Phantoms: Scouting the 2015-2016 WB-S Penguins

He’s a “Loose Cannon” but he’s also the der Eishockeyzuschauer–He left some great information in the comments section of the last Phantoms’ post.  We were discussing the upcoming hockey season, and he noted that he thought the Hershey team wouldn’t be quite as formidable–always tough, yes, but not as good as last season.  I told him I thought Wilkes Barre would be even better than last season.  He checked into it, and this is what he came up with:

SCOUTING WILKES-BARRE SCRANTON PENGUINS (part one – goaltenders)

At this point in time, it appears as if the Pittsburgh Penguins will keep 28-year-old veteran Jeff Zatkoff as the backup to starting goaltender Marc Andre Fleury, as was the case two seasons ago when Zatkoff made 20 NHL appearances during the 2013/14 campaign. That scenario would mean that last season’s rookie sensation Matt Murray, would again play in northeastern Pennsylvania with Wilkes-Barre Scranton. The now 21-year-old Murray posted most impressive numbers (40 ga, 1.58 avg, .941 svpct) and not only earned the Red Garrett Memorial Award (given to the AHL’s Rookie Of The Year) but also the Baz Bastien Memorial Award (given to the AHL’s Best Goaltender), as well.

Because the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins allowed the fewest goals in the entire 30-team American Hockey League (by a considerable margin, too), both Zatkoff and Murray shared the Harry Holmes Memorial Award last season.

It is true that Murray’s numbers declined somewhat in the Calder Cup playoffs (8 ga, 2.37 avg, .923 svpct) but it wasn’t necessarily the play of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ 3rd round pick (# 83 overall) at the 2012 NHL Draft so much as the team’s lack of goal-scoring that got Wilkes-Barre Scranton eliminated in the second round by the eventual Calder Cup champion Manchester Monarchs.

Unless Murray suffers from a proverbial ‘sophomore slump’, the WBS Penguins look to be all set in terms of a starting goaltender.

The No.2 man for WBS will most likely be 20-year-old rookie Tristan Jarry.

“Jarry possesses a package of skills that scouts find extremely appealing. He has the prototypical size of an NHL goalie with a solid technical foundation. His glove and stick work are pretty good and his mental game is top notch. Jarry is able to maintain an even temper under duress and his game is typically unaffected by bad goals. He has been extremely durable during his junior career with the Edmonton Oil Kings, playing in 90 games in 2013/14 when the team won the 2014 Memorial Cup (the prize awarded to the winner of a playoff involving the three champions of Canada’s three major junior leagues – Ontario, Quebec, Western).” — Hockey’s Future website (March 31, 2015)

Hockey’s Future gave Jarry a 7.5 score for a “prospect talent score” and a D for “probability of (NHL) success”. According to the written standards with respect to the grading system used by Hockey’s Future, a prospect talent score of 7 translates into a “journeyman No. 1 NHL goaltender” — but a D rating means that the player in question is “unlikely to reach potential”. It is certain that, at this very moment, Jarry is an unknown commodity as far as the professional game at the AHL level is concerned.

It is interesting to note that Jarry did attend the training camp for the junior national team of Canada last summer but was not one of the two netminders standing on guard for his country at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championships last winter.

Exactly what goaltenders are behind Murray and Jarry on the organizational depth chart is a great question … the Pittsburgh Penguins had four goaltenders at their 2015 Development Camp which ended on July 18th — Murray, Jarry and two others who will both be playing college hockey this season (Matt Skoff for Penn State and Sean Maguire for Boston University).

SCOUTING WILKES-BARRE SCRANTON PENGUINS (part two- defensemen)

At this point in time, the Pittsburgh Penguins list no fewer than nine defensemen on the roster posted at the team’s official website but it is far more realistic to assume that the club will only carry seven blueliners once the NHL regular season begins.

The three players who seem to be in direct competition for the 7th defenseman spot in Pittsburgh are Derrick Pouliot, Adam Clendening and Brian Dumoulin. The 21-year-old Pouliot, who was the eighth overall player selected at the 2012 NHL Draft before leading all defensemen at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championships by collecting four assists for Canada, figures the be the favorite, largely based on his upside potential offensively speaking. But Pouliot, who had seven goals and 24 points in 31 AHL games for Wilkes-Barre Scranton last season, will need to improve upon the – 11 plus/minus rating he accumulated in 34 NHL games (2 go, 7 pts) for Pittsburgh as a 20-year-old rookie.

Wilkes-Barre Scranton would be happy to have both Clendening (Boston University) and Dumoulin (Boston College) patrolling their blue line. The 23-year-old Dumoulin, who has good size (6’4″ 210 lbs) and appeared in all five NHL playoff games for Pittsburgh last spring, had an impressive + 25 plus/minus rating while skating in 62 AHL games (4 go, 33 pts) for the WBS Penguins last season. The 22-year-old Clendening, who appeared in a combined 21 NHL games (1 go, 4 pts, + 2 def rat) for the Chicago Black Hawks and Vancouver Canucks last season, has, in his three-year professional career thus far, a good track record of being able to produce points at the AHL level (196 ga, 23 go, 100 as, 123 pts).

Wilkes-Barre Scranton will definitely welcome three experienced defensemen who each skated for rival clubs in the AHL’s Easter Conference last season.

Steve Oleksy, the 29-year-old veteran out of Lake Superior State who skated in 62 NHL games (3 go, 19 pts) for the Washington Capitals over parts of the last three seasons, posted a very respectable + 13 plus/minus rating in 68 AHL games (4 go, 15 pts) for the Hershey Bears last term and can be classified as a reliable, stay-at-home type defender. Wes O’Neill, the 27-year-old veteran from the University of Maine whose offensive numbers have improved in each of his three professional seasons, had 10 goals and 48 points in 72 games for the St. John’s IceCaps last season but also recorded an unsightly – 16 plus/minus rating and has never appeared at the NHL level. David Warsofsky, the undersized (5’9″ 170 lbs) defenseman who also played for Boston University, had four goals and 15 points in 40 AHL games for the Providence Bruins last season; the 25-year-old Warsofsky also skated in four NHL games (0 go, 1 as) for the Boston Bruins last season and, altogether, has 10 career NHL games (1 go, 2 as) for Boston under his belt.

Most likely, the one “rookie” defenseman that the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins will be featuring is the 27-year-old Niclas Andersen, who was a fourth round pick (# 114 overall) of the Los Angeles Kings at the 2006 NHL Draft and comes from Swedish club IF Brynas Gavle. Andersen, who has appeared with his country’s senior national team in each of the last three seasons (40 ga, 1 go, 5 pts, + 11 def rat), earned a bronze medal for Sweden after skating in eight games (0 go, 2 as) at the 2014 IIHF World Championships. Andersen, who is said to have good skating ability and, at 210 pounds plus, figures to be one of WBS’s larger people on the blue line, returned to Sweden last summer after spending two seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League with Russian club Severstal Cherepovets.

Based on his size, the 23-year-old Reid McNeill (6’4″ 215 lbs) might have a leg up on the 7th defenseman spot for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins. McNeill, who was the sixth round pick (# 170 overall) of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2010 NHL Draft, skated in 64 AHL games (2 go, 7 pts, 121 pen min, + 6 def rat) for WBS last season and brings a certain amount of toughness to the table. Barry Goers, the 29-year-old undrafted journeyman from the Univ of Massachusetts – Lowell who skated in 51 AHL games (2 go, 9 pts, 25 pen min, + 3 def rat) for WBS last season, is also in the mix but could be limited by his lack of size (5’9″ 175 lbs).

The beefy Clark Seymour (6’4″ 220 lbs), the fifth round pick (# 143 overall) of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2012 NHL Draft, skated in a dozen AHL games (0 go, 1 as, 13 pen min, – 1 def rat) for Wilkes-Barre Scranton as a 21-year-old rookie professional last season but will, in all likelihood, once again be assigned to the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL; 22-year-old Harrison Ruopp, the third round pick (# 84 overall) of the Arizona Coyotes at the 2011 NHL Draft who skated in seven AHL games (0 go, 0 pts, 9 pen min, 0 def rat) as a second-year pro last term, will also be sent to Wheeling.

All things considered, the defensive corps of the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins should be a formidable group.

SCOUTING WILKES-BARRE SCRANTON PENGUINS (part three – forwards)

At this point in time, the Pittsburgh Penguins only list 11 forwards on their NHL roster posted at the team’s official website — Bennett, Bonino, Crosby, Dupuis, Fehr, Hornqvist, Kessel, Kunitz, Malkin, Perron, Plotnikov.

But I have a list of 20 other forwards who are under contract to the organization and it is from this group that Pittsburgh will round out its NHL roster and also stock its Wilkes-Barre Scranton AHL farm club, as well — Archibald, Biggs, Dea, Farnham, Kostopoulos, Krause, Kuehnhackl, Loney, Marcantuoni, McGrath, Mouillierat, Porter, Rowney, Rust, Sheary, Simon, Sundqvist, Uher, Wilson, Zlobin.

Many of these names should be familiar to Lehigh Valley fans as fourteen of the twenty forwards listed above skated in at least one AHL game (regular season or playoffs) for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins last season; most of these names should be familiar to knowledgeable followers of minor league hockey as 18 of the 20 appeared in at least one AHL game (regular season or playoffs) with fourteen of these players having skated in at least 43 AHL regular season games or more.

One notable forward who will NOT be returning to the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins to start this season is exciting young Finnish forward Kasperi Kapanen, the first round pick (# 22 overall) of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2014 NHL Draft. The now 19-year-old right wing, to review, notched his first career professional goal in North America for the WBS Penguins against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms at the PPL Center in Allentown this past spring before notching three goals in seven Calder Cup playoff games. Kapanen is now a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, however, having been a major component of the multi-player blockbuster deal that saw Pittsburgh acquire United States Olympic hero Phil Kessel this summer.

So, then, conventional wisdom says the Pittsburgh Penguins will keep at least 13 forwards to start the NHL regular season and so at least two players will be subtracted from the above list of 20 forwards (that is, if the Penguins do not sign any additional players this summer).

It could very well be that, based on 206 career games (29 go, 55 pts) already played at the NHL level, veteran Kevin Porter, the 29-year-old center from the University of Michigan who spent all of last season skating in the AHL for the Grand Rapid Griffins (76 ga, 16 go, 39 pts), will have himself a roster spot with the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Final decisions on another forward(s) will probably have to wait until training camp has concluded. After skating in 14 NHL games (1 go, 1 as) as a rookie last season, former University of Notre Dame right wing Bryan Rust, the third round pick (# 80 overall) of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2010 NHL Draft, could once again find himself playing at the highest level in North America. Rust also totaled 13 goals, 27 points and a healthy + 14 plus/minus rating in 45 AHL games for Wilkes-Barre Scranton during the 2014/15 campaign.

Dominik Simon, who, as a 20-year-old last term, had a breakout season for HC Plzen (52 ga, 18 go, 30 pts) in the domestic elite league as well as for the senior national team of the Czech Republic, is certainly one to keep track of. Playing on a Czech side which included NHL stars Jaromir Jagr and Jakub Voracek and ultimately finished in fourth place, the youthful Simon definitely did not look out of place while skating in 10 games (1 go, 4 as) at the 2015 IIHF World Championships this spring. It could very well be that the Pittsburgh Penguins, who snatched Simon in the fifth round (# 137 overall) of the 2015 NHL Draft this summer, will dispatch the Czech center/left wing to the AHL farm club, where Simon would probably be better able to get more quality ice time.

Two other possible candidates for a place on the Pittsburgh Penguins roster would be the veteran Kael Mouillierat as well as the younger Scott Wilson. Mouillierat (6’0″ 200 lbs) was the second-leading scorer for the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers (69 ga, 24 go, 50 pts, 110 pen min) while also managing six NHL games (1 go, 1 as) for the New York Islanders last season; the 27-year-old western Canadian also has a certain physical presence out on the ice. The 23-year-old Wilson, the left wing from the University of Massachusetts – Lowell who was the seventh round pick (# 209 overall) of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2011 NHL Draft, had a notable rookie season with Wilkes-Barre Scranton (55 ga, 19 go, 41 pts, + 14 def rat) and also skated in one NHL game for Pittsburgh last winter.

to be continued

SCOUTING WILKES-BARRE SCRANTON PENGUINS (part three – forwards, cont)

One dark horse candidate to make the Pittsburgh Penguins’ NHL roster to begin this season is undersized left wing Conor Sheary (5’9″ 175″), the 23-year-old out of the University of Massachusetts – Amherst who led Wilkes-Barre Scranton with 45 points (20 goals) in 58 AHL games as a first-year professional. The undrafted Sheary had a good playoff campaign (six goals and 11 points in 15 games) for WBS after completing his college career two seasons ago and followed that up with another noteworthy performance (five goals and 12 points in just eight games) in the Calder Cup playoffs this past spring. Altogether, Sheary has now totaled 31 goals and 68 points in 83 games (regular season and playoffs) for WBS since turning pro and has established himself as a player who must be taken seriously, at least at the AHL level.

Sheary can also be trusted to stay out of the penalty box, as evidenced by the grand total of 10 penalty minutes from his 83 career games in the AHL … Exactly how many 10-minute misconduct penalties did the rather undisciplined Lehigh Valley Phantoms rack up in 76 AHL games last season?

If the cult hero Bobby Farnham actually makes the Pittsburgh Penguins roster (for whom the Brown University product skated in 11 NHL games last season), it will only be because of the 26-year-old winger’s pugilistic abilities. Failing that, Farnham, who has piled up 666 penalty minutes in 191 AHL games with Wilkes-Barre Scranton the past three seasons, will most likely fill the role of enforcer for the AHL farm club once again. Phantoms fans might be pleased to know that notorious thug Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, the unskilled right wing who had four goals and 500 penalty minutes in 121 AHL games with WBS the past two seasons, is no longer with the Pittsburgh organization and remains unsigned at this point in time.

No matter which players are actually still with the Pittsburgh Penguins at the conclusion of training camp, the is absolutely no doubt that the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins will enjoy tremendous depth at forward. It is interesting to note that the Lehigh Valley Phantoms had seven forwards (three of whom — Akeson, Gordon and Sortini — who will not be returning this season) who scored 10 or more goals in the AHL last season whereas the WBS Penguins had no fewer than ten forwards (eight of whom — Sheary, Wilson, Kostopoulos, Rust, Uher, Kuehnhackl, Downey, Dea — are still under contract to the Pittsburgh organization) who scored 10 or more goals in the AHL last season. On the subject of organizational depth, it is also interesting to note that two of WBS’s ten forwards who scored at least 10 AHL goals last season (Downey and Dea) spent at least a little time in the East Coast Hockey League with the Wheeling Nailers.

(Downey began the season with Wheeling in the ECHL — how many Lehigh Valley Phantoms who began the season / spent any time at all with Reading in the ECHL were able to score at least ten goals and thirty points in the AHL last season?)

One very important player who will definitely be returning to the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins is 36-year-old veteran right wing Tom Kostopoulos. The evergreen Kostopoulos, captain of the squad in northeastern Pennsylvania the past two seasons, has already skated in a combined 1,172 NHL & AHL games in his career and, thus, has a wealth of experience to share with the youngsters. Kostopoulos (72 ga, 16 go, 44 pts, + 3 def rat) tied for second place in scoring last season and remains a reliable two-way player for WBS.

German import Tom Kuehnhackl (72 ga, 12 go, 30 pts, + 10 def rat), the fourth round pick (# 110 overall) of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2010 NHL Draft, and Czech legionnaire Dominik Uher (72 ga, 13 go, 26 pts, + 11 def rat), the fifth round pick (# 144 overall) of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2011 NHL Draft, are a pair of wingers who each demonstrated improvement as third-year professional players last season. Kuehnhackl (23) and Uher (22) both spent much of last season skating on Wilkes-Barre Scranton’s third line with 26-year-old Carter Rowney (63 ga, 10 go, 31 pts, + 14 def rat), the former University of North Dakota center who quickly played his way right out of the ECHL after starting the 2014/15 campaign with the Wheeling Nailers (5 ga, 1 go, 7 pts).

One rookie who can be expected to be skating with the WBS Penguins is 21-year-old Swedish import Oskar Sundqvist, the well-built center (6’3″ 207 lbs) who was the third round pick (# 81 overall) of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2012 NHL Draft. Sundqvist did skate in one AHL playoff game last spring after arriving from Swedish club AIK Skelleftea (where he had spent the season on loan from Pittsburgh) but was injured against the eventual champion Manchester Monarchs and took no more part in the Calder Cup. Sundqvist was teammates with Lehigh Valley Phantoms defensemen Robert Hagg and Jesper Pettersson on the Swedish side that earned a silver medal at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championships.

Especially if the Pittsburgh Penguins decide to keep only 13 forwards, competition in training camp for a place on Wilkes-Barre Scranton’s fourth line should be fierce. 21-year-old center Matia Marcantuoni (6’0″ 200 lbs), the fourth round pick (# 92 overall) of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2012 NHL Draft, showed ability as a rookie with WBS (59 ga, 4 go, 14 pts, + 4 def rat) last season but also had to spend time in the ECHL with Wheeling (11 ga, 4 go, 10 pts). The same can be said about undrafted 21-year-old center Jean-Sebastien Dea (5’11” 175 lbs), who certainly demonstrated some offensive talent with WBS (43 ga, 10 go, 21 pts, + 1 def rat) but did a stretch in the ECHL with the Nailers (14 ga, 4 go, 7 pts), as well.

One player who should be very interesting to keep an eye on is Anton Zlobin (5’11” 198 lbs), the 22-year-old Russian left wing who was the sixth round pick (# 173 overall) of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2012 NHL Draft. Two seasons ago, Zlobin had a solid regular season (46 ga, 8 go, 19 pts, + 15 def rat) and an ever better playoffs (15 ga, 6 go, 10 pts) with Wilkes-Barre Scranton after being recalled from Wheeling. Last time around, however, Zlobin got off to a slow start with WBS (6 ga, 0 go, 0 pts, – 3 def rat) and then suffered a shoulder injury in November which required season-ending surgery.

Josh Archibald (5’10” 175), the 22-year-old right wing out of the University of Nebraska – Omaha who was the sixth round pick (# 174 overall) of the Pittsburgh Penguins at the 2011 NHL Draft, is one who will have to fight for an AHL spot after spending most of his time last year with Wilkes-Barre Scranton (45 ga, 5 go, 13 pts, – 1 def rat). The massive Tyler Biggs (6’3″ 225 lbs), the 22-year-old right wing who was the first round pick (# 22 overall) of the Toronto Maple Leafs at the 2011 NHL Draft but has never lived up to expectations in two full seasons of professional hockey, is one who would have Archibald return to Wheeling. Biggs, who managed just two goals and five points in 47 AHL games for the Toronto Marlies last season, was one of the players the Pittsburgh Penguins acquired in the blockbuster deal this summer involving superstar Phil Kessel.

One intriguing prospect is undrafted rookie right wing Ty Loney (6’3″ 205 lbs), who skated in five AHL games (2 go, 4 pts, + 4 def rat) for the Norfolk Admirals last spring after completing a respectable four-year career at Denver University; Loney’s father Troy skated in 624 NHL games over the course of a 12-year professional career, most of which was spent with the Pittsburgh Penguins organization.

23-year-old rookie center Adam Krause has good size (6’3″ 210 lbs) and will probably be assigned to the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL, where he end last season after completing his four-year career at the University of Minnesota – Duluth; 22-year-old right wing Patrick McGrath (5’10” 200 lbs), the undrafted third-year professional, is little more than a hired gun, as his numbers for Wheeling last season (59 ga, 3 go, 8 pts, 246 pen min) would indicate.

Thanks buddy, good stuff,

@Kram209

(Featured Image of Robert Hagg, by Jack Mitroka)



Categories: Kram's Korner - From the Club Level, Phantoms Hockey

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4 replies

  1. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Penguins announced on August 3rd that they have signed journeyman goaltender Brian Foster to an AHL contract. The 28-year-old Foster, who played four years at the University of New Hampshire where he was a Second Team All-America (East) selection as a senior in 2010, tended the nets in the elite league of Norway for IK Lillehammer (43 ga, 2.94 avg, .905 sv pct) last season, his first overseas. Foster was a fifth round pick (# 161 overall) of the Florida Panthers at the 2005 NHL Draft but only ever made one brief appearance for the club during the 2011/12 campaign. Foster did play in 19 AHL games (3.40 avg, .893 svpct) over parts of two seasons for the San Antonio Rampage but spent most of his four professional seasons in North America turning out at the third-tier level.

    This season, Foster can expect to be found in the East Coast Hockey League with the Wheeling Nailers.

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