The parking lot is now fully paved.
The ice surface has been completely renovated.
We’ve got shiny new acoustic panels on the roof. (Because, I don’t know...it was getting too loud in the building? Too much concrete and plastic?)
Everything is ready for the 19th season of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins hockey, so let’s get you refreshed and ready for the season opener tonight against Charlotte.
Who’s Still Here?
First off, let’s take a look at last year’s opening night roster to see who’s still around and where everybody has gone. All information in this section has been culled from the brilliant folks at CapFriendly.com, unless otherwise noted.
- Chad Ruhwedel - signed two-year contract with Pittsburgh on June 22
- Tim Erixon - signed PTO with New Jersey Devils
- David Warsofsky - signed two-year contract with Colorado Avalanche on July 1
- Jean-Sebastien Dea - signed one-year contract with Pittsburgh on August 21
- Stuart Percy - unsigned
- Kevin Porter - signed two-year contract with Buffalo Sabres on July 1; reassigned to Rochester Americans September 23, per Rochester website
- Patrick McGrath - signed one-year AHL contract with WBS on June 7, per team website
- Josh Archibald - signed two-year contract with Pittsburgh on July 12
- Carter Rowney - under contract for 2017-18, having signed a two-year contract on March 9, 2016
- Garrett Wilson - signed two-year contract with Pittsburgh on June 30
- Sahir Gill - signed AHL contract with Rochester Americans on August 30, per Rochester website
- Cameron Gaunce - signed one-year contract with Columbus Blue Jackets on July 1
- Tom Sestito - signed one-year contract with Pittsburgh July 1
- Steve Oleksy - traded to Toronto with Eric Fehr for Frank Corrado on March 1; signed two-year contract with Anaheim on July 2. Corrado signed with Pittsburgh for 2017-18 on July 1.
- Tom Kostopoulos - signed a one-year AHL contract with WBS for 2017-18, per Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
- Ryan Haggerty - signed a one-year AHL contract with WBS on August 3, per WBS website
- Oskar Sundqvist - traded to St. Louis for Ryan Reaves on June 23
- Jake Guentzel - 2017-18 will be the 2nd year of his three-year entry-level contract, but I doubt very much we’ll see him in WBS again
- Dominik Simon - 2017-18 will be the final year of his three-year entry-level contract with Pittsburgh
- Tristan Jarry - 2017-18 will be the final year of his three-year entry-level contract with Pittsburgh, after having that contract slide for two years
- Casey DeSmith - signed two-year contract with Pittsburgh on July 1
- Freddie Tiffels, the 167th pick of the 2015 NHL draft by the Penguins
- Colin Smith, previously of Toronto, San Antonio, and Lake Erie
- Adam Johnson, undrafted out of Minnesota-Duluth
- Reid Gardiner; split last season between WBS and the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL, sent down to Wheeling on October 2
- Jarrett Burton; split last season between Wheeling and WBS
- Riley Bourbonnais; split last season between RPI and Wheeling, sent down to Wheeling on October 2
- Cody Wydo; leading scorer for Wheeling last season, sent down to Wheeling on October 2
- Gage Quinney, previously of Wheeling
- Christian Thomas, signed to an AHL contract on September 13; Thomas scored 24 goals and 25 assists in 65 games with the Hershey Bears last season. Thomas also spent time with Connecticut, Hamilton, St. John’s, and Springfield.
- Sam Miletic; signed to an entry level contract out of Pittsburgh’s rookie tournament, but returned to London of the OHL on Thursday. My colleague Hannah Stuart wrote about Miletic and two other rookie tournament signings here; I highly suggest reading her piece.
I’d add Greg McKegg in here, previously of Toronto, Portland, and Springfield, but with a gaping hole left at Pittsburgh’s third-line center position due to the departure of Nick Bonino to Nashville and the departure of Matt Cullen to Minnesota, McKegg stepped up brilliantly during training camp to seize that spot for himself (for the time being, at least).
- Chris Summers, for his eighth season in the AHL following stints in San Antonio, Portland, and Hartford
- Jarred Tinordi, 6’6” and 225 pounds, for his sixth season in the AHL following stints in Hamilton, St. John’s, and Tucson
- Zach Trotman, 6’3” and 219 pounds, previously of Providence and Ontario
- Kevin Czuczman, previously of Bridgeport and Manitoba
After all of that, the WBS opening night roster as submitted to the league looks like this:
- Forwards - Jean-Sebastien Dea, Troy Josephs, Daniel Sprong, Zach Aston-Reese, Patrick McGrath, Thomas DiPauli, Gage Quinney, Garrett Wilson, Jarret Burton, Teddy Blueger, Tom Sestito, Christian Thomas, Tom Kostopoulos, Colin Smith, Ryan Haggerty, Freddy Tiffels, Adam Johnson, Dominik Simon
- Defenders - Jeff Taylor, Zach Trotman, Andrey Pedan (acquired from Vancouver along with a draft pick for Derrick Pouliot), Ethan Prow, Kevin Czuczman, Kevin Spinozzi, Frank Corrado, Jarred Tinordi, Dylan Zink, Lukas Bengtsson, Chris Summers
- Goaltenders - Casey DeSmith, Tristan Jarry
Let’s just say...I’ve got high hopes. On paper is a very stacked team to start the season, with a very good mix of highly regarded young prospects (Aston-Reese, Sprong, Johnson, Jarry), developing holdovers (Tiffels, Simon), free agent signings (Tinordi, Trotman, Czuczman, Thomas, Summers), and the ageless captain who I swear will not retire until he wins the whole thing for the Penguins.
There will inevitably be injuries and promotions, but WBS has positioned itself well to start the campaign. Which is good, because the top of the Atlantic Division is poised to be the AHL’s best once again this season:
- Providence will be bolstered by the addition of last season’s AHL MVP Ken Agostino.
- Lehigh Valley will enjoy the services of stud prospect Oskar Lindblom, as well as its array of AHL holdovers, such as TJ Brennan, Greg Carey, Chris Conner, and Will O’Neill.
- Don’t ever count out the Hershey Bears; with perennial thorn in the Penguins’ side Chris Bourque returning, as well as pest Liam O’Brien, star forwards Riley Barber, Travis Boyd, and Dustin Gazley, and their rugged captain Garrett Mitchell.
There won’t be any easy games at the top of the Atlantic all season.
Clark Donatelli returns for his second full season behind the WBS bench and third overall, joining from Wheeling in December 2015 after the promotion of Mike Sullivan to Pittsburgh (which I guess kinda worked out for all parties involved). Donatelli brings a lifetime mark of 73-42-10 at WBS into this season, including last seasons Kilpatrick Trophy-winning record of 51-20-5. This season, Donatelli will be assisted by J.D. Forrest in his second season and Tim Army in his first, joining WBS on August 10 after seven seasons assisting behind the bench of the Colorado Avalanche. Army replaces Chris Taylor, who departed during the offseason to become the head coach of the Rochester Americans.
As with last season, radio broadcasts of all WBS Penguins games will be provided by WILK News Radio, which is found at frequencies 910 AM, 980 AM, 1300 AM, 103.1 FM in the WBS Penguins listening area or through their website. I should point out, though, that WILK News Radio is also the radio affiliate for Penn State football in northeastern Pennsylvania, so any time a Penn State football game conflicts with a WBS Penguins home game, the Penn State football broadcast will take precedent. In these cases, historically the WBS broadcasts would be available online only.
Local TV coverage beyond the home opener being televised on WBRE-TV in the WBS viewing area has not been announced yet, but if you wish to take a chance on the AHL’s live streaming service, it is available here. There are 5-game and 10-game packages available, as well as season-long subscriptions to watch all road games for one team, all home and road games for one team, or all games league-wide. These broadcasts usually consist of the in-arena video board broadcast synchronized with your team’s radio broadcast...when it works.
Regular season prediction is the same as it always was and always will be:
WBS will be able to continue its twelve-year streak of seasons with at least 40 wins, and WBS will also be able to continue its fifteen-year streak of playoff appearances.
Strap in and enjoy the ride. It’s a long way to mid-April, and there’s an awful lot to like about the 19th installment of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.