PENGUINS WEEKLY – 4/17/18

 

Penguins finish season strong, prepare for first round series with Checkers

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (45-22-6-3) begins quest for Tom Kostopoulos’ first championship

 

Weekly Rewind

Friday, Apr. 13 – PENGUINS 3 at Springfield 2
Daniel Sprong set the franchise record for goals by a rookie with his 31st tally of the season. Sprong’s goal opened the game’s scoring, one of only a few bids that fooled Harri Säteri. The Thunderbirds’ goalie conjured 46 saves in the loss.

Saturday, Apr. 14 – PENGUINS 1 at Lehigh Valley 2 (SO)
The Penguins lost a shootout decision to the recently crowned Atlantic Division Champions. Both teams were held scoreless until the final two minutes of the third period, during which both teams found the back of the net. By getting to OT, the Penguins clinched the No. 2 seed in the Atlantic Division.

Sunday, Apr. 15 – PENGUINS 3 at Hershey 2
The Penguins remained unbeaten in regulation against the Bears in the two clubs’ final matchup of 2017-18, going 10-0-1-1 to notch the best single-season record in the rivalry’s 19-year history. Sprong scored again for goal 32, and Jan Drozg earned an assist in his pro debut.

 

The Week Ahead

Friday, Apr. 20 – PENGUINS at Charlotte – GAME ONE
Second-seeded Wilkes-Barre/Scranton travels to North Carolina to take on third-seeded Charlotte in the first round of the Calder Cup Playoffs. The Penguins hope to avenge a 2011 playoff series loss handed to them by the Checkers in the teams’ only postseason meeting. Charlotte closed out the season on a 10-game point streak (9-0-1-0), and won 15 of its last 18 contests.

Saturday, Apr. 21 – PENGUINS at Charlotte – GAME TWO
The Penguins went 1-3-0-0 against the Checkers in their four-game regular season series, but both teams were evenly matched on the special teams front. Both were 16.7% on the PP and 83.3% on the PK when facing one another this season.

 

Ice Chips

– Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is going to the Calder Cup Playoffs for the 16th consecutive season, the AHL’s longest active streak.

– Daniel Sprong’s 32 goals not only established a new franchise record for rookie scoring, but he also tied Janne Pesonen for the second-most goals in a season in team history.

– Sprong finished the season ranked in the AHL’s top five in three categories: third in goals (32), fourth in shots (214) and fifth in points (65). Sprong also led all rookies in goals and shots, while tying fellow first-years for tops in power play goals (11).

– Five of Michael Leighton’s six starts as a Penguin have gone past regulation. He is 4-0-1 in those games.

 

FINAL DIVISION STANDINGS

TEAM GP W L OTL SOL PTS Pt%
1. Lehigh Valley 76 47 19 5 5 104 .684
2. PENGUINS 76 45 22 6 3 99 .651
3. Charlotte 76 46 26 1 3 96 .632
4. Providence 76 45 26 3 2 95 .625
5. Bridgeport 76 36 32 5 3 80 .526
6. Hartford 76 34 33 6 3 77 .507
7. Springfield 76 32 37 5 2 71 .467
8. Hershey 76 30 37 4 5 69 .454

 

TEAM LEADERS

SKATERS GP G A PTS
Daniel Sprong* 65 32 33 65
Jean-Sébastien Dea 70 18 32 50
Teddy Blueger 70 21 24 45
Garrett Wilson 69 17 25 42
Ryan Haggerty 47 16 21 37
GOALIES GP W-L-OT GAA SV% Shutouts
Casey DeSmith^ 27 16-8-3 2.73 .910 2
Anthony Peters 24 12-7-3 2.71 .907 1
Tristan Jarry 16 9-5-2 3.05 .901 0

* = rookie
^ = currently with Pittsburgh

 

UPCOMING GAME SCHEDULE

DATE                 OPPONENT     LOCATION                           TIME    

Fri, Apr. 20        Charlotte         Bojangles’ Coliseum           7:00 p.m.

Sat, Apr. 21        Charlotte         Bojangles’ Coliseum           6:00 p.m.

 

RECENT TRANSACTIONS

Tue, Apr. 17      (LW) Sam Miletic                Reassigned from OHL

Tue, Apr. 17      (LW) Jan Drozg                       Released from ATO

Fri, Apr. 13        (G) Alex D’Orio                   Reassigned to QMJHL

Wed, Apr. 11    (C) Anthony Angello                       Signed to ATO

Wed, Apr. 11    (C) Cam Brown                                 Signed to PTO

PENGUINS BEAT BEARS IN REGULAR SEASON FINALE, 3-2

 

BOXSCORE

HERSHEY, Pa. – The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins ended the 2017-18 season on a high note, defeating the Hershey Bears, 3-2, at Giant Center on Sunday evening.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton ends the season with a 45-22-6-3 record worth 99 points, and it also concludes the 2017-18 campaign on an eight-game win streak against its bitter rival from Hershey.

Daniel Sprong kicked off the scoring for the Penguins on the power play at 10:32 of the opening period. Sprong notched his team-leading 11th man advantage marker and 32nd goal overall this season, which also pulled him into a tie for the second-most tallies in the AHL.

As time was ticking down in the first period, Jarrett Burton shot the puck off the post and in with 18.1 seconds left in the frame to give Wilkes-Barre/Scranton a 2-0 lead. Making his AHL debut, Jan Drozg recorded his first pro point with the secondary assist on Burton’s goal.

The second period was largely uneventful until Dustin Gazley buried one for the Bears 32 seconds before the intermission.

Gage Quinney re-established the Penguins’ two-goal lead by smacking in a rebound at 6:15 of the third period. Kevin Schulze picked off a breakout pass in the Bears’ zone, tapped it over to Sprong who was denied by Vítek Vaněček, but Quinney was in the perfect spot for the loose puck. Schulze gathered his first AHL point with the assist on the play.

Desperate to try and tie the game in front of their home fans in the season finale, the Bears pulled Vaněček for an extra attacker while they were on the power play with 4:20 left in the game. The gamble paid off as Jeremy Langlois found the back of the net during the six-on-four man advantage, making it a 3-2 contest.

Hershey pulled Vaněček again in hopes of getting another extra attacker goal, but never challenged Anthony Peters again before the sound of the final buzzer.

The Penguins wrap up the season 10-0-1-1 against the Bears, the best single-season record in the 19-year history of the I-81 Rivalry.

Both goalies were billed with 27 saves.

Next up for Penguins is the first round of the 2018 Calder Cup Playoffs. They will face-off against the Charlotte Checkers in a best-of-five Atlantic Division Semifinal series, starting with Game 1 at Bojangles’ Coliseum on Friday, Apr. 20.

Ticket packages and individual game tickets for the Calder Cup Playoffs are now on sale. With the purchase of a postseason ticket package, fans will receive a $6 food/merchandise voucher for every game played in the playoffs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton fans can secure their seats for every game on the Cup run by contacting the Penguins directly at (570) 208-7367.

PENGUINS SIGN ALEX D’ORIO AND JAN DROZG TO ATOs

 

WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins announced today that they have signed goaltender Alex D’Orio and forward Jan Drozg to amateur tryout agreements for the 2017-18 season.

D’Orio, 18, just completed his second season with the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Québec Major Junior Hockey League. In his rookie season during 2016-17, D’Orio helped the Sea Dogs win the QMJHL championship and clinch a spot in the 2017 Memorial Cup Tournament. During his 28-game rookie campaign, D’Orio posted a 2.40 goals against average, a .903 save percentage, one shutout and a 19-2-2 record. D’Orio ended his most recent season with a 4.01 goals against average and a .895 save percentage amassed over (44) games as the Sea Dogs’ number one goaltender.

After going undrafted in 2017, the Pittsburgh Penguins invited the goaltender from Sherbrooke, Québec to the 2017 Prospects Challenge in Buffalo, New York. D’Orio started all three games for the Penguins’ prospects during the tournament, going 2-0-1 with a .905 save percentage and a 2.64 goals against en route to he and his teammates finishing with the event’s best record.

Pittsburgh inked D’Orio to a three-year, entry-level contract on September 13, 2017.

Drozg was drafted by Pittsburgh in the fifth round (152nd overall) of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. The forward who will turn 19-years-old on Sunday, Apr. 1 just finished his first season of North American hockey playing for the Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL. In the 61 games of the Slovenia native’s rookie season, Drozg led the team in assists (34) and points (50).

Prior to being drafted by the Penguins, Drozg played junior hockey in Sweden for Leksands. The Leksands junior program has produced current NHL talent such as Victor Rask and Filip Forsberg, as well as former Wilkes-Barre/Scranton defenseman Niclas Andersén.

The Penguins’ next game is tomorrow, Wednesday Mar. 28, when they host the Providence Bruins. Puck drop between the Penguins and P-Bruins is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza. Individual tickets for the final five home games of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s 19th season of hockey are available at the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza box office, online at TicketMaster.com, or by contacting the Penguins directly at (570) 208-7367.

PROSPECT CHALLENGE TITLE A TESTAMENT TO PENGUINS ORGANIZATION STRENGTH

At the 2017 Prospect Challenge, there was only one team without a single player selected in the first round on it’s roster. It was the Pittsburgh Penguins. The team with the most undrafted players on its roster was the Pittsburgh Penguins. Which team had the most points at the end of the tournament? The Pittsburgh Penguins.

Despite their opponents boasting arguably more attractive depth charts, the Penguins organization proved its dominance once again with its tremendous showing at the Prospects Challenge. The efforts of the scouts, coaches, and most importantly the players culminated in a 5-3 victory in the final game against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday.

“This group was pretty special because we didn’t have too many practices,” said coach Clark Donatelli. “We showed them some video, we told them what to do, and they responded. They played really well. I think it gets contagious once they know they have success doing it, they want to do it more.”

Donatelli went on and spoke at length about the organizations philosophy when it comes to not just drafting and signing good players, but “good humans”, as he put it. There is an added emphasis on work ethic, too, and when those personalites all combine in one space, unique things can happen.

“When people come to us, they want to get better,” Donatelli said. “Every single person works so hard on the ice and off the ice. When you’re working in that kind of environment and you have people around you that are willing to pay the price to win and pay attention to details and practice habits, it’s contagious. Fortunately for us right now, that’s our culture. It’s a tribute to the organization and how they draft players.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a first round or a second rounder or undrafted. Once you’re a Penguin, you’re a Penguin. Once you’re part of the family, you’re part of the family.”

New assistant coach Tim Army has only been part of the family for a hot second, being hired by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton one month ago. However, he now has first-hand experience with what the Penguins organization is capable of, even when they have limited resources at the draft.

“I think the evaluation of players and brining in the right group is a credit to all of the scouting staff,” Army said. “You know, they get out there and they watch a lot of games. They’re all over North America and they’re all over Europe. We have some draft picks here, but there are also some unsigned players that are really battling. They bring in the right pieces.”

Those scouts found Teddy Blueger, who wore the “C” as a young leader on this team and was a beacon of light on defense.

Those scouts found Daniel Sprong, whose constant threat of offense kept opposing teams on their heels.

Those scouts found Jordy Bellerive, and undrafted, unsigned 18-year-old who ended up topping the tournament with seven total points (4G-3A) in three games.

Those scouts scoured the globe and found Slovenian Jan Drozg, who unloaded a wicked wrist shot on the rush for what became the game-winning and tournament-winning goal.

And on and on and on.

The Sabres opened the scoring with a first period power play goal by Brendan Guhle. The rowdy crowd at HARBORCenter thought that the hometown Buffalo squad would carry that 1-0 lead into the first intermission until Thomas Di Pauli slammed home a rebound in the waning seconds of the frame.

The second period was a back and forth affair, with the two teams trading goals in quick succession. Zach Aston-Reese made it 2-1 for the Penguins prospects with a goal on a five-on-three man advantage, but Buffalo’s Justin Bailey answered back with another power play marker. Antti Palojärvi, who checked in to the Penguins’ line-up for the first time on Monday, got the black and gold back on top, 3-2, before Buffalo’s third power play goal of the night (this time from C.J. Smith) evened things up again.

Drozg found his game-winner midway through the third, and then Zach Aston-Reese sealed it off with an empty netter.

They didn’t walk away with a trophy or gold medals or anything like that, but with the work put in by everyone with the Penguins this weekend, the organization showed its counterparts why its considered the best there is.

“There’s an expectation of winning here,” Army said. “And we told that to the guys before we bused out. We’re about winning here, so let’s go win a tournament. Well, we won the tournament.”

JAN DROZG WORKING HIS WAY TOWARDS SLOVENIAN DREAM

 There are certain countries that are considered hockey powerhouses. Canada quickly comes to mind for most. So do Russia and the United States. Sweden is always a tough out in international play and Finland has been on a roll lately. Slovenia isn’t in that same pantheon.

Slovenia isn’t thought of as much of a hockey anything, really. In fact, a 2014 survey revealed less than 5% of Americans could even identify Slovenia on a map of Europe. But nestled south of Austria, east of Venice and west of Zagreb is where Penguins prospect Jan Drozg grew up and where he found his love for hockey.

Only three Slovenians have ever played in the NHL: Greg Kuznik, Jan Muršak and Anže Kopitar. Drozg is using the Prospects Showcase in Buffalo as a stepping stone as he tries to climb the ladder and become the fourth name on that list.

“I always looked up to the NHL stars,” he said. “And Anže Kopitar, he’s a very good player. He does a lot of things very well. It’s easy for a Slovenian like him to be a model.”

Drozg was taken by Pittsburgh as a bit of a surprise pick in the fifth round of this past NHL Entry Draft. Not many knew his name, but the Penguins’ European scouts that saw him play for the Leksands U18 junior program in Sweden knew he had a skillset they couldn’t pass up. Through two games in Buffalo at the Prospects Showcase, that offensive flair has been apparent. He’s created scoring chances, shown off some slick hands as well the the kind of straight-ahead speed that the Penguins organization has coveted in recent years.

That isn’t to say Drozg isn’t the perfect player yet. If he wants to become the fourth Slovenian to make it to the NHL, he’s already been made well aware of where he needs to improve.

“I need to get stronger down low, in the corners,” he said. “That’s something the coaches have told me and I’m focused on it.”

The 18-year-old Drozg also recognizes the weight on his shoulders considering Slovenia’s history (or lack thereof) in the NHL and international hockey. He’s the first to admit that hockey doesn’t occupy the national consciousness very often. Frankly, it’s an afterthought compared to other popular European sports like soccer. But at a particular time of year, the country rallies around it’s hockey players.

“Slovenia is not much of a hockey country, but when it’s the Olympics, everyone is paying attention,” he said. “It would be great to play for my country at the Olympics, but that’s not something I’m thinking about now. That could be far away. I’m thinking about what I can do today.”

Today, his efforts are dialed in on improving so that he can make an impression of Penguins coaches and scouts and get himself in good graces for seasons down the line.

Drozg will not play for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton or Pittsburgh this season, although he will get the opportunity to acclimate himself to the North American game as a member of the Shawinigan Cataractes of the Québec Major Junior Hockey League. Beyond that, Drozg will have the Penguins and his country watching closely to see the steps he takes towards making the NHL.

 

OTHER NOTES:

• Coach Clark Donatelli has been very complimentary of Teddy Blueger’s skating throughout the week, an identified area of improvement after last season. More on this later in the week.

• The Penguins prospects’ last game of the 2017 Prospects Showcase will obstensibly also serve as the Final for the tournament. Both the Penguins and their Monday night opponent, the Buffalo Sabres, have the most points through two games, posting an identical 1-0-1 record. Whoever wins their showdown tonight will be Prospect Showcase Champions.