WILKES-BARRE, PA–The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins Enter their 19th season of competition in 2017-18. The three-time Calder Cup Finalists will look to win their first championship in franchise history. They are the proud AHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Wheeling Nailers. (ECHL)
Head Coach: Clark Donatelli-Entering second full season as Head Coach. 73-42-10 Overall record. Took over midway through the 2015-16 season after Mike Sullivan was elevated to Pittsburgh.
Captain: Tom Kostopoulos-Seventh season as Captain
What looked like a championship run came to a shocking halt when the Providence Bruins unexpectedly knocked off the team with AHL’s best regular season record. Injuries in Pittsburgh took their toll, as players like Carter Rowney, Tom Sestito, and Josh Archibald frequently bounced back and forth across the Commonwealth.
The Ageless Wonder Returns: Kostopoulos is 38 years old, so no one would begrudge him if maybe Father Time started to catch up. If he decided to retire, he’d be the first player in franchise history to have his number retired. Instead, he returns for a 19th professional season and 11th in a Penguins uniform. Last season, he led the team in games played, (74) goals, (24) and points. (54)
NHL Experience On The Bench: Assistant coach Chris Taylor was the named the head coach of the Rochester Americans by former Pittsburgh assistant GM Jason Botterill in the off-season, so the Penguins brought in Tim Army, who comes with 14 years NHL coaching experience as an assistant with Colorado, Washington, and Anaheim. Another thing to watch? Army worked alongside Donatelli as an assistant at Providence College.
Forward Depth Key: Most years, you could say the Penguins were a bit thin at forward. Not this year. The fact that a guy like Reid Gardiner (37 points in 28 games last season with WHL Kelowna) Can end up in the ECHL is a testament to the depth they have.
Domination Over the Phantoms: Can Wilkes-Barre/Scranton continue to own their division rivals? Over the last five years, the Penguins hold a 24-12-1-3 record against the Flyers’ affiliate, including a 7-4–0-1 mark last year.
How Long Will Sprong Stay: Last season, Jake Guentzel played 33 games for the Penguins and put up 42 points. He was then recalled to the big club and wasn’t seen again in Northeastern PA. Could the highly touted prospect Daniel Sprong be on the same path?
Christian Thomas: 49 points in 65 games last season for Hershey. Should also be a boost to what was, at times last season, a struggling Penguin power play.
Lukas Bengtsson: Young defenseman finally healthy after missing the majority of last season with an illness.
Zach Aston-Reese: Hobey Baker finalist after being signed an undrafted free agent out of Northeastern University. Put up eight points in 10 games last season with the Penguins on an Amateur Tryout.
Blocked and Reported:
David Warsofsky: Led W-B/S defensemen in goals last season. Signed with the Colorado Avalanche in the offseason.
Derrick Pouliot: A player who likely didn’t fit in the organizational plans long term, the 8th overall pick in 2012 was traded recently to Vancouver for Andrey Pedan.
Oskar Sundqvist: Traded to the St. Louis Blues in exchange for Ryan Reaves, Sundqvist was likely blocked up top by guys like Rowney or Guentzel. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton hopes they don’t miss the 46 points he put up last season, including 20 goals.
If they can get off to a repeat of last seasons’ fast start, (they won 10 of their first 12), the sky is the limit. They just have to hope that the usual dreaded injury bug that hits in Pittsburgh stays away.
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