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Penguins promote three in front office

Some off-season assignment changes announced in Pittsburgh’s front office

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2021 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Ryan Yorgen/NHLI via Getty Images

The Penguins announced some personnel shifting today.

From the team release:

The Pittsburgh Penguins have promoted Chris Pryor to assistant general manager, Andy Saucier to hockey operations analyst/pro personnel, and Erik Heasley to general manager of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins in addition to his duties as manager of hockey operations, it was announced today by general manager Ron Hextall.

“Chris, Andy and Erik all have been key members of our hockey operations department, and collectively bring a wealth of various experiences and expertise,” said Hextall. “All three individuals are very deserving of their new roles and responsibilities as we continue to build out our hockey operations department.”

In his new role as assistant general manager, Pryor, 61, will assist Hextall in all aspects of hockey operations, and will be involved in all personnel decisions. Pryor has spent the last year as Pittsburgh’s director of player personnel, where he helped oversee the Penguins’ scouting efforts in North America and Europe which culminated with the 2021 NHL Draft, and assisted with player personnel decisions.

Pryor has over 25 years of scouting and managerial experience, having served various roles with the Philadelphia Flyers from 1999-2019 including amateur scout, director of scouting, and director of player personnel. He also served as one of Hextall’s assistant general managers while with the Flyers from 2016-18.

The St. Paul, Minnesota native got his start in hockey operations with the New York Islanders, serving as an amateur scout and director of player development from 1994-1999, before joining Philadelphia. He has spent the past two seasons as a North American amateur scout with the Nashville Predators.

Saucier, 35, will assume the newly-created role of hockey operations analyst/pro personnel, where he’ll serve as a conduit between the coaching staff and analytics department, be involved in player personnel decisions, and aid with pro scouting efforts.

The Waterville, Maine native is entering his 11th season in Pittsburgh, after spending the previous decade as the Penguins’ video coach, helping the team to Stanley Cup Championships in 2016 and 2017. Prior to his tenure in Pittsburgh, Saucier was the WBS Penguins’ video coach from 2010-12.

He also was the video coordinator for Team USA at the 2014 Olympic Games, and was slated to have the same role at the 2022 Winter Games prior to NHL players and staff not attending the Olympic Games.

Heasley, 36, has spent the past 14 seasons with the Penguins in various capacities. A native of Pittsburgh, PA and graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, Heasley has spent the previous 12 seasons with the Penguins as a manager of hockey operations, assisting with amateur and college free against scouting, player development, and various matters concerning WBS.

Pyror has long been seen as the “right hand man” for Hextall and gets a promotion and more of those type of responsibilities. Pryor is currently the team’s only assistant GM in title.

The most interesting development might be regarding Saucier. As written yesterday in The Athletic about the impending promotion:

This move would be preemptive so as to not lose Saucier, who is viewed around the NHL as possessing elite recognition when it comes to which plays can be reversed.

Saucier’s new duties are not expected to alter his in-game job of keeping eagle eyes on the blueline for potential off-side plays that aren’t called and result in goals against. The Penguins were perfect at such challenges last season, often to the chagrin of opposing fans on the internet to how precise Saucier’s work often tended to be in flagging down and taking away would-be goals.

In that regard, it’s a well-earned extra set of duties and finding a new job description to keep a talented (and sneakily important) employee in the organization, a very positive development for the Pens.

The Athletic also pointed out that Saucier’s chief deputy in those matters, Madison Nikkel, could be in demand and possibly on the move for a promotion to an NHL team in a similar role this off-season.

In other front office news, while not yet officially announced, it has been reported and believed that Kevin Acklin, Penguins COO and general counsel, will be promoted to President of Business Operations. That will replace the recently departed David Morehouse, who resigned earlier this spring. Brian Burke is also expected to continue as the team’s President of Hockey Operations, according to the report.