All posts by Steven Czarnecki

WBS Results Recap: Weekend of October 15th

Welcome to the WBS recap for the weekend of October the 15th. This was the first 3 games in 3 nights of the season for the Baby Penguins who looked to rebound from their loss against Charlotte last weekend.

The Penguins were missing Chris Summers after he was recalled to the NHL and they also continue to be without Jeff Taylor, Colon Smith, Troy Josephs and Jarred Tinordi to injury.

Friday Night (10/13/17)
Lehigh Valley Phantoms (Home) – 5-0 Victory.

Dylan Zink slid in to Summers’ spot, otherwise, it’s the same lineup as last weekend. Despite a slow start, the Penguins romp to a 5-0 shutout victory over Philadelphia’s AHL affiliate, Lehigh Valley. Casey DeSmith got his first start of the year, completing a 33 save shutout while the Penguins PK managed to kill off all 7 powerplay opportunities for Lehigh Valley.

Friday 13th October

Saturday Night (10/14/17)
@ Lehigh Valley (Away) – 3-2 Loss

The same lineup 2 nights in a row with Tristan Jarry coming into the game. It was a penalty heavy game in which the Penguins cost themselves victory by failing to convert on multiple 5 on 3 opportunities, as well as failing to convert on a 5 minute major penalty. There was a late rally to bring the game to 3-2 but it was too little too late. Daniel Sprong, however, did continue his scoring streak to 3 games.

Saturday 14th October

Sunday Night {10/15/17)
Syracuse Crunch (Home) – 6-1 Victory

There were a few lineup changes. Zink gets scratched in favor of Ethan Prow, making his first appearance of the year. Zach Aston-Reese (who had struggled through the first 3 games) and Jarrett Burton (who took a cross check to the face resulting in a major penalty Saturday night) were replaced in the line up by Gage Quinney and Freddie Tiffels. Both Quincey and Tiffels made their season debuts.

The Penguins scored a  6-1 victory. It was a weird game with 8 minor penalties in the 2nd period alone. The Baby Penguins didn’t look like a team coming into their 3rd game in 3 days. With plenty of jump and a heavy shot advantage, they used their speed to have Syracuse chasing the play the entire game.


Sunday 15th October


1) Aston-Reese has had a rough start to the beginning of the year. He played top-6 minutes until some shuffling in the loss against Lehigh Valley and is still yet to get on the scoresheet. Only appearing in three games and looking a bit behind the play really isn’t a huge issue or something to be that concerned about yet, but his struggles are hugely different to that of Sprong. Sprong has scored 4 goals and has 2 assists through 4 games and has shown the ability to drive the play significantly.

2) Lukas Bengtsson looks perfectly healthy after his injury disrupted season and is playing at a very high level. He is registering the most time on ice (as per my naked eye as the AHL doesn’t track TOI) and playing on the top PP. There’s still some work to be done in the defensive zone as he does struggle with bigger forwards due to his size, but this is a very positive development for both the Penguins organization and for Bengtsson himself.

3) Don’t panic over guys not producing and don’t get too excited over guys producing plenty. The season is only 4 games old. However, WBS, when they’re on, look like an unstoppable offensive team. The influx of rookies like Sprong and Adam Johnson, as well as Thomas Di Pauli and Bengtsson managing to begin the year healthy has made the Baby Penguins offense look almost unstoppable at times. The Sprong-Bengtsson connection on the powerplay has created 2 carbon copy goals so far, and will likely repeat it for most of the year.


WBS Results Recap: Weekend of 8th October

The WBS Penguins started the season at home against the Charlotte Checkers, a new addition to the Atlantic Division this year. The game started off with the announcement that both Jarred Tinordi and Colin Smith were both out injured with undisclosed injuries that will put them on the shelf at a week-to-week basis.

The lineup Clark Donatelli went with for the opening night was:


Interesting notes on the lineup:

No Taylor or Prow on the backend. The depth on the Baby Penguins’ blue line is pretty ridiculous that they can absorb an injury to Tinordi and still be able to scratch Prow on merit.

Pedan and Corrado as a pairing is interesting. Both have history playing for the Utica Comets, so may have some familiarity there, but I can’t confirm that.

Dea shifting back to C between Sprong and Aston-Reese is pretty intriguing. Despite being a center in junior, Dea’s spent most of his pro career as a RW. A shift back to center wasn’t really predicted for Dea, but having lost McKegg to the NHL Penguins, there was an opening as top 9 center with Smith out injured.

Takeaways From The Game

The Penguins started brightly, converting on the powerplay which featured three of the brighter talents in the Penguins system with Bengtsson running the powerplay with Sprong occupying the left half wall and Aston-Reese planting himself in front of the opposing goaltender. While the initial movement was good, it took a stretch pass from goalie Tristan Jarry to send Sprong in on the right wing after a slow change from Charlotte to bring about the first goal of the game, with Sprong rocketing the puck over Jeremy Smith’s pad in the Charlotte net and beating his blocker. The Penguins dictated the rest of the first period from that point, despite a rocky start with plenty of turnovers on both sides. That was until a failed clear off a faceoff from DiPauli and Sestito resulted in Zykov capitalizing to tie the game at 1. Another negative in the first period was Trotman awkwardly hitting the boards and seemingly injuring his shoulder. He never returned to the game.

The Penguins then spent a significant period of the 2nd period on the penalty kill, with 5 separate minor penalties. The Baby Penguins successfully killed the first 4 of these penalties, even managing to take the lead on a DiPauli short-handed marker in which Teddy Blueger showed off his improved skating to apply pressure to Charlotte in their own zone, forcing a turnover and finding DiPauli whose initial one timer was saved before he followed up on his backhand. Everything was looking rosy for Wilkes-Barre. This was until Warren Foegele got tied up with Jarry in front of the net, and angry old man/captain Tom Kostopoulos took issue, attempting to remonstrate Foegele’s actions with his fist. Foegele, fully aware of the concept of dad strength, thought better of this, turtling on the ground and causing Kostopoulos to take a rough penalty. In the penalty the Penguins would have wanted to kill off the most, their captain sticking up for their goaltender, Charlotte finally converted with some quick puck movement and jumping on a rebound to tie the game 2-2. 49 seconds later, Charlotte took the lead after a poor entry from the Penguins on the PP, in which Dea tried to drop the puck to a stationary Sprong. This resulted in a 2 on 1 going the other way, with Foegele being the one to score. In the 2nd period, the Penguins ended up being outshot 22-9 as a result of 8+ minutes of shorthanded ice time.

The 3rd period was a pretty even affair, with Charlotte managing to take advantage of a risky gamble from Christian Thomas playing the point on the powerplay, who attempted to jump on a loose puck where he was beaten to it by new WBS folk enemy Foegele who potted his second goal of the game shorthanded. Despite receiving another PP opportunity towards the end of the game, the Penguins couldn’t score, finally conceding an empty netter and losing their opening tilt 5-2.

A lack of offensive spark throughout the game, combined with poor discipline, resulted in a disappointing start for the WBS Penguins.

Pressure Makes Diamonds

The Pittsburgh Penguins PK is an odd beast. While harboring some elite PK talent in the 2016-2017 season including Carl Hagelin, Matt Cullen and Nick Bonino, they only managed to finish 20th in the league for regular season PK%, at a measly 79.8% and giving up a total of 52 PP goals against, the 8th worst in the league. The Penguins, despite the speed and talent on their PK, only managed to score 5 SH goals, tied with 8 other teams for 15th in the league.

This disappointing season in regards to penalty killing, while also losing both of their main PK centers to free agency, lead to assistant coach Jacques Martin and head coach Mike Sullivan making some adjustments on how the penalty kill is going to be executed, modifying their systems and their strategies to capitalize on the speed of the players they’ll be putting out in penalty killing roles.

With Sullivan having been quoted as wanting a pressure based penalty killed by The Athletic’s Jesse Marshall (whose work I would seriously recommend if you’re into your Xs and Os), the Penguins deployed 6 PK forward regularly. Those forwards being Hagelin, Greg McKegg, Carter Rowney, Bryan Rust, Scott Wilson and Tom Kuhnhackl, we see a collection of incredibly fast hockey players who are perfect for a pressure based system.

The Penguins PK

In contrast to the traditional box system most teams tend to execute, the Penguins’ employ a diamond alignment with their penalty killers. We’ll look at some stills from the game against St Louis from opening night to illustrate the diamond and the use of pressure, along with a potential downfall.

Picture 1In our first picture, after a Penguins win of the faceoff, you start to see the formation of the diamond begin to take shape. As Ian Cole receives the puck off the faceoff win and Matt Hunwick‘s bunt back to him, Hunwick is now a de facto winger on the strong side boards who attempts to subtly interfere and pick the pressure from the St Louis winger. McKegg becomes accountable for the center is cleared, with Hagelin attempting to obscure the path of the weakside winger who is attempting to prevent the clearing attempt.

Picture 2
In Picture 2, we begin to see how the diamond integrates with the pressure identity the Penguins are trying to establish. After Cole was forced to bump the puck up the boards and the Blues recovered, take particular note of how far up the boards Hunwick has come to apply pressure. With Hunwick almost at the top of the circles, McKegg applies significant pressure onto the point man, forcing him to move the puck. He can choose to try and go across the blue line, or down the wall. Going across the blueline is what the Blues pointman chooses, but is the more risky option and a slight hesitation with the puck gives the Penguins PKer a great opportunity to force the puck out of the zone.

Picture 3
In Picture 3, after the puck has transitioned to the other point, the Penguins transition the pressure from the tip of the diamond (that being the center) to the right point of the diamond (the other F at this point). The concept does not change, however, with the non-base members of the diamond attempting to take away the most serious threats with the pressure player pushing hard at the puck carrier with the idea that it will force them into a quick decision, which may not always be the best decision.

When It Works 1.jpg
In the above picture, we see the diamond creating pressure on the strongside wall, putting 4 players into an area where the Blues only have 3. The obvious outlet for the Blues player on the wall between Carter Rowney and Brian Dumoulin is to turn towards the center of the ice and skate to the faceoff dot. However, by skating into the middle of the diamond is exactly what the player at the base of the diamond is waiting for.

When It Works 2
As the Blues player turns off the wall, a stick check from Rowney interrupts his puck handling and gives time for the base of the diamond, the ever eager Kris Letang to apply heavy pressure, taking the puck and starting an odd man rush in the other direction and a scoring chance. This is a perfect example of the diamond allowing the Penguins to apply pressure, forcing an opposition player into a known spot where the Penguins will jump upon them and force a turnover.

When It Fails 1.jpg
A carbon copy situation of the beginning of the play when Letang generated an odd man rush, the Penguins again use their diamond to collapse against the puck carrier and his support. This jam up against the board continues for a while, and you see Scott Wilson in his first game as a full time penalty killer turning his head to locate the backdoor defenseman, his most serious threat. Everything looks great so far.
When It Fails 2.jpg
While this angle isn’t great, it shows you the breakdown in coverage and what leads to a PP goal against. Wilson, who in first picture of this set was at the faceoff dot, has sagged below the point having seen the puck move away from the biggest mass of players and to the sticks of Hunwick and Tage Thompson of the Blues. Expecting the puck to begin jammed between these two players, Wilson begins to move to a position where can support Hunwick in a battle against the much larger Thompson
When It Fails 3.jpg
Our final point on this article, and on this breakdown, you see the puck has travelled from the board battle, off Hunwick’s stick and through the circle, where Wilson was previously occupying. The inherent risk of a pressure based PK system is that occasionally, you take risks that don’t pay off. Wilson’s decision to sag below the circle, expecting an additional board battle to commence, is a risk of sorts and led to the backdoor D receiving the puck. Don’t mistake this play for an error on Wilson, but rather the inherent risk of telling players to pressure when there is an opportunity to do so.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Season Preview

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton had an outstanding regular season in 2016-2017, winning the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy which is given to the team with the best record in the regular season. This regular season success did not transfer to the playoffs, however, and the Penguins were dumped out in the first round by the Providence Bruins. Many pointed to the NHL Penguins draining the WBS Penguins of offensive talent as a result for this and in a move to address this issue, WBS GM Billy Guerin signed 22 forwards for the Baby Penguins. This includes a plethora of guys with NHL experience as well as two premium offensive forwards to AHL contracts in Colin Smith and Christian Thomas.

Wilkes-Barre also get a new team to play against in the division this year with the Charlotte Checkers moving from the Western Conference to the Atlantic Division in the Eastern Conference and creating an 8 team division.

Projected Lineup

Always a difficult thing to predict due to the scheduling nature of the AHL where you’ll regularly play 3 games in 3 nights, and there’s also the issue of the ‘Veteran Rule’.

This rule is implemented to maintain the AHL’s main purpose as a development league and says that a team must dress at least 13 development players, 12 of which must have played less than 260 professional games (which refers to AHL, NHL and European Pro) and 1 of which must have played less than 320 professional games. This determination is made at the beginning of the season, so if a player is at 259 pro games to start the season, they are not considered a veteran.

Looking at the WBS forwards and D, the following players are considered veterans as per this rule:

  •  Tom Kostopoulos
  • Greg McKegg (Still partially eligible due to not reaching 320 games)
  • Christian Thomas (Still partially eligible due to not reaching 320 games)
  • Tom Sestito
  • Colin Smith (Still partially eligible due to not reaching 320 games)
  • Garrett Wilson (Still partially eligible due to not reaching 320 games)
  • Chris Summers
  • Jarred Tinordi (Still partially eligible due to not reaching 320 games)

This means at least one of these players must be rotated out of every game, if not more in order to allow younger players the chance to play. That point becomes moot if McKegg makes the NHL Penguins, which is entirely possible given his performance in the preseason and training camp. However, for the sake of this projection, I will consider him in the AHL. There is also undisclosed injuries to Colin Smith and Dylan Zink and as such, they will not be considered healthy enough for the sake of these lines.

With this in mind, my best guess at the most consistent forward lineup would be, with the suspected healthy scratches in red:

Zach Aston-Reese Greg McKegg Daniel Sprong
Dominik Simon Teddy Blueger Christian Thomas
Garrett Wilson Adam Johnson Tom Kostopoulos
Thomas DiPauli Troy Josephs JS Dea
 Tom Sestito  Jarrett Burton  Reid Gardiner 
Chris Summers Lukas Bengtsson
Jarred Tinordi Zach Trotman
Jeff Taylor Frank Corrado
Kevin Czuczman Ethan Prow


This would lead to the following players being demoted to Wheeling:

  • Freddie Tiffels
  • Cody Wydo
  • Gage Quinney
  • Riley Bourbannis
  • Patrick McGrath
  • Ryan Haggerty

Season Predictions

The WBS Penguins should stand a great chance of winning the Atlantic Division again in the coming year. While the pieces may have changed from this year, and the defense perhaps getting less dynamic with the puck with David Warsofsky moving on to Colorado and Chad Ruhwedel and Derrick Pouliot both presumably graduating to the NHL Penguins, the forwards signed to provide steady offence in spite of call-ups will offset any potential issue with those graduations. Wilkes-Barre also gets the benefit of Daniel Sprong and Zach Aston-Reese joining the club full time, at least for a part of the year. Expect a huge offensive year out of Christian Thomas and an increased point output from Teddy Blueger as well this year.

The additions of bigger defensemen on the backend should help the Penguins with teams like Providence, Springfield and Charlotte who are top 10 in average height in the AHL, while the Baby Penguins are at 25th. Players like Tinordi and Trotman should allow the Penguins to match the physicality of these teams without losing their ability to move the puck, while also bringing a plethora of AHL experience to help young players like Zink, Taylor and Bengtsson to learn how to manage a full professional North American season and as Jarry and DeSmith return in the net, the Penguins should once again be at the top of the league in team GAA.

I predict the WBS Penguins will once again have a 50 win season, leading the Atlantic Division. I expect them to make a deeper run into the playoffs than last season due to increased forward depth. This is, as always, dependent on the health of the NHL Penguins and how that might affect WBS, especially on D. I do consider WBS as one of the favorites for the Calder Cup providing they are not forced to lose so many of their players to call ups. Retaining one of Sprong or Aston-Reese for the entire year will be a huge step to achieving that goal.

Who is Andrey Pedan?

In the early afternoon, the Penguins traded their most hotly debated prospect in Derrick Pouliot for Andrey Pedan and a 2018 4th Round Pick. So now we must figure out who Andrey Pedan is and how he fits into the Penguins plans going forward?

Pedan is a hulking defenseman out of Lithuania at 6’5 and 214 pounds. At this size and a limited amount of AHL experience, one would assume that his skating leaves something to be desired but while his skating looks a little awkward, he moves around the ice at a pretty good speed.

According to writer Cam Robinson, he is fleet-footed and powerful in his skating and looked to build off an extremely strong 2015-2016 in which he put up 7 goals, 14 assists and 87 PIMS in 45 games. However, he had a disappointing training camp coming into 2016-2017 and never seemed to recover, putting up a decreased 5 goals and 5 assists with 100 PIMS in 52 games with Utica.

His play in Utica is covered very well by Vancouver fan blog Canucks Army, covering how defensively strong Pedan was down in the AHL. They also go on to recap his disappointing year in 2016-2017 here, discussing that he may have been negatively affected by some questionable handling by the Vancouver front office.

Below is a video with some highlights of 2015-2016 season, Pedan’s best in the pro game.

As to where this leaves the Penguins, the answer is that the Penguins have gained a 4th round pick for very little impact on their team. While Pedan doesn’t have a huge amount of offensive upside, he does provide a physical streak that WBS is trying to establish with Trotman, Czuczman, Summers, Tinordi and now Pedan all being over 6’2 and north of 200 pounds. Pedan will slot into the rotation down in WBS and allow Dlyan Zink and potentially Jeff Taylor to head to Wheeling to gain some better minutes.

This move provides the NHL Penguins with some roster flexibility with Pedan having already cleared waivers and doesn’t negatively affect the depth chart as Pouliot had little chance of being more than a depth D this year for the Penguins, a role that Pedan will be able to fill in if he needs to.

Metropolitan Division Preview: New York Islanders

Coach- Doug Weight
2016-17 Record and Standing : 41-29-12 (5th in Metro, 9th in Eastern Conference)

Key Additions

– Jordan Eberle

Key Subtractions

– Ryan Strome

 – Travis Hamonic


A team in a transitional state with an unstable arena situation and a GM who is more commonly seen in the lists of those most likely to be removed, a relatively quiet offseason from the Islanders will help to provide some stability to a team in desperate need of some.

The Islanders arena issues have been widely noted, with their current lease in Brooklyn expiring in 2019 and having been seen as an experiment gone wrong around the league. With neither side happy with how the experiment went and the lack of a suitable arena for the Islanders to move to, there is an air of uncertainty surrounding the Islanders organization.

This uncertainty is compounded by captain and franchise center John Tavares’ contract expiring after the conclusion of the 2017-2018 season and all reports of an extension have been to note how little discussion has been had.

What the Islanders do have going for them, however, will be the play of young forwards Anthony Beauvillier and Josh Ho-Sang. Both are very young at age 20 and 21 respectively. They showed the potential to be contributors for the Islanders going forward. Beauvillier spent the season on the NHL roster, playing in 66 games and scoring 24 points while being used in primarily a bottom 6 role. Ho-Sang got called up part way through the season, scoring 10 points in 21 games. Expect both of them to make strong arguments for top 6 time coming out of camp.

There is also hope from the Islanders’ front office that Mathew Barzal can make the leap from dominating the WHL straight to the NHL. One of Canada’s best players at the 2017 World Juniors, Barzal is primarily a playmaker with a good two-way game who has the skating and solid enough size to make a very good claim to make the Islanders’ NHL roster out of training camp.

While the forwards are of good quality, albeit with players like Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck overpaid for what they provide, the Islanders issue will rest with their defense and goaltending.

Acquiring Jordan Eberle for Ryan Strome was a good move for the Islanders. But their other trade of the offseason is one that created a hole on their blue line. Moving Travis Hamonic for a 1st round pick and two 2nd round picks is a very good deal from a value perspective, but it created a hole in the top-4 of the Islanders defense that they haven’t addressed in the offseason.

With Thomas Hickey now being penciled in for a top-4 spot, the Islanders will be hoping that one of Sebastian Aho, Devon Toews or Ryan Pulock can earn a spot in training camp and hopefully provide some young puck moving ability to the blue line that got worse in the offseason.

The Islanders also enter the season with Thomas Greiss as the starter once again and Jaroslav Halak as his backup. Despite spending $7.83 million on their goaltending position, the Islanders have yet more uncertainty in the net. Greiss, who Penguins fans may remember from his disappointing 2014-2015 season as the back-up, had a very good 2015-2016 but suffered from the inconsistency that has plagued his career in 2016-2017. He put up below average numbers. In spite of this, the Islanders committed to him as at least a part time starter by signing him to a 3 year, $3.33 million AAV contract extension in January 2017. This commitment is at odds with the handling of Halak, who put up similar numbers to Greiss but found himself on the wrong side of a 3-goalie rotation in 2016-2017. This led to Halak demanding a trade and subsequently being waived and demoted to Bridgeport for the majority of 2017. With Halak’s contract expiring after the season, expect Greiss to remain the starter for better or worse.


I see the Islanders having a very similar season to the one they just had. They may receive an offensive boost with the acquisition of Eberle, but the uncertainty of the blue line and the goaltending will negate any positives that come from that move. Expect another season of being in the running for a wildcard spot. But due to the competitiveness of the Metro division, the Islanders will always struggle to gain that spot. They also lack the overall team to be that competitive in the playoffs unless several young players make huge leaps. They may also commit to being sellers if they are dwindling at the deadline and Tavares looks unlikely to re-sign.

Doug Weight has a tough task ahead of him in his first full season as a head coach and it will be incredibly interesting to see if he brings a new energy to the young players of the Islanders.

Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Roster Preview: Goalies

The last installment of this series is on the goalies that will play for WBS. With Antti Niemi being signed by the NHL team, Tristan Jarry will get to start the lion’s share of games down in WBS. He is not, however, the only good goalie down there.

Tristan Jarry, AHL Experience : 2 Years

Tristan Jarry

Rebounding from a disappointing year in 2015/2016, Jarry put up a sparkling .925% save percentage and a 2.15 GAA as part of the Harry Holmes Memorial Award winning goaltending partnership in WBS. This elevated Jarry into getting one start in the final NHL game of the year and leading some fans to question whether or not Jarry should be given the backup role in the NHL as soon as this coming season. However, the Penguins organization understood the importance in development of goaltenders needing as many games as possible and signed veteran backup Antti Niemi to allow Jarry to remain in WBS. A goalie who is best described as a mix between Matt Murray‘s solid positional play and calm demeanor and Marc-Andre Fleury‘s penchant for acrobatic nonsense, expect Jarry to put together another great season in WBS taking the majority of the starts. What may affect this would be if Niemi falters in the NHL. Jarry would likely be brought up to back up Murray. If he remains in the AHL, another sub 2.2 GAA and .925% save percentage season are the expectations for Jarry.

Casey Desmith, AHL Experience : 2 Years


Casey DeSmith first made an impression for the WBS Penguins during the 2015/2016 season, where he signed on loan from Wheeling after Jarry was called into action in the NHL. DeSmith put together a strong regular season and started the majority of the playoffs for the Baby Penguins, earning an AHL contract for the next season. In the 2016/2017 season, DeSmith actually had slightly better stats than Jarry, managing 2.01 GAA and .926% save percentage, doing more than his fair share to earn the Harry Holmes Memorial Award. DeSmith recently signed a 2 year ELC with the Penguins and looks to split some of the starts with Jarry again having started all of the playoff games in WBS’ short playoff run this year with Jarry again serving as the backup in Pittsburgh.

If Jarry ends up in the NHL again, DeSmith has shown the ability to take on the starters workload in WBS and would assume that role. Failing that, expect a similar distribution to this year with DeSmith getting 30 or so games and putting up very similar statistics to Jarry.

Sean Maguire, AHL Experience: Rookie

Sean Maguire

Having spent all of 2016/2017 in Wheeling, Sean Maguire did manage the odd game as a backup in WBS, but never actually took the ice. The Penguins organization will be looking for Maguire to take a step forward after a bad year in Wheeling where he couldn’t even top a .900% save percentage. While playing goalie in the ECHL is no easy feat, those statistics will not gave the Penguins optimism he will be a successful professional goalie.

All is not lost for Maguire, however, as if Jarry does end up becoming a part of the NHL Penguins through injury, Maguire becomes the backup to DeSmith as the Penguins 5th and final goaltender under contract. Maguire will hope that a deep D corps in WBS will push more talent down to Wheeling and that he will be able to play better. If Maguire does make it up to the AHL, expect very limited time and stats from him.