fortunes. Joining the club after his senior season of college hockey had come to an end, Aston-Reese might have never emotionally connected with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s goals. But he did, and it’s all thanks to the people he met when he first came in.

Greeted with nothing but compassion when he entered the fold in late March, Aston-Reese quickly integrated with the locker room and its many personalities.

“Coming to a team late in the season is tough,” he said. “You don’t know where you fit in, but everyone was really welcoming.

“I felt like part of the group.”

While Aston-Reese had to watch from afar while he and his new friends’ season came to an end, he ultimately gives his brief time in the AHL a positive review. In his eyes, the 10 games he played gave him the perspective necessary to thrive next year when he embarks on his first full professional season.

“I thought this was a really good experience for me,” Aston-Reese said. “You learn a lot about the whole three-in-three thing. The schedule change is such a huge difference, AHL vs. college. And the practices, too. The pace, the everyday grind; it was an eye-opening experience for me.”

Aston-Reese plans to spend the early portion of his summer healing properly, then working on the little details of his game in which he felt slightly insufficient now that he understands what pro hockey is all about. That being said, the adversity he faced at the end of his ATO run has him itching to start next season as soon as possible.

“I can’t wait to get after it next year, start from zero and work at another run.”


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BLUEGER JOINS TEAM LATVIA AFTER EXPECTATION-SHATTERING SEASON


Teddy Blueger joined the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins late last season after his college career came to a close. In the 20 games he played, he acclimated himself more than adequately with his responsible two-way game, but posted just one point in that time.

When he returned from a training camp injury to start his first full professional season, more of the same was expected from Blueger: stout defensive play, reliable penalty killing, modest offensive output.

He lived up to the first two of those expectations.

He absolutely crushed the third one.

Blueger concluded the 2016-17 season with 31 points (7G-24A) and added another tally in the playoffs.

“I was hoping to be a little more productive than last year,” Blueger said. “I don’t really think numbers always tell the whole story, so I don’t base my game on that. But it was nice to be able to contribute that way.”

His increased offense surely kept the higher-ups in the Penguins organization smiling, but it clearly turned heads back in his home country, too.

Not long after Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s season came to a close, the Latvian national team came calling. Blueger will spend the first few weeks of his offseason representing his home country at the IIHF World Championships.

He’s worn sweaters adorning the Latvian coat of arms multiple times before at lower level events, but this is the first time the honor comes on such a large stage.

Blueger (who will be playing under his given name, Teodors Bļugers,) hopes to use the forward steps he took this season in the AHL and apply them to his upcoming international hockey experience.

“I learned a lot this year,” Blueger said. “I enjoyed being given the chance to play in all situations. Even strength, P.K., power play, all that stuff. It was a great experience for me.”

Blueger’s bench boss with the Penguins, Clark Donatelli, reinforced those beliefs that the rookie centerman made the most of any new opportunities presented to him.

“I think he exceeded all expectations, of all of us, in terms of how he was going to do,” Donatelli said. “Teddy put the work in and got the results. Then the more we gave him, the more he took. When he was handed more responsibilities, he ate it up. He had a great year.”

Latvia’s tournament begins on Saturday, May 6 when it takes on Denmark in its first game of the preliminary round. Blueger and his fellow countrymen will face even tougher competition after that, being as Latvia occupies the same group as hockey powerhouses Sweden, Russia and the United States. Blueger’s first country will take on his adopted home on Saturday, May 13.

Regardless of how far the 12th-seeded Latvia goes in the tournament, Blueger won’t be off the ice for long afterwards. Always one of the last players to leave practice during the season for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Latvian rink rat wants to focus on refining his skills even more before next year.

“The biggest thing for me is my speed and explosiveness,” Blueger said. “If I could get a little bit quicker, I think that would go a long way for me in today’s game.”


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A LATE CHRISTMAS PRESENT FOR DEA

Jean-Sébastien Dea, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ resident fashion icon, knows a thing or two about style. Whether it’s with a patterned bow tie and rose ensemble or a graceful shot to the top corner, Dea simply finds ways to look good both on and off the ice.

It’s easy to imagine his wish lists often include pinstriped three-piece suits or a fresh set of pocket squares, but Dea unwrapped an unforgettable present later in the season, one that he’s worked a long time to earn.

Dea had another offensively-charged year with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2016-17. He posted 18 goals during the regular season and added two more in the playoffs to make an even 20 tallies for the second year in a row. But even though he was still putting up the points, Dea felt his performance wasn’t up to his own standards.

It wasn’t until the holiday break that Dea really ramped up his game and showed that he’s not just all flash.

“I really turned a corner at Christmas,” Dea said. “Slow start, but after that, I got it going. I think I really started playing some good hockey. And I got rewarded with my first (NHL) game.”

Yes, of course. The first NHL game. As his third full season in the Penguins organization was coming to a close, Dea got the call from up top that he was being recalled to Pittsburgh for their game against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden. For a young man from Québec that’s already living his dream as a professional hockey player, the opportunity to make his NHL debut at the world’s most famous venue quickly skyrocketed to the top of the list of his favorite memories in his career.

“That one takes the cake,” he said. “It’d be hard to give it to anything else. My first game was something truly special. I will remember that forever.”

Dea’s work isn’t done though. Now that he’s had a taste of the NHL, it’s easy to understand why he wants more. And based on the way he upped his game at this past season’s holiday break, he thinks he’s closer to making more NHL memories than he’s ever been.

“Now that I look back at the years, I think I can say I’m headed in the right direction,” Dea said. “I’m really excited for the future.”

Season ticket packages for the 2017-18 season are on sale now, and available by calling the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at 570-208-7367.

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