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

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

THE WRIGHT MAN FOR COLUMBUS

The Vegas Golden Knights will see the majority of the team’s roster take shape on Wednesday when they announce their 30 selections in the 2017 NHL Expansion Draft.  The newest NHL franchise will select one player from each of the other existing teams to bulk up their player pool as they enter their first season of play.

(There’s more info on the entire expansion draft process over on our blog – Skating on the Susquehanna).

The last time the league held an expansion draft was back in 2000 when the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets were gearing up for their first forays into the hockey world.  Each team selected 26 players – one from every existing team, minus the recently formed Atlanta Thrashers and Nashville Predators.

That draft came just months after the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins inaugural season came to an end, and fans in NEPA saw a fan favorite change his zip code as a result.

With the 31st overall pick in the 2000 expansion draft, the Blue Jackets snatched up former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton captain Tyler Wright.  

Tyler Wright served as the first captain in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins history.

Selected 12th overall by the Edmonton Oilers int he 1991 Entry Draft, Wright made his pro debut with with the Oilers in late 1993.  He split the next three seasons between Edmonton and Cape Breton (AHL), earning a reputation as a pest with some scoring touch.

Wright was acquired by Pittsburgh on June 22, 1996 for a seventh round pick in that year’s entry draft, and split his first season between the Penguins and their then minor league affiliate, the Cleveland Lumberjacks of the International Hockey League.

Wright spent the entirety of the 1997-98 and 1998-99 seasons with Pittsburgh, but found himself the odd man out as training camp came to a close in the fall of 1999, and he was assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

After going scoreless in 61 games with Pittsburgh in 1998-99, Wright found his scoring touch once again with the newly-formed AHL club, recording 20 points (5+15) in 25 games.

Wright’s final game with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton came on December 17, 1999, in a 2-1 win over the Albany River Rats.  He was summoned back to Pittsburgh after that victory, and spent the rest of the season with the NHL club.

Wright provided valuable leadership and a calming presence during his time in Northeast Pennsylvania.  Wearing the captain’s ‘C’, he was a veteran voice of encouragement to a team that struggled to find wins in the early going.

And his influence is still felt to this day around the rink.  Current Penguins captain Tom Kostopoulos, a rookie during Wright’s tenure with the team, wore 25 during his first season.  However, he adopted Wright’s sweater number 29 the following year, the number he still wears to this day.

Wright finished the 1999-00 season with 22 points (12+10) in 50 games with Pittsburgh, all career highs up until that point.

That performance may have piqued the interest of the Blue Jackets, who made Wright a centerpiece of the team for the next four-plus seasons.  He recorded 104 points (57+47) in 291 games with Columbus between 2000 and 2004 and became a pillar in the community, establishing the Hats for Heroes program to help in the fight against pediatric cancer.

Wright began the 2005-06 season in Columbus, but was dealt to the Anaheim Ducks for Sergei Fedorov early in the season.  He had a short stint playing in Switzerland in 2006-07, before retiring and going the Blue Jackets hockey operations staff as director of player development.  He holds that same position today with the Detroit Red Wings.

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

FROM THE ICE TO THE BENCH

Alain Nasreddine spent 249 games in a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton uniform, and another 380 behind the bench as an assistant coach with the team.

More than 120 players have laced them up in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and then gone on to play in the National Hockey League.  That’s no surprise.  After all, the main purpose for every American Hockey League team is to prepare players for the big leagues.

But what about when those playing careers come to an end?

Well, it turns out Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is pretty adept at helping players become coaches as well.

At least a dozen former Penguins players either stood behind a bench last year, or will do so in the coming season.  Here’s a quick look at they Pens who have gone from the locker room to the coach’s office.

Matt Carkner

MATT CARKNER:  Carkner joined the Penguins in 2006-07 after spending his first five pro seasons with the Cleveland Barons, as well as one game with the San Jose Sharks.  The bruising defenseman recorded a career-best 30 points (6+24) in 75 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and was named the AHL’s recipient of the Yanick Dupre Memorial Award for community service.  He spent the next two seasons with the Binghamton Senators, before earning a spot with Ottawa in 2009-10.  He played three years with the NHL Pens, followed by two more with the New York Islanders.  He finished up his playing career in Bridgeport during the 2015-16 campaign, before transitioning to a coaching role with the Sound Tigers last year.

REID CASHMAN:  A standout at Quinnipiac University as a player, Cashman spent parts of two seasons with the Toronto Marlies before splitting the 2008-09 season between the Wheeling Nailers and Penguins.  He recorded six points (2+4) in 18 games with the Pens, before joining the Milwaukee Admirals/Cincinnati Cyclones the following year.  He finished up his playing career with Linz EHC in Austria before returning to his alma mater as an assistant coach in 2011.  Cashman spent five years with Quinnipiac before joining the Hershey Bears coaching staff last year.

Ryan Craig

RYAN CRAIG:  Drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Craig spent the first seven seasons of his career playing with the NHL team or one of its affiliates (Hershey, Springfield and Norfolk).  He joined the Penguins for the 2010-11 seasons, and wore the captain’s C for two seasons, recording 78 points (30+48) in 139 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.  He signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets the following season, and spent the final five seasons of his playing career with the organization, helping the Lake Erie Monsters to the Calder Cup in 2016.  He retired at the end of the 2016-17 campaign and immediately joined the Vegas Golden Knights as an assistant coach.

TRENT CULL:  A member of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s first Calder Cup Final team, Cull joined the Penguins after six seasons split between three minor league squads.  His 26 points (11+15) were third among team defenseman in the 1999-00 season.  He spent his final three playing seasons with the Houston Aeros (2001-02) and Syracuse Crunch (2002-04), before going the Guelph Storm (OHL) as an assistant.  He returned to Syracuse as an assistant coach in 2006, was named head coach of the Sudbury Wolves (OHL) in 2010, and returned to the Crunch bench in 2013, where he remains today.

BEN EAVES:  A standout during his four years at Boston College, Eaves was selected by Pittsburgh in the 2001 NHL Draft.  He made his pro debut with Wilkes-Barre during the 2004-05 season, and appeared in five games with the AHL club the following season before suffering a knee injury.  He missed the entire 2006-07 season before signing with Finland’s Espoo Blues in 2007.  He returned to North America in 2009, signing with the Nashville Predators, but left the team’s AHL affiliate in Milwaukee early in the campaign.  After three more seasons in Finland, Eaves hung up the skates and is currently an assistant coach with St. Olaf College in Minnesota, serving under his father Mike.

Peter Mannino

PETER MANNINO:  A university of Denver product, Mannino suited up for 10 different teams at the NHL, AHL and ECHL levels before landing in Wilkes-Barre for the 2013-14 season.  He suited up for 18 regular season games and 11 playoff contests during his only year in NEPA.  He split the following season between the Portland Pirates and Binghamton Senators.  His coaching career got off the ground with the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League in 2015, where he spent two seasons.  On June 1, 2017, he was named an assistant for the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

JOEY MORMINA: Four years at Colgate University led Mormina to start his pro career with the Manchester Monarchs in 2005-06.  After two seasons in New Hampshire and one in Albany, Mormina joined the Penguins for the first time in 2008-09.  He left after one season for the Adirondack Phantoms, before landing back in NEPA for three more seasons.  In all, the Montreal-born defenseman put up 53 points (13+40) in 233 games with the Pens.  He rounded out his playing career in Syracuse and Rochester, before going the Mercyhurst Lakers ( NCAA) coaching staff prior to the 2016-17 season.

ALAIN NASREDDINE:  Nas joined the Penguins during his ninth pro season, and became one of the team’s most respected and reliable players during the next five seasons.  Serving as team captain starting in 2004-05, he recorded 55 points (12+42) in 249 games with he AHL club.  He also recorded his lone NHL goal – assisted by Sidney Crosby in his hometown of Montreal – during the 2006-07 season.  After two seasons in Germany, Nasreddine returned to NEPA to join the Penguins coaching staff under John Hynes.  That duo spent five years in Wilkes-Barre, before both were hired by the New Jersey Devils in 2015.

TOBY PETERSEN:  A late round selection by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1998, Petersen split his first pro season between the AHL and NHL Penguins, leading the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton roster with 26 goals, 41 assists and 67 points in 73 contests.  He spent the entire 2001-02 season in Pittsburgh, but was back in NEPA for the 2002-03 and 2003-04 campaigns.  He signed with the Edmonton Oilers in 2004, and spent the next three seasons in their system.  The bulk of his career was spent as a member of the Dallas Stars organization, where he also helped the Texas Stars to the Calder Cup in 2014.  He retired following that run, joining the Blue Jackets organization as an AHL assistant with Springfield/Lake Erie/Cleveland.

Rob Tallas

ROBBIE TALLAS:  A veteran of 99 NHL games with he Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks, Tallas spent two seasons (2001-03) minding the net in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.  He posted a 20-36-8 mark in 71 games before finishing his career in Europe in 2004-05.  He has served as goalie coach for the Florida Panthers since the 2009-10 season.

JOHN SLANEY:  Slaney was eight years into his pro career when he joined the Penguins for the team’s inaugural season in 1999-00.  He was a bright spot for the struggling squad, leading the team with 60 points in just 49 games, and recording 30 goals from the team’s blueline.  He was famously traded to the Philadelphia Flyers by Pittsburgh on the eve of the AHL All-Star Game in Wilkes-Barre during the 2000-01 season, spending the majority of the next six seasons with the Philadelphia Phantoms.  His final four years as a player (2007-11) were spent overseas before he joined the Portland Pirates staff as an assistant coach in 2011-12.  In 2015-16 he made the jump to an NHL bench, and currently serves as an assistant with the Arizona Coyotes.

Mike Yeo

MIKE YEO:  Another inaugural team skater, Yeo joined the club after five seasons with the IHL’s Houston Aeros.  His time wearing a Penguins sweater was short though, as he was forced to retire due to injury just 19 games into his Wilkes-Barre/Scranton stay.  He immediately joined Glenn Patrick behind the Penguins bench, and remained an assistant in NEPA until he was promoted to Pittsburgh along with head coach Michel Therrien in 2005.  He returned to Houston as head coach of the Aeros in 2010, and was promoted to head coach of the Minnesota Wild the following season.  He spent four-plus seasons guiding the Wild before being let go late in the 2015-16 season.  He joined the St. Louis Blues as an associate coach in 2016, and assumed head coaching duties there midway through the recently completed NHL season.

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

NEW GM GUERIN SAYS IT’S “ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL” FOR WBS TO SUCCEED

Photo Credit : Lindsay A. Mogle/AHL

Bill Guerin isn’t holding anything back.

Pittsburgh’s assistant general manager had only officially held the title of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins GM for a little over four hours before he had his first press conference with the local media, but he’s not showing any signs of somebody who wanted to dip his toe in the water before getting in. Guerin’s comments were a full-fledged cannonball.

A lot of what he had to say revolved around his desire to ensure that the Penguins stay among the top of the American Hockey League standings.

“It’s absolutely critical that we have success in Wilkes-Barre,” the U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer said. “The culture in Wilkes-Barre, the winning attitude, the winning that’s done on the ice, being able to compete in the playoffs every year, and not just competing, but giving yourself a chance to win every year, that’s part of development, in my mind. Development is not just about going out and playing hockey, playing a lot of minutes. It’s about playing the right way. It’s about playing with a purpose, and that purpose is to win.”

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton has been a bastion of success in the AHL for quite some time now. The club has qualified for the Calder Cup Playoffs for 16-consecutive years, the league’s active record. This last season, the Penguins finished with the best record in the AHL, earning the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy for the second time in team history.

Guerin isn’t trying to tamper expectations in his first season at the helm. He’s embracing them.

“There are high expectations [in Wilkes-Barre],” he said. “There’s a good history there, and I plan on following in those footsteps. Not much is going to change in terms of the expectation level. We’re still going to compete for the Calder Cup, we’re still going to develop players for Pittsburgh. I expect our team and our organization to continue to be one of the model organizations of the American Hockey League.”

Guerin’s responsibilities as general manager of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton encompass all hockey operations-related decisions, such as free agent player signings, trades, staffing, etc. Given the wrinkle that the NHL’s expansion to Las Vegas has presented the offseason, he acknowledges that it will probably be a while before he can really zero in on potential roster moves. The NHL and AHL’s roster landscape is still very much in flux with the pending expansion draft.

All of that considered, Guerin isn’t wasting any time when it comes to preparing for the beginning of the unrestricted free agency period on July 1.

“My first order of business is to go over our depth chart and start planning for next year,” he said. “I’m going to go up and down the lineup to see where we’re strong and see where we can improve. We definitely have to look down the middle. Strong teams are always built down the middle.”

Guerin has always been an affable personality and colorful personality dating back to his playing days. In fact, there’s a part of him that you can see that still feels like the same guy who racked up 429 career goals in the NHL. A suit and tie job hasn’t tampered his enjoyment of hockey. He loves being a “hands on” mentor, occasionally hitting the ice with Penguins players at practice in the past.

His front office role allowed him to explore the business from a different angle, too. Since he joined Pittsburgh’s staff as Player Development Coach in 2011, he’s learned how to interact with players from a position of authority, be a teacher and instructor, but still keep things light the way only Bill Guerin can.

The time he spent under the tutelage of Jim Rutherford has proven invaluable to Guerin, too. In the three years Rutherford has spent as Pittsburgh’s GM, the team has captured two Stanley Cups. Surely some of that wisdom has rubbed off on Guerin by now, which is part of what made him the ideal candidate to lead Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to the success that he considers to be so crucial.

“The things that I’ve learned from [Rutherford] is that you have to patient with players, you have to communicate well with your coaches, you have to be loyal and you have to be fair. I’ve learned a lot from Ray [Shero], too.

“I feel like I’m fully prepared for this.”

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

THANKS DAD – A LOOK AT HOCKEY FATHERS AND THEIR WBS KIDS

Ask any professional hockey player who has had the most influence on his playing career, and 99 times out of 100 the answer is: “My parents.”

Almost every hockey player tells tales of mom and/or dad behind the wheel for all those drives to all those early morning practices or out-of-town tournaments, the hours upon hours spent in the stands, cheering on their sons and daughters.

With Father’s Day around the corner, it’s time to shine the spotlight on the patriarchs in these hockey players’ lives.  Here’s a look at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins players whose dads have also played in the pro ranks.


JIM AND JOSH ARCHIBALD

Jim was quite the scorer at the University of North Dakota, with 56 goals and 94 points over four seasons.  He racked up the penalty minutes as well. His 197 PIMs led the NCAA during his senior season in 1984-85.  He also had three AHL stints with the Springfield Indians (1984-87), and appeared in 16 NHL games with the Minnesota North Stars.

Selected by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the sixth round (174th overall) in the 2011 NHL Draft, Josh had a break-out season in his third year as a pro. He set career highs with 16 goals, 13 assists and 29 points in 61 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.  He potted two goals versus Arizona in his season debut with Pittsburgh on February 11.  But that night most likely pales in comparison to all that transpired a few months later; skating in Game Four of the Stanley Cup Final and hoisting the coveted trophy six days later.


TIM AND DEREK ARMY

A four-year letterman at Providence College from 1981-85, Tim Army’s first year as a pro came in the AHL with the Maine Mariners.  Army’s playing career lasted just two seasons as he returned to his alma mater in 1987 as an assistant coach for the Friars.  That would begin a 30-year span as a coach that has seen Army serve as an assistant in the NHL with the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Washington Capitals and Colorado Avalanche.

Derek was a well-traveled player during the 2015-16 season.  One of his four stints in the American Hockey League came with the Penguins, where he skated in 13 games and compiled four points.  He would rejoin the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers for the final weeks of the regular season and their improbable run to the Kelly Cup Final.  Army and the Nailers rallied from back-to-back 3-2 series deficits to move past both Reading and South Carolina before falling to the Allen Americans in six games.


DON AND TYLER BIGGS

Eight of Don Biggs‘ 15 seasons as a player were spent in the American Hockey League.  The 5-8 center was named Most Valuable Player in 1992-93 after posting 138 points (54G-84A) in 78 games with the Binghamton Rangers. Biggs also helped the Hershey Bears to the Calder Cup in 1988.

A former first-round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Tyler Biggs came to the Penguins as part of the blockbuster deal that brought Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh organization.  An injury-filled season limited Tyler to just 11 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.


MARC AND TAYLOR CHORNEY

Marc and Taylor are the rare father-son combo to both skate for the same organization.  As a defenseman for the University of North Dakota, Marc was picked in the sixth round of the 1979 NHL Entry Draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins.  He was an All-American who helped North Dakota take home the 1980 NCAA title, and turned pro after his senior season in 1980-81.  Marc went on to skate in 139 games with Pittsburgh before a trade sent him to the Los Angeles Kings in 1983.

Taylor followed in his father’s footsteps, not only in his position as a defenseman, but also in his college choice of North Dakota.   And as his father did, Taylor would also go on to don the black and gold, signing with Pittsburgh as a free agent in the summer of 2014.  He appeared in seven NHL games for the Penguins, while leading Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with a plus-26 rating in 62 games.


ALAIN AND J.P. COTE

In 1977, Alain had the distinction of being selected by Montreal in the third round of the NHL Amateur Draft, while also being picked by the Quebec Nordiques in the WHA Amateur Draft. Choosing to begin his pro career with the Nordiques, both player and team would join the NHL ranks in 1979, following the demise of the WHA. The left-winger skated in 802 total contests for Quebec, including 696 in the NHL.

Jean-Phillipe Cote’s lone season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton came in 2008-09, when he recorded two goals, 10 assists and 75 penalty minutes in 50 games.  A veteran of over 600 games in the American Hockey League, Cote has twice had his name etched on the Calder Cup (2007 – Hamilton & 2012 – Norfolk).


JOE AND GREG CROZIER

Joe’s playing career consisted of eight seasons with the Quebec Aces in the QHL, followed by stints with Springfield, Providence and Rochesters in the AHL.  He also suited up for five NHL games with the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1959-60.  The elder Crozier went on to become one of the most accomplished coaches in American Hockey League history, leading the Rochester Americans to back-to-back Calder Cups in 1964 and 1965, and a third championship in 1967. He was inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame in 2012.

Greg Crozier was a member of the inaugural Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins squad in 1999-00.  As a rookie that year, Crozier registered 44 points in 71 matches and ranked third on the team with 22 goals. The ensuing season saw Greg raise his output, setting career highs in goals (26), assists (44) and points (60) and earning a selection to the 2001 AHL All-Star Game. Crozier also helped lead the Penguins to the Calder Cup Final in just their second year of existence.


DEAN AND BRANDON DEFAZIO

Dean was chosen by the Penguins in the ninth round of the 1981 NHL Draft.  His time as a pro began with the Penguins’ then-AHL affiliate, the Baltimore Skipjacks.  During his rookie season in 1983-84, Dean also made 22 appearances for Pittsburgh.  In three seasons with the Skipjacks, DeFazio mustered 96 points and 373 PIM.

An undrafted free-agent out of Clarkson University, Brandon signed on with the Wheeling Nailers on March 12, 2011.  His impact was immediate, notching nine points (4G-5A) over his first 10 pro games.  DeFazio made the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton roster out of training camp the following season and showed an early knack for the net (11 goals) and physical play (104 penalty minutes).


MIKE AND BEN EAVES

Mike Eaves is best known for his time as head coach for the University of Wisconsin men’s hockey team.  In 14 seasons behind the bench for the Badgers, Eaves led his team to the NCAA tournament seven times and took home the title in 2006.  Not long before being hired by Wisconsin, Eaves was an assistant coach for the Pittsburgh Penguins from 1997 to 2000.  He also played eight seasons in the NHL with the Minnesota North Stars (1978-83) and Calgary Flames (1983-86).

After a very successful four-year career with Boston College that included the 2001 NCAA Championship, Ben Eaves kicked off his pro career with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in 2004-05.  The 2001 fourth-round Penguins draft pick netted 10 points (4G-6A) in 43 games as a rookie, but saw his sophomore season limited to just five games due to a knee injury.  He currently serves as assistant coach to his dad, Mike, at St. Olaf College in Minnesota.


JAN AND TIM ERIXON

Jan Erixon was taken in the second round (30th overall) by the New York Rangers in the 1981 NHL Draft. After three seasons with Skelleftea in the Swedish League, Erixon came to the United States to join the Rangers for the 1983-84 season.  He would play 10 years in New York, totaling 556 games played, 57 goals and 159 assists.  He returned to Sweden in 1993 and has been a coach for Skelleftea’s U20 team for the past seven years.

Selected 23rd overall by Calgary in 2009, Erixon was traded to the Rangers before ever skating a game in North America. After being shuttled to Columbus, Chicago and Toronto, it was the Phil Kessel trade that saw Tim settle in with the Penguins.  Over the last two seasons with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Erixon has played in 109 games and logged 37 points (7G-30A).


MIKE AND JAKE GUENTZEL

A defenseman during his playing days at the University of Minnesota (1981-85), Mike Guentzel had a four-game stint with the New Haven Nighthawks of the AHL in 1984-85.  He has been a part of the Gophers’ coaching staff since 1994 and helped guide Minnesota to consecutive NCAA Championships in 2002 and 2003 and currently serves as Associate Head Coach for the Gophers.  Mike also had one of the best Dad reactions to his son, Jake, scoring his first NHL goal.

What a year and two months it has been for rookie forward Jake Guentzel.  First, he burst onto the scene last spring with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, leading the team in postseason scoring with 14 points (5G-9A) in 12 games.  For a second act, he officially opened up his pro career with 41 points this season in just 33 contests with the Penguins, and was leading all AHL rookies in scoring before making the permanent jump to Pittsburgh.  Jake scored twice in his NHL debut versus the New York Rangers on Nov. 21 and, for an encore, broke the NHL rookie scoring record with 21 points on 13 goals and 8 assists.  Oh yeah, he also just won the Stanley Cup.


GREG AND ANDREW HOTHAM

Traded by the Toronto Maple Leafs midway through the 1981-82 season, defenseman Greg Hotham came on board with the Penguins to appear in 170 games and notch 74 points (11G-63A).

While skating with the Wheeling Nailers during the 2011-12 campaign, Andrew signed a PTO with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and skated in two tilts.


SAMI AND KASPERI KAPANEN

A five-time Olympic Medalist for Team Finland, Sami Kapanen also enjoyed a 12-year career in the NHL with the Hartford Whalers, Carolina Hurricanes and Philadelphia Flyers.  He is the majority owner and head coach of his hometown team of KalPa in the Finnish League.

The highly-talented Kasperi Kapanen was picked 22nd overall by the Penguins in 2014.  He made his North American debut with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Apr. 9, 2015, tallying a goal and an assist against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.  He also added five more points in seven postseason contests.  Kapanen was dealt to Toronto that off-season in the trade the saw Phil Kessell and Tim Erixon join the Penguins.


ERICH AND TOM KUHNHACKL

The achievements match the title bestowed upon Erich Kuhnhackl.  He was named Germany’s Ice Hockey Player of the 20th Century and also inducted to the International Hockey Hall of Fame in 1997.  During his playing career, he won four German championships and led West Germany to a bronze medal in the 1976 Winter Olympics.

Tom, now a fifth-year pro, just raised the Stanley Cup for a second straight year with Pittsburgh.  Known for his shot blocking and penalty killing prowess, Kuhnhackl collected 29 goals and 30 assists in 154 games over parts of four seasons with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.


TROY AND TY LONEY

Troy spent 10 of 12 NHL seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins (1983-1993), skating in 532 games and compiling 980 penalty minutes.  Like several others on this list, Loney twice raised the Stanley Cup with the Penguins in 1991 and 1992.

After four years at the University of Denver, Ty signed as a free-agent with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for the 2015-16 season.  He posted six assists in 31 games with the Penguins and was also a key cog for the Wheeling Nailers in reaching the 2016 Kelly Cup Final.


GREG AND RYAN MALONE

Drafted 19th overall by the Penguins in 1976, Greg Malone’s first game as a professional came in Pittsburgh that same year.  Malone added 494 games played to his resume with the Penguins to go along with 364 points. Following his retirement in 1987, Malone served as Pittsburgh’s Director of Scouting from 1989 to 2007.

After the completion of his senior season at St. Cloud State University, Ryan joined Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2003 for three regular season contests, but that would be the only action Malone saw in Northeast PA. The 1999 fourth-round draft pick made the big club out of camp the next season and went on to spend four years in Pittsburgh, while registering 169 points (87G-82A) in 299 games.


GERRY AND COLIN MCDONALD

From 1980-84, Gerry skated in 273 American Hockey League games between the New Haven Nighthawks and Binghamton Whalers.  He collected 21 goals, 106 assists and also appeared in eight NHL contests with the Hartford Whalers.

Colin was the Penguins’ third-leading scorer in 2011-12 with 49 points, and led the team with 35 assists in 68 games.  He turned up his production in the postseason with 13 points (6G-7A) in 12 playoff tilts.


GILLES AND ERIC MELOCHE

Gillies has been involved with the Penguins organization for more than 30 years.  The final three seasons of an 18-year professional career (which also saw stops in Oakland, Cleveland and Minnesota) were spent as a backstop in Pittsburgh.  After hanging up the pads and skates, Meloche joined the front office as a goaltending coach and scout.

A four-year letterman at Ohio State and a seventh-round pick of the Penguins in 1996, Eric was a part of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s trips to the Calder Cup Final in both 2001 and 2004.  Over four seasons, he skated in 249 games for the Penguins and he ranks in the top-ten all-time for the team in both goals (61) and points (138).


BILL AND BRENDAN MIKKELSON

Bill’s AHL career is a veritable history lesson, having played for the Springfield Kings, Baltimore Clippers, Richmond Robins, Rhode Island Reds and Hershey Bears.  As a rookie defenseman, he lifted the Calder Cup with the Kings in 1971.

Brendan’s time in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton came in 2013-14, when he led team defenseman with 38 points (8G-30A) in 73 games.  Mikkelson and the Penguins made it to the Eastern Conference Final that season before falling to St. John’s in six games.


KENT AND ROBERT NILSSON

Kent Nilsson is not lacking hardware from an 18-year career that included 10 seasons in North America.  He won WHA Championships with the Winnipeg Jets in 1978 and ’79, the Stanley Cup in 1987 with the Edmonton Oilers and a Swedish Hockey League title two years later with Djurgardens IF. He was also inducted into the International Hockey Hall of Fame in 2006.

Robert played in just 19 games for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2006-07 as part of a dual affiliation that season with the Edmonton Oilers.  He was a point per game player for the Penguins, notching six goals and 14 assists during his short time in the Wyoming Valley.


BILL AND WILL O’NEILL

Bill O’Neill just completed his 37th season as head coach of the Salem State men’s hockey team in Massachusetts.  He has earned over 500 wins, just the seventh coach in Division III to accomplish this feat, and has led the Vikings to seven NCAA Tournament appearances.

Joining Wilkes-Barre/Scranton during the 2015-16 season, Will became just the fourth defenseman in Penguins history to reach the 50 point mark and the first since Micki Dupont in 2006-07.  Will racked up eight goals and 42 assists in 74 contests, while being selected to the AHL All-Star Classic and an AHL Second Team All-Star.


GLENN AND CURTISS PATRICK

One of the founding fathers of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins hockey, Glenn Patrick was head coach of the black and gold for their first four seasons in Northeast Pennsylvania.  In just his second year behind the bench, he piloted the Penguins to the Calder Cup Final in 2001.  Prior to his coaching stint, Patrick played in the AHL with Hampton and Hershey, in the WHA with Edmonton, and in the NHL with St. Louis, California and Cleveland.

Curtiss spent his first three seasons as a pro with the Wheeling Nailers from 2004-07. It was during the 2006-07 season that he received a call-up to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, appearing in 10 games.

(Note:  The Patricks are considered the “Royal Family of Hockey”. Curtiss’ uncle is Craig Patrick, the former General Manager of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Hockey Hall of Famer, who helped construct the Penguins’ 1991 and 1992 Stanley Cup Champion rosters.  Curtis’ great-grandfather is Lester Patrick, considered one of the architects of modern hockey.  And his grandfather, Lynn, was a two-time All-Star as well as a Stanley Cup Champion with the 1940 New York Rangers.)


JACEK AND MATHIAS PLACHTA

Born in Chrozow, Poland, Jacek Plachta played all 19 of his professional seasons in Germany, totaling 363 points in just over 800 contests.  Plachta also skated numerous times for the Team Poland in international competition.

Mathias’ 2015-16 campaign marked his lone season in North America. Plachta began with the Springfield Falcons before being acquired by the Penguins before the trade deadline.  In 20 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, he gathered seven points.


STEVE AND DANNY RICHMOND

Steve’s AHL career saw him appear in 196 games between the New Haven Nighthawks, Adirondack Red Wings and Utica Devils, registering 18 goals and 85 assists.  It was with Adirondack that the defenseman lifted the Calder Cup in 1986.  Richmond has served as the Washington Capitals’ Director of Player Development for the past 15 seasons.

A veteran of 480 American Hockey League games, Danny Richmond appeared in 55 contests for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton during the 2008-09 season.  He posted three goals, 14 assists and 108 penalty minutes before being acquired by the St. Louis Blues on Mar. 4, 2009.


ULF AND PHILIP SAMUELSSON

As feared a hitter as there ever was in the NHL, Ulf Samuelsson was a member of Pittsburgh’s first back-to-back Stanley Cup-winning teams in 1991 and 1992.  Retiring in 2000, Samuelsson played more the 1000 NHL games with Hartford, Pittsburgh, the New York Rangers and Detroit.

A second-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009, Philip skated his first three-and-a-half seasons as a pro in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. A stay-at-home defenseman, Samuelsson recorded 45 points in 197 games before being traded to the Arizona Coyotes.

We would be remiss if we failed to mention this grandfather-grandson connection….


ANDY AND ANDY BATHGATE

Andy Bathgate was recently named one of the “100 Greatest NHL Players.”  He skated for 17 seasons in the NHL with the New York Rangers, Detroit, Toronto and Pittsburgh.  His few AHL appearances saw him help the Cleveland Barons take home the Calder Cup in 1954 and a six-game stint with the Pittsburgh Hornets during the 1966-67 season.  Bathgate was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1979.

The younger Andy Bathgate had a brief two-game stay with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in 2011 following his third season with the OHL’s Belleville Bulls.  He returned to the Ontario Hockey League the following season and amassed 63 points in 68 games for the Plymouth Whalers.

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