DECISION TO STAY IN PITTSBURGH A NO-BRAINER FOR RUHWEDEL


by Mike O’Brien

It can be a daunting choice, one to which most everyone can relate.  At some point in life, it comes time to mull over a job offer.  Many hours and some sleepless nights are spent weighing the pros and cons, determining if the next opportunity is the right one.

Hockey players go through a super-charged version of this process come the start of free agency each summer.  Life decisions are crammed into a few hours as players must quickly choose which contract, which organization, which city is the best fit.

Even if defenseman Chad Ruhwedel had a crystal ball at his disposal last summer when he signed a one-year deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins, he might have had difficulty foreseeing the path the lay ahead.

Ruhwedel had been at this crossroads before.

The San Diego native had an outstanding junior campaign at the UMass-Lowell, helping the Riverhawks to the Frozen Four while being named an All-American.

At the same time, the undrafted defenseman was being pursued aggressively by the Buffalo Sabres, who signed Ruhwedel at the conclusion of the 2012-13 college season.  He hopped right into the Sabres line-up, making his NHL debut on Apr. 13, 2013 in a 1-0 win over Philadelphia as part of a seven-game stint with Buffalo.

The following season, Ruhwedel’s first full campaign as a pro, would provide the blueliner with a highwater mark for games played in the NHL.  He appeared in 21 contests for a rebuilding Buffalo squad, while also splitting time in the American Hockey League with the Rochester Americans.

A restricted free agent in the summer of 2014, Ruhwedel re-signed with the Sabres, but saw his time in NHL diminish to just five games in Buffalo over the next two seasons.

Fast forward to July 1, 2016.  Ruhwedel was at another proverbial fork in the road. Though there were many conversations with his family and agent leading up to the start of free agency, the final decision ended up being a pretty easy one.

“That was pretty hectic the week before free agency.  We narrowed it down to a few contenders,” Ruhwedel stated.  “When Pittsburgh’s name came up, to be honest, it was a no-brainer.”

The 27-year-old joined a Penguins organization that boasted a very deep bench on defense.  He began the season in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and immediately slotted into the top pairing for the AHL club.

When injuries befell the blueline corps in Pittsburgh near Christmas time, Ruhwedel was recalled to NHL.  He hit the ice for his first game with Pittsburgh on Dec. 20, and scored his first NHL goal a game later versus the New Jersey Devils.  His steady play endeared Ruhwedel to the coaching staff in a short amount of time.

“The reason Chad stuck is because he earned his spot,” said Pittsburgh Penguins Head Coach Mike Sullivan. “He earned it through his performance and his work habits each and every day.”

Ruhwedel set career highs with 34 NHL games played, two goals, eight assists and 10 points.  Those stats and time spent in Pittsburgh probably would have been enough to justify his choice to join the Penguins, but it only got better from there.

With the defense corps at full health to begin the postseason, Ruhwedel initially found himself a spectator through the opening round series versus Columbus and much the second round against Washington.

But, when Trevor Daley suffered an injury in Game Five against the Capitals, it was Ruhwedel who got that call from Sullivan.

The Penguins closed out the Caps in seven games, and Ruhwedel was also in the line-up through the first four contests of the Eastern Conference Final versus Ottawa – including 21:25 in Game Three.

As Daley returned from his lower-body injury, Ruhwedel was again relegated to the press box, but was on the ice in Nashville to hoist the Stanley Cup with the rest of his teammates.

Suffice to say, Ruhwedel felt good about electing to sign with Pittsburgh.  It is hard to imagine the season unfolding more perfectly as he described the year as one that “exceeded all expectations.”

Still, after the most successful season of his career, Ruhwedel headed into the off-season once again as a free agent and with a choice to make.  Ruhwedel re-signed with the Penguins on July 22, signing a two-year, one-way deal.  From the sound of it, he spent way less time on the decision this time around.

“It was really easy to decide to re-sign.  They wanted me back and I really wanted to be back,” Ruhwedel stated. “It’s just a good mutual relationship and I think it’s a good fit for both of us.”

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

OBIE’S OBSERVATIONS – PITTSBURGH TRAINING CAMP

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins broadcaster Mike O’Brien is in Western Pennsylvania for Pittsburgh Penguins training camp, and checked in with some of his thoughts from Monday’s practice and tournament game.

Practice

Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

•  During the first three days of practice at training camp, the Penguins have split into three teams for a round robin tournament.  Team 3 was not able to make it to the championship game as they were on ice early today for practice.  Their roster read like a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Who’s Who from the 2014-15 season with the likes of Josh Archibald, Matt Murray, Carter Rowney, Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary and Scott Wilson out there.  Seems like forever, but it is less than two years ago that those players were helping Wilkes-Barre/Scranton to one of its best starts in team history.

•  It is always fun to see when players from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton graduate to full-time residence in Pittsburgh, and obviously it has happened plenty of times over the last 18 years.  Still, it was special to see Carter Rowney skating during training camp today.  Such a good guy off the ice and a hard worker on it.  His trek from the ECHL to the NHL has been written about at length, as were his contributions during the Penguins’ most-recent Stanley Cup run.  Though Rowney has been a participant at Pittsburgh’s training camp before, it’s different this year.  His spot in the NHL this season is deserved and seemingly secure.  It has been a long, hard road for Rowney and it’s not hard to appreciate him officially reaching this point of his journey.

•  Recent Wilkes-Barre/Scranton signee Christian Thomas was also a part of Team 3’s practice.  A couple of times, he flashed the shot that helped him score 24 goals in Hershey last season.  Thomas also showed good ability distributing the puck.  His no-look pass to Garrett Wilson created a good chance in close and he set-up teams on a couple of 2-on-1s. Thomas was signed to bring another scoring element to the Penguins, but it appears he can be a playmaker as well.

Training Camp Championship Game

They won’t be throwing any parades for the winner of this one, but it was a spirited match-up between Team 1 led by Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin’s Team 2.  Team 1 used two goals in the “second half” of the scrimmage to pull away for the 4-2 win and take home the training camp crown.  Here are a few players that stood out:

•  Gage Quinney – The second-year pro was the MVP early on in the championship game, scoring both of Team’s 1 goals in the first half.  His first came off a quick shot that banged off the post and into the net.  Quinney’s second goal showed good patience, taking a pass from Ryan Reaves and waiting out Antti Niemi before tucking the puck past the skate of the downed goaltender.

•  Casey DeSmith – This isn’t DeSmith’s first training camp in Pittsburgh, but it is his first with an NHL contract.  The 26-year-old looked the part on Monday at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.  Taking over net for the second half of the scrimmage and with the score knotted, 2-2, DeSmith pitched a shutout as Team 1 broke the tie and eventually skated to victory.  The netminder was reading the play well and kept his form whenever there was chaos or traffic around his net.  His prettiest save came with the glove, when he robbed Ian Cole on a bang-bang one-timer from the hashmarks.  DeSmith’s most impressive stop came moments before, getting a shoulder a Phil Kessel’s mid-air rebound opportunity on the left post.

•  Dominik Simon – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton fans remember Simon’s deadly shot that netted 25 goals during his rookie season in 2015-16.  At times last season, that skill took a backseat as he worked to develop other aspects of his game.  Skating on a line with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel, Simon’s quick release and accuracy were on display once again.  Stationed on the left circle, Simon took a centering feed from Crosby and sniped a wrist shot to the top of the net that turned out to be the game-winner.  With the depth at wing in Pittsburgh, earning a spot with out of camp might prove difficult.  But if Simon continues to light the lamp during the preseason, he could put himself in line to be one of the first call-ups for Jim Rutherford and Mike Sullivan.

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

FINALLY HEALTHY, DI PAULI READY TO SHOW WHAT HE CAN DO

Based on the way Thomas Di Pauli’s first season as a pro went last year, it’d be easy to think he spent most of his days spilling salt over broken mirrors underneath a ladder with a black cat. It was a rather unfortunate year to say the least, one riddled with injuries.

First it was a knee ailment suffered during training camp. Then once he got healthy, a nagging issue in his back required surgery to fix. That ultimately sidelined him for three whole months. Finally, a slash cut him right back down with a broken finger that ended his season for good. After all of that, the promising two-way forward was limited to just 21 games.

Bad luck like that would give anyone a good reason to mope around and curse the heavens, but at the recent Prospects Challenge in Buffalo, New York, not even the Karate Kid could wax the smile off of Di Pauli’s face.

Grinning ear-to-ear after every game, the Italian-born 23-year-old couldn’t contain his excitement when talking about his healthy status. By the time the tournament was over, Di Pauli had one word to describe how he felt.

“Fantastic.”

“I feel strong, I feel fast, and I feel confidence,” Di Pauli said following the Penguins prospects’ title-clinching game against the Buffalo Sabres. “I guess I’m going to keep having fun, because right now the hockey is flowing and it’s been so fun to play.”

Di Pauli spent most of his summer altering his training regimen and his diet. Di Pauli cited the time he spent observing Penguins veterans like Tom Kostopoulos as a huge inspiration for him when he was sidelined, and for good reason. Not only does Kostopoulos still produce offense in his late 30’s, but he’s only missed one game due to injury over the past two seasons.

Di Pauli hasn’t altered his eating habits to completely mirror the gluten-free lifestyle of his captain, but he is now a pescetarian. In the gym, he’s placed an added emphasis on flexibility and mobility over strength, attempting to ensure that his body can better handle the rigors of pro hockey.

Everything the oft-injured rookie changed from last year to now is a direct result of his misfortune.

“I learned from it,” he said. “I had the whole summer to regroup and focus on this year. I’m a firm believer that when things like that happen, it can make you stronger. I’m trying to look at it as a positive.”

The changes he’s made off the ice appear to be already translating to his on-ice performance, as well.

“Now [Di Pauli]’s healthy, and you can see the difference,” said Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins head coach Clark Donatelli. “You can see he’s got more jump. He’s a little bit quicker, and he’s a quick player to begin with.”

With his health in check, Di Pauli has his sights set on making a big impact with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Technically, because he was robbed of so many games last year due to all of his miscellaneous setbacks, he still qualifies as a rookie by American Hockey League standards. That puts him right in the mix with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s expected and anticipated rookie class, including Zach Aston-Reese, Daniel Sprong and Adam Johnson.

Despite being existing in a crowded field not only of rookies, but the Penguins organization’s overall depth chart at forward, a healthy Thomas Di Pauli has his sights set on reaching the NHL. Soon.

“I know the player I am and I’ve always known the player I can be,” Di Pauli said. “I won’t be surprised if I’m playing [in Pittsburgh] sooner rather than later. I know I can make that jump. So I’m going to keep hammering away, paying my dues and having fun, because I’m confident that I can play there.”

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

PITTSBURGH PENGUINS TRAINING CAMP ROSTER RELEASED


The Pittsburgh Penguins have invited 59 players to their 2017 training camp, it was announced Thursday by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.

Head coach Mike Sullivan’s camp roster (DOWNLOAD ROSTER HERE) will include 34 forwards, 19 defensemen and six goaltenders. Players will take the ice for the first time on Friday, September 15 at 9:00 AM at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry.

All training camp practices at the UMPC Lemieux Sports Complex are free of charge and open to the public.

This year’s camp roster built by Rutherford and his staff includes 18 players who logged action for the Penguins during the 2017 playoff run.

Players will be available to the media following their final on-ice session of the day.

Leading the way once again is captain Sidney Crosby, winner of consecutive Conn Smythe Trophies; Evgeni Malkin, who led the NHL playoffs in points with 28 last spring, the second time in his career he’s done that; returning high-scoring blueliner Kris Letang; and goalie Matt Murray, who has backstopped the Penguins to Cup victories in each of his first two years in the league.

A new season brings new faces to the equation, and some of the veteran newcomers this season are defenseman Matt Hunwick and goalie Antti Niemi, both of whom signed as free agents on July 1, and forward Ryan Reaves, acquired in a draft-day trade from St. Louis.

Hunwick was a key catalyst in Toronto’s ascension to become a playoff team last year, while Niemi has won 227 career NHL games and backstopped the Chicago Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup championship in 2010. Reaves enjoyed a career year with the Blues last season, setting career highs in goals (7), assists (6) and points (13) while ranking 10th in the NHL with 239 hits.

Center Jay McClement, one of the top forward penalty-killing specialists in the NHL, will be attending camp on a professional tryout contract. A veteran of 12 NHL seasons, McClement spent the last three years with the Carolina Hurricanes, where he tallied 15 goals and 40 points in 224 contests, and won 53.7% of his faceoffs.

Sullivan’s squad begins camp at 9:00 AM on Friday with a pair of practices, as Team 1 will be on Rink 1, and Team 2 will practice on Rink 2.

Teams 1 and 2 will then partake in a scrimmage against one another from 10:00-10:45 AM on Rink 1, before both squads finish their morning with conditioning until 11:05 AM.

Team 3 has two practice sessions on Friday, both on Rink 1. That team will have its first practice from 11:30 AM-12:15 PM, then it will finish with a practice that spans from 12:45-1:30 PM.

Below is the Pittsburgh Penguins’ training camp schedule through September 21:

Friday, September 15

9:00-9:45 AM – Team 1 Practice (Rink 1)

9:00-9:45 AM – Team 2 Practice (Rink 2)

9:45 AM – Jim Rutherford Media Availability (Media Room)

10:00-10:45 AM – Team 1 vs. Team 2 Scrimmage (Rink 1)

10:45-11:05 AM – Teams 1 and 2 Conditioning (Rinks 1 & 2)

Post Conditioning – Teams 1 and 2 Media Availability

11:30 AM-12:15 PM – Team 3 Practice (Rink 1)

12:45-1:30 PM – Team 3 Practice and Conditioning (Rink 1)

Post Conditioning – Team 3 Media Availability

Saturday, September 16

9:00-9:45 AM – Team 2 Practice (Rink 1)

9:00-9:45 AM – Team 3 Practice (Rink 2)

10:00-10:45 AM – Team 2 vs. Team 3 Scrimmage (Rink 1)

10:45-11:05 AM – Teams 2 and 3 Conditioning (Rinks 1 & 2)

Post Conditioning – Teams 2 and 3 Media Availability

11:30 AM-12:15 PM – Team 1 Practice (Rink 1)

12:45-1:30 PM – Team 1 Practice and Conditioning (Rink 1)

Post Conditioning – Team 1 Media Availability

Sunday, September 17

9:00-9:45 AM – Team 3 Practice (Rink 1)

9:00-9:45 AM – Team 1 Practice (Rink 2)

10:00-10:45 AM – Team 3 vs. Team 1 Scrimmage (Rink 1)

10:45-11:05 AM – Teams 3 and 1 Conditioning (Rinks 1 & 2)

Post Conditioning – Teams 3 and 1 Media Availability

11:30 AM-12:15 PM – Team 2 Practice (Rink 1)

12:45-1:30 PM – Team 2 Practice and Conditioning (Rink 1)

Post Conditioning – Team 1 Media Availability

Monday, September 18

9:00-9:45 AM – Team TBD Practice (Rink 1)

10:00-10:45 AM – Team TBD Practice (Rink 1)

Following the 10:00 AM Practice – Team TBD Media Availability

11:00 AM-12:30 PM – Championship Game – Teams TBD (Rink 1)

Post-Game Media Availability

Tuesday, September 19

11:30 AM – Morning Skate – Game Group (Rink 1)

Post-Practice – Media Availability

10:00 AM – Non-Game Group Practice (Rink 2)

7:00 PM – GAME vs. BUFFALO (Pegula Ice Arena)

 

Wednesday, September 20

10:00 AM – Morning Skate – Game Group (Rink 1)

Post-Practice – Media Availability

11:00 AM-1:00 PM – Non-Game Group Practice (Rink 2)

7:00 PM – GAME vs. DETROIT (PPG Paints Arena)

 

Thursday, September 21

DAY OFF

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

PENGUINS PROSPECTS HIT THE ICE IN BUFFALO THIS WEEKEND

Jeff Taylor will be among the players who suited up for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins participating in the 2017 Prospects Challenge in Buffalo

Daniel Sprong and Zach Aston-Reese headline the 24-man roster (full roster and player bios) that the Pittsburgh Penguins will send to participate in the 2017 Prospects Challenge held at the HarborCenter in Buffalo, New York from September 8-11.

This year, the Penguins will compete against rookies from the host Buffalo Sabres, the New Jersey Devils and the Boston Bruins. This is Pittsburgh’s first year competing in Buffalo after several years participating in a rookie tournament in London, Ontario.

Pittsburgh will play in the opening game of the Prospects Challenge on Friday, September 8 at 3:30 PM. The Penguins will also play on Saturday, September 9 at 3:30 PM against New Jersey, before concluding with a night contest against the Sabres on Monday, September 11 at 7:00 PM.

All three games will be broadcast live on penguins.nhl.com with Josh Getzoff handling play-by-play duties. Michelle Crechiolo and the Pens’ social media team will be on hand to provide coverage all weekend.

Prior to departing for Buffalo, the Penguins prospects will practice on Thursday, September 7 at 10:30 AM at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry, Pa. Players, coaches and members of the development staff will be available to the media immediately following practice.

During the Prospects Challenge, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach Clark Donatelli will be behind the bench for the Penguins, alongside his assistants, J.D. Forrest and Tim Army.

Sprong, 20, who skated in 18 NHL regular-season games for the Penguins as an 18 year old in 2015-16, has been a member of Pittsburgh’s ‘Black Aces’ taxi squad during the back-to-back Stanley Cup runs. Back in 2015, Sprong used a strong rookie tournament in London, Ontario to eventually make the NHL roster out of training camp, before returning to his junior club in Charlottetown of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Last year, Sprong’s season was delayed by offseason shoulder surgery, but when he returned to the ice, he was one of the most dominant skaters in the QMJHL. In just 31 games with Charlottetown, he produced 32 goals and 59 points, including four hat tricks and a four-goal game.

Aston-Reese, 23, joined the Pittsburgh organization as an undrafted free agent from Northeastern after leading the NCAA in goals (31) and points (63) in 2016-17. In a brief late-season cameo with WBS, Aston-Reese scored three goals and eight points in 10 games.

Here are some tidbits on the remainder of Pittsburgh’s Prospects Challenge roster:

*Five more players in addition to Sprong and Aston-Reese – defensemen Lukas Bengtsson, Ethan Prow and Jeff Taylor; and forwards Teddy Blueger and Thomas Di Pauli – are prospects signed to NHL contracts that have also logged action with WBS.

*Rookie free agent forward Adam Johnson, who inked an entry-level deal with Pittsburgh following a strong showing at the team’s annual prospect development camp in July, will compete in his first game action in a Penguins jersey. Johnson was second on Minnesota-Duluth in goals (18) and points (37) as a sophomore last year.

*Three members of the Penguins’ 2017 draft class will suit up, including top pick Zachary Lauzon. The 18-year-old defenseman was chosen by the Penguins in the second round (51st overall). He will be joined by forward Jan Drozg, a fifth-round (152nd overall) pick, and fellow blueliner Antti Palojarvi, who was selected in the sixth round (186th overall).

*Freddie Tiffels, a 22-year-old 2015 sixth-round (167thoverall) draft pick, will be joining Johnson in seeing his first game action with Pittsburgh following a three-year collegiate career at Western Michigan.

*Of the 24 players attending the Prospects Challenge, 17 attended Pittsburgh’s prospect development camp in July.

Pittsburgh Penguins’ 2017 Prospects Challenge Schedule

Thursday, September 7

10:30 AM – Practice at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex

Friday, September 8

9:00 AM – Morning Skate (KeyBank Rink)

3:30 PM – Game vs. Boston (Kaybank Rink)

Saturday, September 9

9:00 AM – Morning Skate (New Wave Energy Rink)

3:30 PM – Game vs. New Jersey (KeyBank Rink)

Monday, September 11

11:00 AM – Morning Skate (New Wave Energy Rink)

7:00 PM – Game vs. Buffalo (KeyBank Rink)

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

ARMY, DONATELLI COME FULL CIRCLE


Clark Donatelli got his first taste of coaching hockey at a high level back in 2010, when he was a volunteer assistant for the Providence Friars in the NCAA.

The head coach that took a chance on Donatelli was none other than Tim Army.

Now, seven years later, the roles are reversed.

Army was named an assistant coach on Donatelli’s staff with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins last week, and is looking forward to working alongside the coach he formerly mentored.

“We have a great relationship,” said Army, 54, who actually grew up playing against Donatelli as a youngster in Rhode Island.  “He came in and helped me that year at Providence in 2010-11.  The thing that impressed me the most about Clarkie was how instinctive he is, how intuitive he is as a coach.  He has a great sense for the game, for his players.

“He also has a great personality, he’s very engaging.  He has a great relationship with his players, his ability to communicate is outstanding.”

Army is no stranger to coaching in the pros.  After five seasons as an assistant for the Friars (1988-93) he moved to the NHL, serving on Ron Wilson’s staffs with the Anaheim Ducks (1993-97) and the Washington Capitals (1997-2002).

He received his first head coaching job with the Capitals AHL affiliate, the Portland Pirates, in 2002, and stayed in Maine for three years. He returned to Providence as the Friars’ head coach in 2005, and spent the past six seasons as a member of the Colorado Avalanche’s coaching staff.

And although Army has spent the past half decade on the other side of the Rockies, he’s kept a close eye on Donatelli’s progress, thanks largely to a family connection.  Army’s son, Derek, spent two seasons playing under Donatelli with the Wheeling Nailers, as well as a short stint with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2015-16.

“I’ve also seen him grow as a coach when Derek was playing for him, both in Wheeling and Wilkes-Barre.  And his game management, his sense for his players, his ability to make adjustments, his read for the game, is tremendous,” said Army.  “To work for someone who has those instincts, it’s very exciting.”

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

A YEAR IN THE LIFE : JOSH ARCHIBALD


by Mike O’Brien

When Mike Sullivan went out of his way to bestow the moniker of “Buzzsaw” upon Josh Archibald, one could correctly surmise that the head coach, then of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, was a fan of the forward’s style of play.

When Sullivan ascended to become the head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, one might have also assumed that an NHL call-up would soon follow for Archibald.

But Archibald was not part of the group elevated from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton soon after Sullivan took over in Pittsburgh.  The 2011 6th-round pick instead was forced to watch as teammates, such as Conor Sheary and Scott Wilson, found permanent homes in the NHL and eventually lifted the Stanley Cup.

But patience paid off for Archibald.

Using the tenacity and speed that once drew the admiration of his head coach, Archibald earned a spot with Pittsburgh late in the 2016-17 season, and found himself hoisting Lord Stanley’s Cup.

The third-year pro got off to a fast start this past season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, skating alongside Oskar Sundqvist and Garrett Wilson to form one of the best lines in the Eastern Conference.  The trio combined for 60 points over the first 31 games of the campaign.

As the Penguins continued to jockey for positioning atop of the American Hockey League standings, Archibald had a career night on Feb. 4, posting two goals and an assist in a 7-1 pummeling of rival Lehigh Valley.

Less than a week later, the 24-year-old received his call-up to Pittsburgh and jetted across the country before taking the ice for his NHL season debut in Arizona.

“It was kind of a long trip.  I left New York and I don’t think I got to Arizona until about midnight and had to get up to do the morning routine, morning skate and video,” Archibald recalled.  “I was really excited to get back out there with the Penguins and show them what I had.”

Archibald showed both the Penguins and Coyotes what he had, notching his first two NHL goals to help Pittsburgh rally and earn a point on Feb. 11.  His first tally opened the scoring as he was quick to a rebound chance and snapped a backhander to the top of the net.

Josh Archibald nets his first NHL goal on February 11 against the Arizona Coyotes.

His second goal showed off the skills that made him one of the top performers for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

With the Penguins on the penalty kill, Arizona goaltender Mike Smith had trouble handling the puck near the no-touch zone.  Archibald came speeding in on the forecheck to cause havoc.

“It happened really fast,” recalled Archibald.  “[The puck] was almost in that awkward spot in the triangle where he can’t play it.  It was kind of sitting on the line.  So I think he hesitated a little bit and I got in on the forecheck.  I was able to recover it… …My body just took over and I was able to kick it up to myself with literally a wide open net.”

The bang-bang shorthanded goal with 5:22 to go pulled Pittsburgh within one and, with seconds left, Phil Kessel evened the score with the extra attacker. The Penguins ultimately fell in overtime, but Archibald could not have asked for a better personal performance in his season debut.

Archibald appeared in one more game for Pittsburgh before returning to the AHL, but was recalled for good at the end of the March.  While injuries provided the opportunity for the forward to move into the line-up, Archibald believes his speed, getting behind the defense and never giving up on plays helped to establish himself with the Penguins.

Ice time was sparse through the remainder of the regular season, and Archibald found himself in the press box through the first two rounds of the playoffs.  But as Pittsburgh advanced to Eastern Conference Final versus the Ottawa Senators, Archibald made his way back into the line-up for Game Four with his team trailing 2-1 in the series.  The guidance from coaches for his first-ever NHL postseason appearance was brief.

“They just told me, ‘We know how you can play,’” said Archibald. “’You got to go out there and do it.’”

Archibald and the Penguins smacked down Ottawa in a 7-0 victory that tied up the Conference Final.  He went on to dress for two more contests as Pittsburgh defeated the Senators in seven games to make it back-to-back trips to the Stanley Cup Final.

The championship round saw the Penguins match-up against the Nashville Predators. Once again Archibald’s first appearance during the series came in Game Four.

“We felt we wanted to try to put some enthusiasm and energy and speed in the lineup,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan told the Post-Gazette at the time. “Archie brings all those things to the table. He played some very solid games for us. He’s a guy that brings a certain dimension that we felt we wanted to have.”

Though the Predators knotted the series with a 4-1 win, it was an event that Archibald will forever savor.

“It was just one of those games, but it was a lot of fun,” Archibald said. “Great experience to get in a game like that.”

Of course, it is much easier to look back on such times when you end up on the winning side of history.  That is exactly what happened with the Penguins pitching consecutive shutouts  to claim their second straight Stanley Cup.  Though Game Four was Archibald’s lone contest played during the series, he was on the ice after the deciding contest to take his rightful turn lifting the coveted trophy in the air.  It was a moment that meant that much more with his college and Penguins teammate, Jake Guentzel, passing him the Cup.

“It was a pretty ecstatic moment for me.  For [Jake] to hand me that Cup to me after what we’ve been through kind of together, in college and then him coming into Wilkes-Barre at the end of last year and then even this year in Wilkes-Barre and Pittsburgh, it was pretty awesome.”

Archibald will get a crack at another Stanley Cup and a chance to build on his NHL resume, as he signed a two-year contract with Pittsburgh on July 13.  The one-way deal would seem to indicate a more permanent tenure at the NHL level for Archibald, who hopes that the end of the regular season and playoffs “were a good indication of what I can do.”

If life briefly settled down for Archibald following the Penguins’ Stanley Cup run, things are about to pick up big time in a short while.  Josh and his wife, Bailey, who were married last summer, are expecting their first child in the next week or two.

From marrying his college sweetheart last summer, to scoring his first NHL goals, getting his named etched on the Stanley Cup and soon to be welcoming a new addition to the family, it has been quite the year for Archibald.   There is little question as to where it ranks so far.

“Probably number one,” joked Archibald. “It definitely has been the best year so far.  Hopefully, we can keep building and have even better years from here on out.”

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

DONATELLI, FORREST TO LEAD TEAM USA AT HLINKA TOURNAMENT


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SCOTT YOUNG NAMED PENGUINS DIRECTOR OF PLAYER DEVELOPMENT


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A YEAR IN THE LIFE : CASEY DESMITH


by Nick Hart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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