FROM THE ICE TO THE BENCH
More than 120 players have laced them up in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and then gone on to play in the National Hockey League. That’s no surprise. After all, the main purpose for every American Hockey League team is to prepare players for the big leagues.
But what about when those playing careers come to an end?
Well, it turns out Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is pretty adept at helping players become coaches as well.
At least a dozen former Penguins players either stood behind a bench last year, or will do so in the coming season. Here’s a quick look at they Pens who have gone from the locker room to the coach’s office.
MATT CARKNER: Carkner joined the Penguins in 2006-07 after spending his first five pro seasons with the Cleveland Barons, as well as one game with the San Jose Sharks. The bruising defenseman recorded a career-best 30 points (6+24) in 75 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and was named the AHL’s recipient of the Yanick Dupre Memorial Award for community service. He spent the next two seasons with the Binghamton Senators, before earning a spot with Ottawa in 2009-10. He played three years with the NHL Pens, followed by two more with the New York Islanders. He finished up his playing career in Bridgeport during the 2015-16 campaign, before transitioning to a coaching role with the Sound Tigers last year.
REID CASHMAN: A standout at Quinnipiac University as a player, Cashman spent parts of two seasons with the Toronto Marlies before splitting the 2008-09 season between the Wheeling Nailers and Penguins. He recorded six points (2+4) in 18 games with the Pens, before joining the Milwaukee Admirals/Cincinnati Cyclones the following year. He finished up his playing career with Linz EHC in Austria before returning to his alma mater as an assistant coach in 2011. Cashman spent five years with Quinnipiac before joining the Hershey Bears coaching staff last year.
RYAN CRAIG: Drafted by the Tampa Bay Lightning, Craig spent the first seven seasons of his career playing with the NHL team or one of its affiliates (Hershey, Springfield and Norfolk). He joined the Penguins for the 2010-11 seasons, and wore the captain’s C for two seasons, recording 78 points (30+48) in 139 games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He signed with the Columbus Blue Jackets the following season, and spent the final five seasons of his playing career with the organization, helping the Lake Erie Monsters to the Calder Cup in 2016. He retired at the end of the 2016-17 campaign and immediately joined the Vegas Golden Knights as an assistant coach.
TRENT CULL: A member of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s first Calder Cup Final team, Cull joined the Penguins after six seasons split between three minor league squads. His 26 points (11+15) were third among team defenseman in the 1999-00 season. He spent his final three playing seasons with the Houston Aeros (2001-02) and Syracuse Crunch (2002-04), before going the Guelph Storm (OHL) as an assistant. He returned to Syracuse as an assistant coach in 2006, was named head coach of the Sudbury Wolves (OHL) in 2010, and returned to the Crunch bench in 2013, where he remains today.
BEN EAVES: A standout during his four years at Boston College, Eaves was selected by Pittsburgh in the 2001 NHL Draft. He made his pro debut with Wilkes-Barre during the 2004-05 season, and appeared in five games with the AHL club the following season before suffering a knee injury. He missed the entire 2006-07 season before signing with Finland’s Espoo Blues in 2007. He returned to North America in 2009, signing with the Nashville Predators, but left the team’s AHL affiliate in Milwaukee early in the campaign. After three more seasons in Finland, Eaves hung up the skates and is currently an assistant coach with St. Olaf College in Minnesota, serving under his father Mike.
PETER MANNINO: A university of Denver product, Mannino suited up for 10 different teams at the NHL, AHL and ECHL levels before landing in Wilkes-Barre for the 2013-14 season. He suited up for 18 regular season games and 11 playoff contests during his only year in NEPA. He split the following season between the Portland Pirates and Binghamton Senators. His coaching career got off the ground with the Chicago Steel of the United States Hockey League in 2015, where he spent two seasons. On June 1, 2017, he was named an assistant for the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
JOEY MORMINA: Four years at Colgate University led Mormina to start his pro career with the Manchester Monarchs in 2005-06. After two seasons in New Hampshire and one in Albany, Mormina joined the Penguins for the first time in 2008-09. He left after one season for the Adirondack Phantoms, before landing back in NEPA for three more seasons. In all, the Montreal-born defenseman put up 53 points (13+40) in 233 games with the Pens. He rounded out his playing career in Syracuse and Rochester, before going the Mercyhurst Lakers ( NCAA) coaching staff prior to the 2016-17 season.
ALAIN NASREDDINE: Nas joined the Penguins during his ninth pro season, and became one of the team’s most respected and reliable players during the next five seasons. Serving as team captain starting in 2004-05, he recorded 55 points (12+42) in 249 games with he AHL club. He also recorded his lone NHL goal – assisted by Sidney Crosby in his hometown of Montreal – during the 2006-07 season. After two seasons in Germany, Nasreddine returned to NEPA to join the Penguins coaching staff under John Hynes. That duo spent five years in Wilkes-Barre, before both were hired by the New Jersey Devils in 2015.
TOBY PETERSEN: A late round selection by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1998, Petersen split his first pro season between the AHL and NHL Penguins, leading the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton roster with 26 goals, 41 assists and 67 points in 73 contests. He spent the entire 2001-02 season in Pittsburgh, but was back in NEPA for the 2002-03 and 2003-04 campaigns. He signed with the Edmonton Oilers in 2004, and spent the next three seasons in their system. The bulk of his career was spent as a member of the Dallas Stars organization, where he also helped the Texas Stars to the Calder Cup in 2014. He retired following that run, joining the Blue Jackets organization as an AHL assistant with Springfield/Lake Erie/Cleveland.
ROBBIE TALLAS: A veteran of 99 NHL games with he Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks, Tallas spent two seasons (2001-03) minding the net in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He posted a 20-36-8 mark in 71 games before finishing his career in Europe in 2004-05. He has served as goalie coach for the Florida Panthers since the 2009-10 season.
JOHN SLANEY: Slaney was eight years into his pro career when he joined the Penguins for the team’s inaugural season in 1999-00. He was a bright spot for the struggling squad, leading the team with 60 points in just 49 games, and recording 30 goals from the team’s blueline. He was famously traded to the Philadelphia Flyers by Pittsburgh on the eve of the AHL All-Star Game in Wilkes-Barre during the 2000-01 season, spending the majority of the next six seasons with the Philadelphia Phantoms. His final four years as a player (2007-11) were spent overseas before he joined the Portland Pirates staff as an assistant coach in 2011-12. In 2015-16 he made the jump to an NHL bench, and currently serves as an assistant with the Arizona Coyotes.
MIKE YEO: Another inaugural team skater, Yeo joined the club after five seasons with the IHL’s Houston Aeros. His time wearing a Penguins sweater was short though, as he was forced to retire due to injury just 19 games into his Wilkes-Barre/Scranton stay. He immediately joined Glenn Patrick behind the Penguins bench, and remained an assistant in NEPA until he was promoted to Pittsburgh along with head coach Michel Therrien in 2005. He returned to Houston as head coach of the Aeros in 2010, and was promoted to head coach of the Minnesota Wild the following season. He spent four-plus seasons guiding the Wild before being let go late in the 2015-16 season. He joined the St. Louis Blues as an associate coach in 2016, and assumed head coaching duties there midway through the recently completed NHL season.