With injuries to Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist the Pittsburgh Penguins have a hole in the lineup if Hornqvist (who skated this morning and is day-to-day officially) can't play. Their top prospect in the minors at the position is Oskar Sundqvist but he's now also dealing with a minor injury so who's left? Signs started showing last night for the WB/S game:
According to WBS HC Clark Donatelli, Carter Rowney was held out tonight on PIT's request. FWIW, I didn't see him in the room after the game— Seth Lakso (@CVSethLakso) January 26, 2017
Carter Rowney time! Rowney is the rare "prospect" who is too old to even be an NHL prospect. He's 27 years old and hasn't made his NHL debut until now, practically ancient in the world of the NHL. A lot of guys are on the downside of their careers and already out of the NHL by such an age.
Yet, Rowney's persisted. Take a look at this career path:
Now that's a long, strange winding journey up the ranks of the Western Canadian lower junior systems, then earning a scholarship at NCAA powerhouse North Dakota parlayed into an AHL contract after great junior and seasons. As a pro he had to prove himself in the ECHL and into a place in the AHL. Eventually Rowney earned an NHL contract for this season after a great year in the AHL last year.
Rowney did impress at NHL training camp this past September and got a long look in 5 preseason games, where he performed well scoring 2 goals. This year back in the AHL he's had to deal with injuries but is still playing well (and has had a lot of success on a line with fellow NHL call-up Jake Guentzel).
What comes next for Rowney? The future doesn't seem certain, Malkin could be back from his injury after the All-Star break and it seems like the younger, bigger Sundqvist won't be surpassed for the 4th line center job next season.
As for now though, it's certainly an accomplishment to celebrate and relish for an undrafted and largely unknown player like Rowney to grind his way to success in all the lower leagues and earn a chance for a night in the NHL on one of the league's best teams. That type of story for a 27-year old rookie on the defending champ barely ever happens in the NHL but it's a fairy tale that's been a long time in the making for Carter Rowney.