GAGE QUINNEY STANDS OUT AT PENGUINS CAMP

Gage QuinneyCoaches always preach about the opportunities afforded to players in a training camp situation. Of course, many players with certain contracts or past performance credentials often have an edge before the first puck even drops.  But it’s supposed to always be a matter of playing the best you can so that you’re impossible to ignore.

Gage Quinney has made himself impossible to ignore.

An overage standout who played major junior hockey in the Western Hockey League last year, Quinney first played for the Penguins organization as an undrafted free agent on a tryout agreement at this year’s rookie tournament in London. He got the call from Pittsburgh just two weeks before the event, and has done nothing but impress ever since.

His strong play in London earned him an invite to Pittsburgh’s main training camp, something he didn’t really consider possible when he agreed to join the club in its annual rookie excursion.

“I had no idea, actually,” Quinney said of making Pittsburgh’s camp. “It was just originally that I was going to the prospect camp. That was the only thing on my mind. Now, look. Here I am.”

Quinney was eventually reassigned from Pittsburgh’s camp to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton where he has really shone. Penguins head coach Clark Donatelli cited Quinney early on as one of the new guys in the room that opened his eyes, and today Quinney skated with a veteran-laden group at the Toyota SportsPlex at Coal St.

“[Quinney]’s learned to play with pace, which is big for us,” Donatelli said. “He’s an excellent puck handler. He put up a ton of points in junior… He seems to get it done. What can I say?”

The Las Vegas, Nev. product agrees with Donatelli’s assessment on skill being his strong suit, but added to his scouting report with a bit of criticism and a self-assigned challenge.

“I’m a skilled player, so I play to that,” Quinney said. “That’s what I like to do, but I see some things that I still need to work on. I need to get stronger to win those battles for pucks or positioning. Instead of being 50/50 in the battles, I want to win every battle.”

Winning “every battle” is a lofty goal for any player, but then again, so is earning a professional hockey contract as an undrafted 21-year-old on a tryout. So far, Quinney has put his best foot forward in terms of accomplishing that second feat.

His work isn’t done yet, though. Now, Quinney has to continue to build on his hard work and show what he’s capable of in game situations now that Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s exhibition schedule is set to begin tomorrow.

“I want to see what it’s like and get a taste for the pro game,” Quinney said. “Then I want to adapt as fast as I can and then go from there. Hopefully, I can keep it up.”

Individual tickets for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton home games can be purchased at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza box office, through Ticketmaster.com, or by calling 800-745-3000.

Season ticket packages for the 2016-17 season of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins hockey, including full season, 22-game12-game and Flexbook plans, are available by contacting the Penguins directly at (570) 208-7367.

PENGUINS HOST DEVILS ON THURSDAY

Devils vs Penguins

GAME DAY SNAPSHOT

The Penguins open their 2016 preseason schedule on home ice against the Devils.  Its the first of three exhibition contests for the Pens, who will also face off with the Hershey Bears this Saturday at home, and Sunday at the Giant Center.

WHOWilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (roster) vs. Albany Devils

WHERE:  Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza

WHEN:  Thursday, October 6 at 7:05pm

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TICKETSTicketMaster.com or at the arena box office

It’s also the first preseason game for the Devils, who will also take on the Hartford WolfPack this Sunday in Connecticut.

Individual tickets for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton home games can be purchased at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza box office, through Ticketmaster.com, or by calling 800-745-3000.

Season ticket packages for the 2016-17 season of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins hockey, including full season, 22-game12-game and Flexbook plans, are available by contacting the Penguins directly at (570) 208-7367.

WHAT ARE YOU PLAYING FOR?

By Nick Hart

Leland Irving took the ice with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for the first time today. He did so without a contract.

Not only is the goaltender lacking an NHL or AHL deal, he has no ECHL deal to fall back on after training camp, and European elite league seasons overseas have already begun.

Irving is competing for his job and knows what’s at stake.

“Any time you’ve got a family to feed at home, that’s going to motivate you a lot more than anything else,” Irving said. “I think pressure’s a good thing. Nerves are a good thing. It keeps you on edge a bit. Times like that, you’re under a lot of pressure and automatically elevate your game.”

If he can elevate his game enough, he’d secure a contract with the Penguins organization or maybe even another club in need of a goalie. The added edge to his performance went noticed by the Penguins coaching staff today, so much so that they’re already anticipating that Irving’s addition to the mix of goalies at camp will make roster decisions much more difficult down the line.

“Right now, [Irving]’s making it really hard for me. They all are,” said Penguins head coach Clark Donatelli. “This isn’t his first rodeo.  He’s been around, and he knows what he has to do. He’s a good pro. I think we’re just going to have to see.”

When Donatelli says Irving’s “been around,” he means it, too. He’s been everywhere, it seems. At 28, Irving has already been a first-round draft pick, played in the NHL, AHL, ECHL as well as professionally in Finland and Russia.

His return to the AHL last season saw him backstop the Iowa Wild and put up more than respectable numbers despite facing an average of 30-plus shots a night.

Irving hopes his all-around experience allows him to set himself apart from his much younger net-protecting counterparts at camp.

“It’s definitely a young core of goaltenders here,” Irving said. “I’ve been around this league a long time and been through ups and downs. You know, I was young once, too. I feel like I’m a much better goalie on and off the ice now than where I was when I was younger.”

Donatelli didn’t tip his hand toward favor towards any of the four goalies in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, nor has he given any indication when any of them will see their camp come to an end.

“I’m not too sure how that’s going to check out,” Donatelli said. “We’re going to continue with all of these guys for a few days here and see what happens in some games. But as of right now, we’re not too sure when any decisions will be made.”

So in the meantime, it’s up to Irving to keep up the intensity throughout practices and excel if his name gets called at any point during any of the upcoming exhibition games. After all, he’s got a family to feed.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins take the ice for their first preseason game when they host the Albany Devils at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza on Thursday, Oct. 6 at 7:05 p.m. The Penguins will also battle the Hershey Bears in exhibition action at home on Saturday, Oct. 8 at 7:05 p.m. before wrapping up their preseason schedule at Giant Center against the Bears on Sunday, Oct. 9 at 5:00 p.m.

Individual tickets for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton home games can be purchased at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza box office, through Ticketmaster.com, or by calling 800-745-3000.

Season ticket packages for the 2016-17 season of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins hockey, including full season, 22-game12-game and Flexbook plans, are available by contacting the Penguins directly at (570) 208-7367.

OPPORTUNITIES STILL ABOUND AFTER PITTSBURGH CUTS

Penguins Logo

Seventeen may not seem like a very big number, especially in certain contexts. Seventeen pieces of popcorn? Must’ve been a short movie. Seventeen minutes? That’s not even enough time to properly cook a DiGiorno pizza.

However, in the case of 17 players set to join Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after a heap of cuts made by Pittsburgh, that’s a significant amount of bodies joining Clark Donatelli’s training camp.

The list of 17 names joining the Penguins is impressive, but it makes a very crowded roster. In fact, the total number of players at camp has nearly doubled, now at a grand total of 37.

Everyone knows the Penguins will not enter the regular season with that many men, so a significant round of cuts is likely to come at some point. But until then, Donatelli is stressing to the guys that have been at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s training camp from the start that there are still opportunities to earn a spot on the team despite the influx of talent that just came his way.

“Guys are still competing for jobs as long as there’s jobs open,” Donatelli said. “There are still opportunities. There’s still time to make impressions. And even if you don’t make this team right off the bat, you might go play for Wheeling, and the guys here know we use Wheeling quite a bit.”

That’s good news for many of the players who are trying to carve themselves onto the Penguins’ roster for the season, or at the very least grab a contract like Sahir Gill did with his impressive training camp last season.

While there’s no guarantee they’ll see the same good fortunes as Gill come the end of camp, when Donatelli was asked who has stood out practice sessions thus far, he mentioned Nick Sorkin, Reid Gardiner and Gage Quinney.

Sorkin is on an ECHL deal with the Wheeling Nailers. Quinney is an undrafted free agent with one year of junior eligibility remaining, whereas Gardiner is undrafted but has aged out of junior hockey and looking to turn pro.

“Sorkin’s a big kid who played in Montréal and then he went over to Europe last year,” Donatelli said. “He’s a big guy who really moves. He can skate and he has some skill. And Quinney and Gardiner played real well today. Two young kids out of junior… They’ve been working extremely hard out there, for sure.”

Those three eye-openers among all the other players at camp will be on their toes even more now that 17 more players are moving in, but their chances to impress and make the impression necessary to seize a roster spot won’t come to an end with cuts any time soon.

“It won’t be tomorrow, that’s for sure,” Donatelli said. “We still have to make some decisions on players. And for that matter, some guys still have to get through waivers and so forth. So we’re still going to need a few days here anyway. Our camp is going to continue.”

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins take the ice for their first preseason game when they host the Albany Devils at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza on Thursday, Oct. 6 at 7:05 p.m. The Penguins will also battle the Hershey Bears in exhibition action at home on Saturday, Oct. 8 at 7:05 p.m. before wrapping up their preseason schedule at Giant Center against the Bears on Sunday, Oct. 9 at 5:00 p.m.

Individual tickets for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton home games can be purchased at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza box office, through Ticketmaster.com, or by calling 800-745-3000.

Season ticket packages for the 2016-17 season of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins hockey, including full season, 22-game12-game and Flexbook plans, are available by contacting the Penguins directly at (570) 208-7367.

SIX EYES ARE BETTER THAN FOUR

For the first time in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins history, a head coach will be flanked by two assistants on the bench.

Clark Donatelli will be joined on the bench during the season by new assistant coaches Chris Taylor and J.D. Forrest. Both men have been active in individual instruction with players through the early goings of Penguins training camp. Day two of camp saw Taylor and Forrest take the reins on several drills, as well, so that Donatelli could work with a different sect of players elsewhere on the ice.

The three-man coaching unit already appears to be meshing quite well, and the same could be said for Forrest’s move to Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Forrest rolled into Wilkes-Barre for the first time in early August to scout the area and has had a smooth adjustment to his family’s new home ever since.

“This is a nice area, we like our spot,” Forrest said. “School’s been awesome, the kids are adjusting well. The organization makes it really easy.”

Forrest makes a point to mention school, because as a father of a six-year-old daughter who only knew a European education system during Forrest’s days coaching in Austria, he and his wife Sarah weren’t sure how she would handle the whirlwind of changes.

“My oldest, Madison, she’s going to an American school for the first time,” Forrest said. “We were a little worried about that, but it’s been smooth. The whole thing’s been great.”

On the other hand, Taylor has been all go, go, go in terms of work and hasn’t had much time to hit the brakes and explore Northeastern Pennsylvania.

“No, not really” Taylor said with a smile. “My biggest concern so far has been getting comfortable at the rink, getting to know everybody from the players to the office staff. We’re trying to get everything organized with our video, practices, and just making sure we’re on top of our game.”

In fact, Taylor has been grinding away in the coaches’ office so much, he hasn’t even had the opportunity for anyone to show him around for some good eats. He is completely clueless when it comes to all things NEPA right now.

“I haven’t been out on the town yet,” Taylor said. “Hopefully, I will soon.”

Somebody get this man some Old Forge pizza, stat.

Taylor and the rest of the coaching staff’s preparation has led to high-paced practices that has had the players at Penguins training camp sweating bullets as they try and shed the rust from the off-season. Seeing the intensity of the practices has brought back fond memories of Forrest’s playing days, but with an added bonus.

“It’s exciting at first,” Forrest said. “Getting back on the ice and getting that feeling, it’s not too different from being a player, except now I don’t have to worry about being in such great shape.”

INJURIES CAN LEAD TO OPPORTUNITIES

Injuries in Pittsburgh can often have a trickle down effect on the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.  And with AHL training camp only two days old, that already seems to be the case.

The NHL Penguins announced that forwards Teddy Blueger and Thomas Di Pauli are both currently sidelined with lower body injuries that figure to keep them out of the lineup for 6-8 weeks each.

Blunger, Pittsburgh’s second round pick in the 2012 draft, made his pro debut with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last season, appearing in 20 total games (10 regular season and 10 playoff games) after finishing his college career at Minnesota State – Mankato.

Another 2012 draftee, Di Pauli finished his senior year at Notre Dame with a team-high 14 goals last season.  His professional debut will be put on hold now.

“It’s a tough break for those guys,” Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach Clark Donatelli said.  “Blueger came in and did an excellent job, he’s having a really good camp.  And DiPauli played really well in rookie camp and he was making an impression.

“But that’s hockey.  They’re out, I think they said about six weeks or so.  We can’t control that.”

But injuries up top could lead to extra chances for skaters down below, including a couple of skaters who already have some experience with the Penguins.

Derek Army led the Wheeling Nailers with 29 goals two years ago, and drew enough attention to be summoned by four AHL clubs on pro tryout contracts last season.  He spent the most time with the Penguins, tallying four points (2+2) in 13 regular season games.

Jarrett Burton put up 38 points (15+23) in 44 games with the Nailers before being signed to a PTO by the Penguins on February 6.  He went on to appear in 23 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, notching two goals and 10 penalty minutes.

Burton signed an AHL deal with the Penguins over the summer, and Army is in camp on another PTO.  But both could see significant time in NEPA this season.

“We put some time into these guys to develop them,” Donatelli said.  “They’re definitely right there in the running.”

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins take the ice for their first preseason game when they host the Albany Devils at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza on Thursday, Oct. 6 at 7:05 p.m. The Penguins will also battle the Hershey Bears in exhibition action at home on Saturday, Oct. 8 at 7:05 p.m. before wrapping up their preseason schedule at Giant Center against the Bears on Sunday, Oct. 9 at 5:00 p.m.

Individual tickets for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton home games can be purchased at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza box office, through Ticketmaster.com, or by calling 800-745-3000.

Season ticket packages for the 2016-17 season of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins hockey, including full season, 22-game12-game and Flexbook plans, are available by contacting the Penguins directly at (570) 208-7367.

PENGUINS PRACTICE REPORT – OCTOBER 1, 2016

 

WILKES-BARRE, PA –  The 18th edition of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins training camp got underway this morning at the Toyota SportsPlex in Wilkes-Barre, with 20 players hitting the ice.

How many remain on the roster when the Penguins host the Hartford Wolf Pack in the team’s season opener on October 15th remains to be seen.

With more than 45 players still in NHL camp with the Pittsburgh Penguins, many of the skaters taking part in the first week of practice in NEPA could be bumped from the roster and figure to start the season somewhere else.

But that doesn’t mean they won’t be playing a part in the Penguins’ 2016-17 campaign.

“There’s a good pipeline from Wheeling to Wilkes-Barre to Pittsburgh,” said Wilkes-Barre/Scranton captain tom Kostopoulos, one of the few players who would seem to have already locked down a spot with the AHL club.  “It’s not necessarily about where guys start.  At some point of the year we’re all planning to cross paths.  Different guys could help three different teams in the organization.  It’s good to get to know all the guys in your organization and see where things are going to go.”

Last year was perfect proof of Kostopoulos’ point, as 10 players who skated in Wilkes-Barre also suited up in Pittsburgh.  Likewise, no fewer than 14 players pulled on both Wheeling and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton sweaters last season.

“Last year a number of guys went up from here to Pittsburgh and won the Stanley Cup, a number of guys came from Wheeling to Wilkes-Barre and helped us make a little playoff run.  It’s good to get to know everyone in training camp and bond a little bit.”

Head coach Clark Donatelli knows that the team he is icing at this point won’t be the team he’s putting out come opening night.  Still, he keeps his eyes on the task at hand.

“We can only control the players we have here.  Who comes and who doesn’t come, that remains to be seen,” he said.  “We just go to work every day here with the players that we have and control what we can control, and that’s making these guys better, and making sure they’re going to be available and ready if Pittsburgh calls them.”

NOTES:  Michael Webster skated in a red no-contact jersey with what Donatelli described as an upper body injury…Practice lasted approximately 90 minutes, and Donatelli said that would be the standard during the first few days of camp.