It’s the third installment of this series and we start to see somewhat of a hole in the Penguins system, with only one of the players on an NHL contract being a right handed right winger. JS Dea may see some time on RW as we covered in the previous preview, but for now, we’ll consider him a C. I’m also going to include Cody Wydo who signed on the day of my writing this article, even though he’s a LW. WBS seems to conspire against me.
Daniel Sprong, AHL Experience : Rookie
As I mentioned in a previous article, Daniel Sprong has been covered from pretty much every angle by any media associated with the Penguins and there isn’t much left to say about him. While I expect him to start in the AHL, if he translates as well to the pro game as is expected, he’ll be up with the Penguins by the turn of 2018. Expect him to produce at a 40 goal pace while he is in the AHL.
Tom Kostopolous, AHL Experience : 11 Years
A consummate professional entering his 5th year in his current stint with the Baby Penguins and his 5th year as captain, Tom Kostopolous has had an offensive resurgence. Since signing with the WBS Penguins in 2013-2014, Kostopolous has consistently scored at over 0.5 PPG and has seen his offensive production increase over the last two seasons. Expect more of Kostopolous being a versatile piece for WBS this year bouncing between top 6 and bottom 6 depending on the call up situation. 20 goals and 30 assists is a solid estimate for what is to be expected from Kostopolous.
Garrett Wilson, AHL Experience: 6 Years
Fresh off signing a 2 year extension with the Penguins, Garrett Wilson is usually more of a left winger, but given his experience and WBS’ lack of right wingers, I expect him to play on his off wing. Not a particularly dynamic offensive player, scoring just 31 points in 59 games last year, Wilson works extremely hard and has significant leadership abilities serving as an alternate captain last year. I expect Wilson to retain his alternate captaincy this year as he is the only one of the four 2016-2017 alternates to return this year. As for scoring, Wilson will be in a bottom 6 role for much of the year depending on call ups, and I expect 15 goals, 20 assists from him if he plays a full schedule.
Patrick McGrath, AHL Experience : 3 Years
Patrick McGrath is best known for his ability to get punched in the face and generally being an irritating presence. A fan favorite and Wilkes-Barre local, McGrath is all heart, with noted fighters Tyler Randall of Providence, Tanner Glass of Hartford and Eric Selleck formerly of Syracuse all on his card and all of whom are significantly taller than McGrath. Despite his height disadvantage against most AHL tough guys at 5’10, McGrath will fight anyone at any time for basically any reason. Questionable effectiveness as a hockey player, incredibly entertaining none the less. He will split time between WBS and Wheeling pretty consistently. As for a prediction on points, I expect 2-3 goals and 4-5 assists depending on how much time he plays with WBS.
Reid Gardiner, AHL Experience: 1 Year
I had honestly expected the Penguins to roll the dice on Reid Gardiner on an ELC given the promise he showed in the half season he played in WBS before returning to junior for an avearge year with Kelowna. While playing in the WHL, he scored an impressive 15 goals in 17 playoff games to finish 2nd in playoff goals, one goal behind the leader who had played 5 more games. While in WBS last year, Gardiner played a lot of his time on the 4th line, but expect him to be used a little higher up the lineup as injuries and call ups occur. Gardiner falls in line with Penguins development as he was a goal scorer in junior that the Penguins are attempting to develop into more of a bottom-6 player, much along the lines of what they have done with JS Dea. Expect Gardiner to score 10-15 goals with 20 assists this year, gaining ice-time as the season progresses and potentially gaining an ELC before the end of the season.
Ryan Haggerty, AHL Experience: 3 Years
Another later signing, Ryan Haggerty signed for another year with the Baby Penguins on Thursday morning. A solid bottom 6 player in the AHL, potting 11 goals and 12 assists in 58 games last year, expect a lot more of the same from Haggerty. There is a lot of forwards in WBS right now, so Haggerty may find himself rotated out of the lineup more than the previous year, but as has been mentioned many times over, his time and deployment will depend hugely on the injuries that occur with the NHL Penguins. I expect him to pot a similar amount to last year, 10 goals and 15 assists over a full season.
Cody Wydo, AHL Experience: 1 Year
Special bonus preview time! Cody Wydo signed Wednesday morning for Wilkes-Barre after scoring 30 goals and 30 assists in 70 games for Wheeling last year. A graduate of Robert Morris University, Wydo gets rewarded with an AHL contract after 2 good years in the ECHL for Wheeling. While I expect Wydo to remain down there for most of the year, he’ll see some time in WBS when injuries and call ups happen. If that happens, I’d be interested to see what he can produce as admittedly, I haven’t see much of Wydo as Wheeling doesn’t get great coverage!