PITTSBURGH ASSIGNS SEVEN TO WILKES-BARRE

The Pittsburgh Penguins have re-assigned eight players, it was announced today by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford.

Forwards Tom Kostopoulos, Ryan Haggerty, Reid Gardiner, Gage Quinney; defensemen Dylan Zink and Jeff Taylor; and goaltender Sean Maguire have all been re-assigned to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League.

Forward Jordy Bellerive, an 18-year-old undrafted free agent who signed his entry-level contract with Pittsburgh during training camp, has been returned to his junior club, the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League.

The Penguins have 47 players remaining in camp (28 forwards; 15 defensemen; 4 goalies). Attached is an updated roster.

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

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

PENGUINS PROSEPCT CAMP BEGINS THIS WEEK

Jeff Taylor will be one of the skaters with experience playing for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins at this week’s prospect camp.

Thomas DiPauli, Jeff Taylor and Zach Aston-Reese are among the 2016-17 Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins who will be participating in the Pittsburgh Penguins prospect development camp, which runs from Wednesday, June 28 until Saturday, July 1 at the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex in Cranberry, Pa.

This year’s roster (click here to see full roster) features 24 forwards, 12 defenseman and four goaltenders, and will include all six players selected in Saturday’s NHL Draft in Chicago, led by defenseman Zachary Lauzon, Pittsburgh’s top choice (2nd round; 51st overall).

Fans can attend all of the on-ice practices, including the 3-on-3 camp-concluding scrimmage on Saturday, July 1 at 3:00 PM. A complete camp schedule is listed below.

The first practice sessions will be on Wednesday, July 28. Team A will practice from 2:15-3:00 PM, followed by Team B from 3:15-4:00 PM.

Of the 40 players invited to camp, 21 were originally drafted by Pittsburgh, and two others, forwards Zach Aston-Reese and Thomas Di Pauli, were signed by the Penguins as college free agents. Ten of the 12 defensemen on the camp roster are Pittsburgh draft picks, with eight of them chosen within the past two drafts.

Lauzon, the reigning Kevin Lowe Trophy winner as the best defensive defenseman in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, will be joined at camp by defenseman Clayton Phillips (3rd round; 93rd overall), fifth-round forwards Jan Drozg (152nd overall) and Linus Olund (155th overall), and defensemen Antti Palojarvi (6th round; 186th overall) and William Reilly (7th round; 217th overall).

Last week, it was announced that three of Pittsburgh’s top prospects, forwards Daniel Sprong and Aston-Reese, and goalie Filip Gustavsson, would be attending. Among the players joining that trio are Di Pauli, defenseman Jeff Taylor and forward Freddie Tiffels, all of whom are already signed to pro deals.

Di Pauli, 23, signed with the Penguins last August after being originally chosen by the Washington Capitals in the fourth round (100th overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft. Injuries limited Di Pauli to 21 games in his first professional season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. A four-year member of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, Di Pauli represented Team USA at the 2014 World Junior Championship.

Taylor, 23, joined WBS late in the season following a stellar senior season at Union College, where he helped his team advance to the NCAA Tournament by setting career highs in goals (9) and points (33), while adding 24 assists and posting a plus-15, in 38 games. Taylor was an alternate captain for Union, and his performance earned him a berth on the All-ECAC Second Team. Taylor was drafted by Pittsburgh in the seventh round (203rd overall) in 2014.

The speedy Tiffels, 22, signed his entry-level contract with Pittsburgh last week after enjoying a successful junior season at Western Michigan this past year, scoring nine goals and setting personal highs with 12 assists and 21 points in 37 games played. He was named to the NCHC All-Academic Team each of his last two years in school. Tiffels was a 2015 sixth-round (167th overall) draft pick. He scored twice skating for Germany at the 2017 World Championship.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach Clark Donatelli will run this year’s camp, alongside WBS assistant coaches Chris Taylor and J.D. Forrest; Wheeling Nailers head coach Jeff Christian and his assistant, Riley Armstrong; and Pittsburgh Penguins goalie coach Mike Buckley and Penguins skills development professional Ty Hennes. Other Pittsburgh Penguins, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Wheeling Nailers hockey operations personnel will assist with off-ice activities throughout the week.

Below is the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 2017 Development Camp Practice Schedule:

Wednesday, June 28

2:15-3:00 PM – Team A Practice

3:15-4:00 PM – Team B Practice

Thursday, June 29

9:45 AM – Skills Session (Team A)

10:45 AM – Skills Session (Team B)

10:45 AM – Goalies Session (Rink 2)

Friday, June 30

9:45 AM – Practice (Team B)

10:45 AM – Practice (Team A)

Saturday, July 1

3:00 PM – 3-on-3 Scrimmage

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

PENGUINS NOTEBOOK – COMINGS AND GOINGS


The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins locker room at the Toyota Sportsplex should have a revolving door installed with all of the player movement that has been going on lately.  From March 2-29, no fewer than 35 transactions involving the AHL Penguins were made.

That number grew by four on Thursday, March 30.

With the improved health of several NHL regulars finally going their way, the Pittsburgh Penguins reassigned defenseman David Warsofsky, as well as forwards Oskar Sundqvist and Josh Archibald to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. The trio returns to NEPA just as the Pens are beginning an extremely busy final three weeks of the regular season, with back-to-back three-in-three weekends on the schedule.

With Warsofsky returning to the fold, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton reassigned defenseman Ryan Segalla to the Wheeling Nailers.

A NEW FACE

Earlier in the week, the Pittsburgh Penguins inked 2014 draft pick Jeff Taylor to a two-year contract which starts next season.  A product of Union College, Taylor then signed a PTO (professional tryout) with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and hit the practice ice with the club for the first time on Wednesday.

A skilled blueliner, Taylor led all Union defensemen and was fifth overall on the team with 33 points (9+24) during his senior season.  It was somewhat of a bounce back season for the native of Clifton Park, NY, who posted just 12 points (2+10) in 36 games last year.

“My junior season I struggled a little bit, I was trying to work on a few different things,” he said.  “It was just a growing year, a building year.  I’m glad I had it and I’m glad I got better from it.”

Head coach Clark Donatelli liked what he saw from the new signee following his first practice session with the Pens.

“He looked good out there,” Donatelli stated.  “He’s  a puck moving defenseman.  I know him a little bit from development camp over the last few years.”

Donatelli said Taylor would likely feature in one of the Penguins three games over the weekend, but wasn’t looking to put too much pressure on the newcomer.

“We’re not going to expect too much from him.  We just want him to go out there, get his feet wet, get a couple of games under his belt first,” he said.

BACK IN ACTION

While Taylor will see his first action ever, Garrett Wilson will likely see his first action in a month and a half, after being cleared to return to the lineup.

Wilson suffered a shoulder injury against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms on February 14, and has been sidelined ever since.  He skated in warmups for the Penguins last weekend, but figures to get his first taste of game action since the injury on Friday night.

“I think I definitely could have played last weekend,” Wilson said.  “I knew I didn’t want to rush it.  We still had a bit of time before playoffs.  The severity of the separation, they wanted to give it a little extra time to make sure it really healed.”

Wilson used the past week of practice to see how his body would react to being banged about a bit, and from all reports he’s come out in good shape.

“I knew once I started hitting, using a lot of contact with it, it was going to make it pretty sore,” he said.  “I got the contact in practice now, so I tried it against the boys a couple times.  It feels pretty good. Hopefully it won’t change my game too much.”

The news wasn’t so good for defenseman Stuart Percy, who underwent surgery earlier this week and will miss the remainder of the season and playoffs according to Donatelli.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins return home for a pair of games this weekend against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Saturday at 7:05pm) and Utica Comets (Sunday at 3:05pm). Sunday’s game is a KIDS FREE contest, with fans ages 14 and younger able to attend the game for FREE with a paid adult ticket.

Tickets for both games are available at the Mohegan Sun Arena box office, online at TicketMaster.com or by calling 570-208-7267.

PITTSBURGH SIGNS JEFF TAYLOR; DEFENSEMAN TO JOIN WBS

The Pittsburgh Penguins have signed defenseman Jeff Taylor to a two-year, two-way, entry-level contract, it was announced Monday by executive vice president and general manager Jim Rutherford. The contract will begin with the 2017-18 season and run through the 2018-19 campaign..

Taylor will report to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on an amateur tryout contract this year.

Taylor, 22, enjoyed a career year as a senior at Union College, helping his team advance to the NCAA Tournament by setting career highs in goals (9) and points (33), while adding 24 assists and posting a plus-15, in 38 games.

A 5-foot-11, 181-pound lefthanded-shooting defenseman, Taylor was an alternate captain this year, and his performance earned him a berth on the All-ECAC Second Team.

Taylor, a native of Albany, New York, finished his collegiate career as the second-highest scoring blueliner in Union history, totaling 92 points (18G-74A) and a plus-33 in 149 career games. He was a key component on Union’s 2014 Frozen Four national championship squad.

Pittsburgh’s seventh-round (203rd overall) selection in 2014, Taylor was chosen to the All-ECAC Third Team as a sophomore in 2014-15 when he had 31 points and a career-best 27 assists. When he was a freshman, Taylor was named to the ECAC All-Rookie Team.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are back in action this Friday, March 31, when they travel to Massachusetts to face the Springfield Falcons.

The Penguins return home on Saturday night to meet the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at 7:05pm, and wrap up the weekend with a Sunday afternoon tilt against the Utica Comets at 3:05pm.  Sunday’s game is another KIDS FREE SUNDAY, with fans ages 14 and younger able to get into the game for FREE with a paid adult ticket.

Tickets for both home games this weekend are available at the Mohegan Sun Arena Box Office, online at TicketMaster.com, or by calling the Penguins at 570-208-7367.