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.”