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WBS Penguins Summer Update, Part 2

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With the release of the schedule for training camp leading into the 20th season of WBS Penguins hockey, let’s recap the summer once again, starting with where we left off in July.

via WBS Penguins Twitter

Hello again, everybody. The weather is cooler (kinda, depending on the week), the ice is starting to be made and painted, and it’s almost time for hockey again.

With Pittsburgh Penguins training camp well underway, and with WBS Penguins training camp set to begin Monday, September 24, here’s a quick review of what has happened this summer since July:

The Best Timing in the World

I finished my last recap on July 12, closing it out with the July 9 re-signings of Ryan Haggerty, Patrick McGrath, Cam Brown, and Will O’Neill to AHL contracts. Satisfied with my work, I got in my car and set off for an extended weekend out of town.

Little did I realize that, when I arrived at my destination later that day, I would find the news that WBS signed four more individuals (Troy Josephs, Joseph Cramarossa, Jarrett Burton, and Kevin Spinozzi) to AHL contracts for the 2018-19 season.

Best timing ever.

Also re-signing over the summer was Teddy Blueger, Thomas DiPauli, and Ethan Prow on July 17, defender Derek Grant on July 19, and goaltender Tristan Jarry on July 26.

The main thing I’m watching out of Pittsburgh training camp (besides injuries) is who wins the role of second goaltender for the big Penguins behind Matt Murray: Jarry or Casey DeSmith. Strictly due to waiver status (DeSmith would need to clear waivers to return to WBS, while Jarry would not, per CapFriendly), I think DeSmith has the inside track to the backup job in Pittsburgh, which would likely mean another season of Jarry in WBS in front of either Anthony Peters or John Muse.

WBS also announced former Pittsburgh player development coach Jarrod Skalde as their new assistant coach for 2018-19 following the departure of Tim Army to Iowa to be the Wild’s new head coach. Skalde will join J.D. Forrest behind the bench to assist head coach Clark Donatelli for the upcoming season.

Prospects Challenge

Uhhhhhh...let’s not.

The squad of prospects sent by Pittsburgh to Buffalo to compete against the prospects from Buffalo, Boston, and New Jersey played three games and scored a total of six goals, losing all three games. Of those six goals, three were scored by one of last season’s standout rookies, Adam Johnson.

Aside from that, no one got hurt (that I know of).

So let’s just move on.

A New Way to Watch the AHL

The AHL has had an online streaming platform for at least the last 10 or 12 years, called AHL Live. Essentially, the service would take the in-arena videoboard feed, overlay the home or road radio broadcast onto it (depending on your preference or availability of such broadcasts), and stream it online. In theory, that’s how the service was supposed to work, but among the AHL fans and writers I’ve spoken with over the last few years, generally no one has enjoyed using the service due to lack of quality and overpricing. I personally haven’t used it for at least a decade; the last game I clearly remember watching over AHL Live was a Hershey vs. WBS playoff game from the late 2000s, which was a 3-0 elimination shutout for the Bears.

This year, though, the AHL has completely overhauled its streaming service, contracting with HockeyTech to present AHLTV. The service is purported to allow users to watch AHL games streaming over their web browser, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, iOS, or Android device, along with real-time statistical updates and the ability for users to clip their own highlights.

Pricing is as follows:

  • $79.99 - full-season unlimited, all teams
  • $59.99 - one team, all games
  • $39.99 - one team, all home or road games
  • $19.99 - all teams, all games, one month
  • $6.99 - all teams, all games, one day

That is a massive discount over the old AHL Live subscription package, which had gone for at least twice that.

I have already subscribed for the full-season package for the WBS Penguins, so that I can watch all the games I wouldn’t otherwise be attending.

This is a huge opportunity for AHL fans, but it is also a huge threat facing the arenas hosting the AHL games. Consider that for $60, I can watch each and every one of my team’s games streaming online from the comfort of my home, or I can use that $60 to attend three WBS home games in the lowest tier of seats.

In my opinion, the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza, as well as all other buildings in the league, will have to substantially improve their arena experience in order to entice fans to attend the games in person rather than watch them at home, now that watching from home (reportedly) is a much more viable option now than it had been in the past.

Training Camp

WBS announced its 2018-19 training camp schedule on September 20. Players will report for camp on Sunday, September 23, with practices beginning the next day at the team’s Toyota SportsPlex practice facility and continuing through Sunday, September 30. WBS will play three games during the preseason: Thursday, September 27 vs. Lehigh Valley, Saturday, September 29 vs. Hershey, and Sunday, September 30 at Hershey.

The training camp roster is still to be finalized as of this writing, but chances are it will include the five players reassigned to WBS from Pittsburgh on Thursday: forwards Freddie Tiffels and Troy Josephs, defenders Dane Birks and Joe Masonius, and goaltender Anthony Peters. Of note is Peters, whose ECHL rights are still owned by the Cincinnati Cyclones, not the Wheeling Nailers.

(UPDATE as of 3:00 pm Friday, September 21: The demotion of Tiffels to WBS as reported yesterday by the Penguins took a murky turn today...

Stay tuned on this front.)

The Future

Despite an entire summer of waiting on word from the Luzerne County Convention Center Authority on the future of professional hockey in the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area, the only update that has been provided came during the Authority’s board meeting on September 12. As reported by the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader’s Jerry Lynott, “the authority is still in the process of negotiating a new contract with the team that is the anchor tenant at the arena, said authority chairman Ed Harry.”

So, there’s still nothing finalized, and nothing is set in stone beyond this, the 20th anniversary season.

I’ll admit, I’m getting a little nervous.