2019 AHL Training Camp – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

We are now getting ready for the start of AHL training camps, with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins slated to begin to begin this week. They have initially posted a 20-man roster: 2 goaltenders, 7 defensemen, and 11 forwards. They will get additional reinforcements before too long since the Pittsburgh Penguins still have to reduce the NHL roster by half.

Nine of the players were up in Pittsburgh for the NHL training camp, although none of them saw any action during preseason games. Six of those and three additional AHL prospects were invites to the 2019 Prospects Challenge in Buffalo, and eight of that bunch also participated in Prospect Development Camp back in June.

Schedule

They begin with two separate morning practice sessions on Tuesday September 24. They play their first home preseason game against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at 7:05pm on Wednesday September 25. Back again for morning practice sessions on Thursday September 26. Then a final home preseason game against the Hershey Bears on Friday September 27 at 7:05pm. They finish off camp with a road trip, first facing the Bears at 7:00pm on Saturday September 28 then against the Phantoms at 3:05pm on Sunday September 29. After this they start preparing for the regular season which is set to begin on Friday October 4.

 

Goaltenders

Alex D’Orio – 2017 free agent signing

D’Orio is a rookie who will be turning pro this year after aging out of the QMJHL, he was up in Pittsburgh for development camp, the rookie tournament, and NHL training camp. He played one game in the rookie tournament (1.00 GAA and 97.3 Sv%). Being that there are a few guys ahead of him on the depth chart the chances are he will get sent down to the Wheeling Nailers.

Dustin Tokarski – AHL contract

Tokarski was brought in as a veteran to help guide the young netminders as they develop. He was up in Pittsburgh for training camp this year. Tokarski ended the season last year with the Charlotte Checkers, working under the new WBS GM/Head Coach Mike Vellucci, where he was the backup goaltender through their Calder Cup run. He looks to play the same role this year as a backup and veteran mentor.

 

Defensemen

Matt Abt – AHL contract

Abt was invited to Pittsburgh for NHL training camp this year on a PTO. This time last year he was signed to an ECHL deal with the Wheeling Nailers, but he performed so well in WBS during training camp that he earned a contract with the team and remained in the AHL all year. He is one of the few players that they opted to bring back this year.

Jon Lizotte – AHL contract

Lizotte is a rookie who joined WBS last spring when his college career was finished. He spent the summer with the Pens first attending development camp in June, then the rookie tournament where he played in all three games, and lastly at NHL training camp in Pittsburgh. There are a lot of D in the system and he is just a rookie so he may well end up down in the ECHL.

Macoy Erkamps – AHL contract

Erkamps was acquired by Pittsburgh in a trade halfway through last season and finished the year in WBS. This summer they signed him to an AHL deal so that he can return to the team. His place in the lineup isn’t guaranteed, he was in the ECHL last year before joining the Pens and there should be quite a few D competing for playing time in WBS, so it is possible he may spend some time with the Nailers.

Michael Kim – AHL contract

Kim got to spend the summer with the Pens, first attending development camp and then playing in all three rookie tournament games before joining NHL training camp. He is a rookie who joined WBS last spring after finishing school. Because of his inexperience and the number of D on the roster he may wind up playing with the Nailers.

Blake Siebenaler – AHL contract

Siebenaler was acquired by Pittsburgh late last year and played with the Nailers before finishing the season in WBS. This summer they signed him to an AHL deal so that he can return to the team. They have a lot of D to work with and he is already familiar with the Nailers so he could wind up back in Wheeling.

Aaron Titcomb – ECHL contract

Titcomb played his rookie season with the Nailers last year and is one of the few players they opted to bring back this year. Most likely he is just up as a camp body, he should be heading back down to Wheeling for the season.

Craig Skudalski – ECHL contract

Skudalski is from Wyoming, Pa just north of Wilkes-Barre, so he is a local boy. He played his rookie season with Nailers last year, prior to that he bounced around the FHL and SPHL. He was brought back again this year and should be heading back down to Wheeling after camp.

 

Forwards

Jan Drozg – 2017 5th round pick

Drozg was the first of the Pittsburgh property we knew was getting sent down as they had him practicing with Team 3 during his last few days in camp. He played all three games at the rookie tournament (1G/1A) and was also present for development camp back in June. He is a rookie who played in the QMJHL last year and due to the sheer number of players they have in the lineup it looks like he may wind up down in Wheeling.

Jordy Bellerive – 2017 free agent signing

Bellerive is turning pro after being in the Pens system the past two years, he has been playing in the WHL. It was a bit of a surprise seeing him amongst the first round of cuts, but he didn’t really manage to stand out from the crowd and there are a few players ahead of him. He played all three rookie tournament games (1G/2A) and attended development camp back in June. He will get a shot at making the AHL club, but as a scorer the team may prefer he play top 6 minutes in the ECHL rather than being at the bottom of the AHL depth chart.

Jamie Devane – AHL contract

Devane is the elder statesman amongst the current crop of players, he spent the past seven years in the AHL and will count as one of their Tweeners in the lineup (12 of 18 skaters must be developmental, no more than 5 veterans, with the tweeners being the gap between prospect and vet). He is a big bodied physical type, bottom of the lineup guy, fills the role that guys like PL3 and Big Mac used to play.

Ben Sexton – AHL contract

Sexton was the non-prospect invite to training camp up in Pittsburgh. He is the son of former Pens Director of Amateur Scouting Randy Sexton (he left to join Botterill in Buffalo as an AGM) and was acquired by Pittsburgh from Ottawa last December. He signed an AHL contract this summer in order to stay with the team. I don’t know where he fits in the lineup but he should be part of the corps of older players that help guide and mentor the young prospects.

Ryan Scarfo – AHL contract

Scarfo was another that came along in that deal with the Senators, although he was under an AHL contract so it was technically a separate trade. He re-signed with WBS this summer and should remain in the AHL, although he did spend part of last year in the ECHL before coming to WBS so it isn’t really out of the question.

Brandon Hawkins – AHL contract

Hawkins is a rookie who joined WBS last spring after finishing up school. He played all three games at the rookie tournament and was also an invite to development camp back in June. As a rookie on an AHL deal he could very well be one of the guys that gets shuffled down to Wheeling.

Myles Powell – AHL contract

Powell is a new addition signed as a free agent this summer after previously playing in Buffalo’s system. He spent most of last year playing in the ECHL so he may end up playing with the Nailers, although if he can do as well in camp as he did down there last year he may manage to stick with the AHL club (and if so he would still count as a rookie).

Chase Berger – AHL contract

Berger is a rookie who joined WBS last spring and got to attend development camp in June, played all three games at the rookie tournament (1A), and  was a late addition as an invite to NHL camp in Pittsburgh. He has the talent to battle for a spot in the AHL lineup, but it is a crowded depth chart so it wouldn’t be a shock to see him spend some time in Wheeling.

Yushiroh Hirano – AHL contract

Hirano-san was under contract with the Nailers last year but was signed to an AHL deal in January, although he remained in Wheeling until they were done for the year. He put up impressive numbers last year so he certainly stands a chance at making the AHL roster out of camp, but we will have to see what happens because Pittsburgh still has quite a few players to send down.

Christopher Brown – AHL contract

Brown comes from a hockey family, son of former Penguin Doug and nephew of former Penguin Greg. He joined WBS in the spring at the conclusion of his college career although he did not attend development camp along with the other rookies. He did, however, participate in the rookie tournament where he played one game. A rookie on a deep lineup, he is likely going to be amongst the guys that get shuffled down to the ECHL.

Renars Krastenbergs – AHL contract

Krastenbergs is the other guy that was signed with the Nailer last year but given an AHL contract in January, although he remained in Wheeling for the rest of the season. He attended development camp back in June and played one game at the rookie tournament. Chances are he will be back in the ECHL again, but he will have a shot to earn a roster spot out of camp.

Author: TKNoodle

I write about hockey, mostly focused on the Pittsburgh Penguins and Vegas Golden Knights. NHL, AHL (Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and Chicago Wolves), ECHL (Wheeling Nailers), and various prospects from my teams playing in Europe (SHL, Liiga, KHL, etc...), the Canadian Major Juniors (OHL, QMJHL, and WHL), and in the NCAA (and some in lower tier juniors prior to joining the NCAA).

3 thoughts on “2019 AHL Training Camp – Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins”

  1. September 23 Additions

    Goaltender

    Emil Larmi – 2019 Free Agent Signing
    Larmi was signed in the offseason after winning the Liiga championship in Finland. He attended development camp in June and played two games during the rookie tournament (4.00 GAA and 88.1 Sv%). He didn’t play any preseason games up in Pittsburgh. When he was brought in the assumption was that he would become the AHL starter this year, but things will get more complicated if Jarry gets waived down to WBS. For now though he is penciled in as starter with Tokarski as backup and D’Orio developing with the Nailers.

    Defensemen

    Pierre-Olivier Joseph – Acquired from Arizona in 2019
    Joseph was brought in as part of the Kessel trade and is a prospect the team is really excited about. He played all three games at the rookie tournament (1A) and twice with Pittsburgh in the NHL preseason (scoreless but a +1). He is a rookie that just finished up his juniors career and is expected to be a big part of the WBS D coprs this year, although if he plays up to his potential he could find himself getting called up to Pittsburgh before too long. For now though he has a bit of development to go before he is NHL ready.

    Niclas Almari – 2016 5th round pick
    Almari has spent his entire career in Finland and came over to play in WBS this year. He was at development camp back in June, played two games at the rookie tournament, and one game with Pittsburgh in the NHL preseason. He has enough Liiga games under his belt that he shouldn’t count as an AHL rookie this year, although he will have a similar adjustment period as he will be learning to play North American hockey. If he sticks in WBS he will likely play a 3rd pairing role as he is more of a defensive D, but with the number of players in the lineup it is possible he may see some time in Wheeling.

    David Warsofsky – 2019 free agent signing
    Warsofsky is an AHL veteran who was with the Pens in 2015-16 and again in 2016-17, so he is familiar with the system having played under both Pittsburgh HC Mike Sullivan and WBS AC JD Forrest. He played two NHL preseason games (scoreless at a -2). He was brought in to help mentor the young D and be part of the leadership corps in WBS, but he could also be looked at as an option to be a mid-season recall should they have their usual problems with injury.

    Kevin Czuczman – 2017 free agent signing
    Czuczman is an AHL vet who has been with the team a couple years now, as he wore an A last year we can assume he will again. He played two preseason games with Pittsburgh (scoreless and an even +0). He is expected to be part of the leadership group again and to help guide the young D as they continue to develop.

    Forwards

    Anthony Angello – 2014 5th round pick
    Angello played in WBS last year and was one of their better forwards, he hopes to improve upon that this year, although there is some hefty competition for Top 6 minutes. At the rookie tournament he wore an A and played all three games (3G). He played two preseason games with Pittsburgh although he went scoreless with an even +0. I would expect big things again from him this year, probably even better now that he has a full season under his belt.

    Justin Almeida – 2018 5th round pick
    Almeida is a rookie who put up massive numbers in the WHL the past two seasons. He missed all the summer activities thus far, skating in a red no-contact jersey during his time in Pittsburgh for the NHL training camp, but the fact that he was able to be reassigned must mean that he was medically cleared. It will be interesting to see how he transitions to playing professional hockey, he may have to spend some time in Wheeling but if he plays as well as he did in juniors it won’t be long before he moves up.

    Oula Palve – 2019 free agent signing
    Palve is an older player with years of experience playing for the adult leagues in Finland. He won multiple awards in the minor league Mestis and scored at nearly a pint per game pace the past two years in the Liiga, so he could fit right in to the Top 6 in the AHL. He played one preseason game in Pittsburgh and was a -1. There may be a slight adjustment period coming over from playing Euro hockey, but he should be able to play a big part in WBS this year.

    Jake Lucchini – 2019 free agent signing
    Lucchini is a rookie who played with WBS last spring when his college career ended and actually put up rather impressive numbers with the team. He was at development camp in June, played all three rookie tournament games (1A), and one preseason game in Pittsburgh where he was a -1. With how he played last spring it seems obvious that he should be in the WBS lineup, but it is looking rather crowded right now so we will have to wait and see where he fits into the depth chart.

    Kasper Bjorkqvist – 2016 2nd round pick
    Bjorkqvist is a rookie that everybody is expecting big things from, let’s face it, he didn’t drop out of school to play fr the Nailers. He played two preseason games in Pittsburgh where he had 2A and was a +2. It is hard to determine where he will end up, it is a crowded lineup and he hasn’t played an actual game with the team yet, but the expectation is that he will be one of the Top 6 scorers and will try to work his way up to the NHL before too long. I’m not quite sure I believe that yet, I think we need to be just a little patient with his development, but he does remind me of a more offensively talented (and less physical) Oskar Sundqvist.

    Sam Lafferty – 2014 4th round pick
    Lafferty was the top scoring forward for WBS last season and everybody is expecting him to help lead offensive production again this year, that is if he doesn’t get promoted to the NHL mid-season. He wore a C at the rookie tournament and played all three games (1G/3A). He played all four preseason games in Pittsburgh too where he had 1G/1A and a +4. I would expect he starts on the top line in WBS and is one of the first guys they look to if they need a mid-season call-up.

    Sam Miletic – 2017 free agent signing
    Miletic missed a decent chunk of the season last year but he was one of the highest scorers on the team and per game was actually just ahead of Lafferty. He wore and A at the rookie tournament and played all three games (1G/2A). He played just one preseason game for Pittsburgh where he went scoreless at an even +0. He should be in the Top 6 for WBS this year, but as mentioned it is a crowded lineup so we will have to wait and see what lines look like at the end of camp.

    Andrew Agozzino – 2019 free agent signing
    Agozzino is one of the veteran forwards in the lineup, although he is new to the Pens system coming in from the Avalanche. He played three preseason games in Pittsburgh where he had 1G/1A and a +1. He has a history of scoring at the AHL level and some NHL exposure so the assumption is he will be a Top 6 scorer paired up with some young wingers that he can help guide along. However, with the number of gusy who could play Top 6 minutes who knows where everything will fall in the end.

    Joseph Cramarossa – 2019 free agent signing
    Cramarossa is a veteran who spent a year and a half in WBS, first under an AHL deal but getting signed to an NHL contract late last season. He didn’t actually suit up for any preseason games in Pittsburgh. He wore an A last year so is expected to be part of the leadership group again this year and will help to guide and mentor the young prospects. He is more of a physical Bottom 6 guy, so I wouldn’t be shocked if he played on the 4th line, but expect him to be in the lineup most nights.

    Thomas Di Pauli – 2016 free agent signing
    Di Pauli has had injury issues and has missed large chunks of the past three seasons in WBS. He played two preseason games in Pittsburgh and finished scoreless with a +1. He has potential and when he was in the lineup last year he posted decent numbers, but there are a lot of players currently ahead of him on the depth chart so chances are he will be shuffled down to the 3rd or 4th line.

    Joseph Blandisi – Acquired from Anaheim in 2019
    Blandisi was acquired by the Pens mid-season last year. He played one preseason game in Pittsburgh and was a -1. He has spent most of his career bouncing back and forth between the NHL and AHL, and during his time down in the minors he was actually fairly close to being a point per game player, in fact he has the highest P/gm of all the WBS players who are back this year. So he could very well slot into the Top 6 for WBS, but frankly I’ve been saying that quite a lot so I don’t actually know what the lines will look lie when the dust settles.

    Ryan Haggerty – 2018 free agent signing
    Haggerty is a tweener who has been with WBS for the past three years. He played 2 preseason games in Pittsburgh where he had 1G and was a +1. He has a solid history of putting up points, he was just behind Lafferty last year in WBS, so logically one can assume that he would be in the Top 6. But right now it is looking like they can dress three scoring lines, so there will be a lot of guys fighting for ice time and what their position is on the depth chart.

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    1. Injuries

      Right now D John Marino and F Adam Johnson are injured. They are both waiver exempt, however, so they are expected to be reassigned to WBS whenever they are medically cleared.

      Zach Trotman is also out, he is recovering from surgery and is expected to be out long term. He would need to be placed on waivers if they intend to assign him to WBS when he is healthy, although he did finish the season with Pittsburgh last year so I imagine they would like to be able to keep him up if they can work it out.

      Salary Cap

      Speaking of which, Rutherford recently changed his mind and said the Penguins are now actively shopping players hoping to make a trade before the season begins because they are currently over the salary cap and want to shed a hefty contract.

      They are actively shopping Tristan Jarry, not because it will help their cap but rather because he appears to be NHL ready and they worry about losing him on waivers (and where he fits now in the depth chart after they went ut and signed Larmi and Tokarski). Although Rutherford did say he would prefer to not lose Jarry and if they can manage under the cap would try to keep all three netminders on the opening night roster.

      He also mentioned that he is now willing to part with jack Johnson. I can’t imagine it would be an easy contract to move, he is rather overpaid and probably isn’t going t be more than a 3rd pairing guy even on a struggling team. However if they can move him that would do wonders for their cap problems.

      They also mentioned Bryan Rust and Nick Bjugstad, both guys with hefty cap hits who appear to have been relegated to the Bottom 6 in Pittsburgh, but that he would only be willing to move them if he got a good return (i.e. they need cap relief but also a serviceable NHL replacement in the lineup). Based on salary and where he is in the depth chart I would also posit that Patric Hornqvist would be up for grabs if the price was right, but it would be much harder to trade him because his NTC limits the number of trade options they have too work with.

      Final Roster Cuts

      Pittsburgh still has a few moves to make before the season begins. If no trades can be worked out to help with their cap issues then they will have to go into the season with a 22-man roster. They are currently at 27, so that would mean 5 players need to go.

      Trotman would be placed on SOIR, so that is one out of the way. Marino and AJohnson would be reassigned when they are healthy, so there goes two more. And Jarry would need to be either traded or waived if they can’t find cap relief elsewhere, so he becomes the fourth.

      Ultimately that means the final cut comes down to defensemen: Juuso Riikola or Chad Ruhwedel. Ruhwedel was up in Pittsburgh for the past 2 1/2 seasons, so one would expect that he would remain in the NHL. However, Riikola has had a strong preseason and is a better fit in the lineup as he is a left-handed shot and they have the top 3 right D set. I imagine his emergence this year and the team not wanting to risk losing either of these players on waivers is what caused them to renew trade talks now rather than waiting until later in the season.

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  2. WBS made their first round of cuts today in preparation for the Wheeling Nailers ECHL training camp which starts this week.

    Forwards Brandon Hawkins, Myles Powell, Yushiroh Hirano, Christopher Brown, and Renars Krastenbergs as well as Defensemen Macoy Erkamps and Blake Siebenaler have been reassigned while D Aaron Titcomb and Craig Skudalski were released from their PTOs.

    They also recently brought back D Steve Oleksy on a PTO.

    Up in Pittsburgh there are rumblings about a trade before the season begins because they need to shed cap in order to field a full 23-man roster, especially with the uncertainty in recently injured Sidney Crosby and Bryan Rust as well as Alex Galchenyuk who has been out for a bit now. If any or all of those players are unavailable on opening night they will need to recall some forwards. But it depends on who they trade and what they get back in return, the rumours are that there is a 70+% chance of them trading D Jack Johnson, which if there are no other moves on the blue line (in or out) would open up roster space for them to keep both Juuso Riikola and Chad Ruhwedel (as well as Zach Trotman when he is healthy). The assumption is that they would also be trying to include G Tristan Jarry in whatever deal they make because he would need to clear waivers in order to be assigned to WBS and the depth chart is already pretty set as it is. With Rust currently injured (not sure how badly, just that he didn’t practice today) he is probably off the table, and the uncertainty with Crosby and Galchenyuk makes it less likely that any forwards get moved (although it depends on what the return is), but there are a few guys that would help alleviate more cap so maybe they go for it anyway.

    Right now WBS has 3 goalies, we have to assume that they would want to send one of Larmi or D’Orio to Wheeling because they can get more playing time and thus more opportunity to develop if each of them are starting somewhere rather than trying to split minutes (especially with Tokarsi available as backup). They could keep 3 though if they think the platoon style sharing of games with the two youngsters would work and if they are ok with Tokarski not playing but rather just guiding them during practice. But I’d guess somebody ends up in Wheeling.

    They currently have 8 D and will probably end up getting Marino back from Pittsburgh (he played in their last game so appears to be healthy now). If that happens they may then end up sending another guy down to the Nailers since in the past coaches have indicated they like to have 8 active D in the lineup (although Oleksy is just on a PTO, it is possible they will opt not to sign him, but I hope they do). I have to imagine Warsofsky, Czuczman, Joseph, and Almari are locks, and it would seem Abt should be as he played for them all last year, although both Lizotte and Kim had good showings when they played in the spring, so it is hard to say. They could keep them all, but it seems a shame to make a bunch of young guys sit when they could be down in Wheeling playing big minutes. Of course we also have to see what happens in a trade, if they get back some AHL calibre D it will complicate things further.

    Up front they have 17 forwards and should be getting Adam Johnson back whenever he is medically cleared. So one could expect an additional 2 or 3 guys would get send down to Wheeling. However, if they trade any forwards or if they need to make recalls because of injuries then they may just end up having to keep everybody. At this point I’m not even entirely certain who would get sent down. Bellerive or Almeida maybe just because they could get more playing time in the ECHL than they would as Bottom 6 guys in WBS, and we can probably add Berger t the list for the same reason. Scarfo and Sexton probably aren’t entirely safe either, but they are a bit older and a bit more experienced so we don’t need to worry about impeding their development if they have to sit now and again.

    For now Wheeling has 1 G, 5 D, and 9 F. During the regular season they play with 16 skaters (usually 10F/6D) but during the preseason they can dress 18. This means we will be seeing a few more invites in camp, at least until we see what else Pittsburgh sends down. We’ll know what it looks like when they announce it tomorrow.

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