The Pittsburgh Penguins minor league affiliates the AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and the ECHL Wheeling Nailers are still battling for their playoff lives, and its not going to come easy. This also happens to be the time of year where we start to see players joining on Amateur Tryouts, and conveniently the NCAA Conference Finals finished up this weekend with the remaining teams gearing up for the NCAA National Finals.
AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins
The Baby Pens now have a 36-21-3-5 record, sitting at #2 in the East Division just 1 Point behind the Binghamton Senators who still have a game in hand. They sit at #5 in the Eastern Conference with a 1 Point lead over the Albany Devils and a 3 Point lead over both the Norfolk Admirals and Providence Bruins. On the outside looking in are the Hershey Bears who are 5 points out of playoff contention. The Baby Pens magic number to clinch a playoff spot is 15. They have 11 games remaining, 3 of which are against Binghamton, 2 of which are against Norfolk, and 1 each against Albany and Providence. It is very important that they continue to do well in order to maintain a good seeding going into the post season.
The first addition to the Black Aces practice squad was a week ago when undrafted Free Agent Conor Sheary was signed to an ATO and agreed to terms on an AHL contract for the 2014-15 season. Sheary is a 21-year old left-handed forward that graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. He is a bit undersized at 5'9" 175lbs. The Minutemen were eliminated in the 1st Round of the Hockey East playoffs.
The second addition to the Black Aces practice squad was on Friday when 2012 4th round pick Matia Marcantuoni was signed to an ATO, having already signed a 3-year Entry Level contract with the NHL Penguins that kicks in starting next season. Marcantuoni is a 20-year old right handed C/RW who was the Alternate Captain of the OHL Kitchener . He sits at a solid 6'0" 202lbs. He is so far the only player to join from the Major Juniors since his team failed to make the playoffs, while the Pens remaining prospects are all still playing for their respective teams.
The third addition to the Black Aces practice squad was on Saturday when 2011 6th round pick Josh Archibald was signed to an ATO, but he has yet to be officially signed for the upcoming 2014-15 season. Although CollegeHockeyInc does list him as being under contract with the NHL Penguins, so perhaps it is just waiting to be finalized before an initial announcement is made. It does seem strange that he would agree to leave school a year early if he did not have a plan in place for next year, so we can assume something is in the works. He is a 21-year old right handed RW who left after his 3rd year with the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He is a little small at 5'10" 170lbs. He had quite an impressive season though, earning NCHC 1st Team All-Star honors, NCHC Forward of the Year, NCHC Player of the Year, and nominated as a finalist for the Hobey Baker award. UNO was eliminated in the NCHC Quarterfinals.
The fourth addition to the Black Aces practice squad was also on Saturday when undrafted Free Agent Alex Boak was signed to an ATO, he also attended Pittsburgh's Prospect Development Camp in July as a free agent invitee, so the fact that the team still wants to keep in contact with him indicates they like what they have seen and he could join the organization next season, although possibly at the AHL or ECHL level. He is a 24-year old right handed D who graduated from Clarkson University. He is a decent sized 6'1" 214lbs. Clarkson was eliminated in the ECAC Quarterfinals.
ECHL Wheeling Nailers
The Nailers now have a 33-25-1-5 record, sitting at #7 in the Eastern Conference. They have a 1 Point lead over the Fort Wayne Komets, a 3 Point lead over the Florida Everblades who have a game in hand, and a 4 Point lead over the Evansville IceMen. The Nailers Magic Number to clinch a playoff spot is 16. They have just 8 games remaining this season, 1 of which is against Evansville, 2 of which are against 6th place Cincinnati Cyclones, and 1 of which is against 4th place Orlando Solar Bears. So like the Baby Pens they have some important games remaining and they need to continue to do well if they hope to earn a seeding in the post season.
2010 3rd round pick Bryan Rust is a Senior with the University of Notre Dame. They face off against St. Cloud State in the NCAA West Regional Semifinal on Saturday March 29. As a senior it is pretty much expected that he will join the Black Aces when his team is done for the year.
2011 7th round pick Scott Wilson is a Junior with the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. They face off against Mankato in the NCAA Northeast Regional Semifinal on Saturday March 29. As a junior he would need to leave school early in order to turn pro like Archibald did, but at the moment UMass-Lowell is one of the favorites expected to go all the way and win the Frozen Four.
2012 2nd round pick Theodor Blueger is a Sophomore with Minnesota State University. They face off against UMass-Lowell in the NCAA Northeast Regional Semifinal on Saturday March 29. As a sophomore he is quite unlikely to leave school in order to join the Black Aces on an ATO.
2012 1st round pick Derrick Pouliot is currently 2 games into the 1st Round of WHL playoffs, with the Portland Winterhawks currently leading their series 2 games to none.
2012 3rd round pick Matthew Murray is currently 2 games into the 1st round of the OHL playoffs, with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds currently tied at 1 game a piece.
2012 5th round pick Clark Seymour is currently 2 games into the 1st round of the OHL playoffs, with the Peterborough Petes currently trailing 2 games to none.
2013 2nd round pick Tristan Jarry is currently 2 games into the 1st round of the WHL playoffs, with the Edmonton Oil currently leading their series 2 games to none.
2013 undrafted Free Agent Jean-Sebastien Dea is currently 2 games into the 1st round of the QMJHL playoffs, with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies currently tied at 1 game a piece.
2012 3rd round pick Oskar Sundqvist is currently playing in the SHL playoffs, having defeated HV 71 in the Quarterfinals 4 games to 1 they are now awaiting the start of the Semifinals.