WILKES-BARRE, PA — The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins enter the 2019-20 season amidst an offseason of change. With a new bench boss in the Calder Cup-winning Mike Vellucci, the Penguins will be looking to rebound from a 2018-19 campaign that saw them miss the playoffs for just the third time in their 20-year history.
Nuts and Bolts:
Division/Conference Finish: 6th in the Atlantic Division, 11th in the Eastern Conference
Record vs. Division: 24-22-5-3
Record vs. Conference: 33-27-7-3
Goals For Per Game: 3.05/17th in the AHL
Goals Against Per Game: 3.00/16th in the AHL
Power Play: 49 power play goals in 298 chances, 16.4% 28th in the AHL
Penalty Kill: 67 goals allowed in 326 chances, 79.4%. 26th in the AHL
New Sheriff in Town: Mike Vellucci comes over after winning the Calder Cup with the Charlotte Checkers. He replaces Clark Donatelli, who abruptly resigned his post in July.
New General Manager, too: Vellucci also replaces Bill Guerin, who became the new GM of the Minnesota Wild. Before his departure, he laid the groundwork for a sizeable portion of this years’ team.
Playoffs: Fans in Wilkes-Barre are not accustomed to missing the playoffs. The pressure will be on to return to the postseason after missing it for the first time in 16 years in 2018.
“They’re young, inexperienced at the pro game, but they’re good defensemen. They’re all good skating, typical NHL defensemen. Good skating, good stick, puck-moving defensemen. I’m excited about that. I had the same young and inexperienced defensemen in Charlotte my first year. That doesn’t bother me at all, because they’re like sponges. They wanna learn, they wanna listen and they wanna get better every day. So, they’ll make a lot of strides.” — Vellucci, on having a number of young defensemen at his disposal.
Sam Lafferty: After a 2018-19 campaign that saw him tally 13 goals and 49 points, eyes will be on him to see if he can improve upon numbers that turned him into a bonafide Pittsburgh prospect.
Andrew Agozzino: One of the newcomers to the organization, he’s coming off a 60-point season with the AHL’s Colorado Eagles. His scoring ability and veteran leadership will be crucial to the team’s success.
Casey DeSmith: NHL veteran netminder assigned to WBS after clearing waivers. Along with Dustin Tokarski, his veteran mentorship will be crucial to the development of young goaltender Emil Larmi.
Gone but Not Forgotten:
Ethan Prow: Defenseman led the team in scoring last season, but Pittsburgh allowed him to hit free agency over the summer. He signed with the Florida Panthers.
Chris Summers: The veteran blueliner wasn’t re-signed by Pittsburgh, left North America for Germany this season.
Jarrett Burton: One of Clark Donatelli’s favorite players, served as a crucial penalty killer and faceoff specialist. He signed a deal with the Rochester Americans.
Sin Bin Swami Sez:
On paper, if you look at the opening night roster for the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, it’s a playoff team. However, the games aren’t played on paper. The goaltending is as solid as it’s been in many years. There was a concerted effort to make sure that last year’s playoff miss wasn’t repeated. If the young defense corps holds up, and injuries in Pittsburgh don’t ravage the lineup, there’s enough there for a deep playoff run. My Prediction? A loss to Toronto in the Eastern Conference Final.