Over the years, between the Pittsburgh Penguins have seemed like the cradle of civilization for spawning future NHL head coaches out of their organization between working in Wilkes-Barre or as a Pens’ assistant. In recent-ish year, mames like Mike Yeo, John Hynes, Todd Richards, Todd Reirden and Rick Tocchet have all gone on to promotions.
Could Mike Vellucci be the next?
Vellucci, 55, has done almost everything there is to do in coaching, besides take that final step to be an NHL head coach. He was a super-successful coach in juniors in the OHL with the Plymouth Whalers, including winning a championship in 2007 and building one of the top junior programs when he was there from 2001-14.
He moved up the ranks to be an AHL head coach and got almost instant success with the Charlotte Checkers, winning the Calder Cup in 2019. From there he jumped over to the Pens’ organiazation as the WB/S head coach one season and working as an assistant for Mike Sullivan on the Pittsburgh bench in the last two seasons.
It has been reported that Vellucci has had two interviews with the Philadelphia Flyers for their open head coaching job in recent weeks.
Pierre LeBrun from The Athletic listed Vellucci as a top candidate for an open NHL job, saying:
Mike Vellucci, Penguins assistant coach: The veteran hockey man. He’s been a GM, AGM and coach at many levels — he’s been assistant coach to Mike Sullivan in Pittsburgh for two years, and was GM and head coach of the AHL Penguins prior to that. And before that, he was a coach and an AGM in the Hurricanes organization for five years. Not sure what else this guy has to do to get a crack at an NHL head coach job.
One aspect working against Vellucci could be the sheer number of candidates that exist. In LeBrun’s article, for instance, Vellucci was just one of 20 listed for new coaches that have never had a NHL head coaching job.
Which means that doesn’t include names of coaches with previous experience like Barry Trotz and Pete DeBoer who are expected to find work very soon, if they want it, and others like Tocchet who will
There are currently only five openings (Dallas, Detroit, Philadelphia, Vegas Winnipeg). That’s not a lot of openings and a lot of competition. Time will tell if Vellucci can work his way into a head coaching job or not in this cycle, but his name is at least somewhat in the mix.