We’ve covered all of the forwards and the coaching staff so far, so now we’re moving onto the defense. I’m considering both Chad Ruhwedel and Derrick Pouliot as NHL players to start the year as they’re on one-way contracts and everyone is already familiar with both players. We’ll be starting with LD.
Chris Summers, AHL Experience : 7 Years
One of two former first round picks that will be playing in the AHL this year for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Chris Summers is a veteran of 386 AHL games and 70 NHL games, so he knows the role of being a depth call up guy extremely well. Signed as a free agent from the Rangers organization, where he served as an alternate captain for Hartford. He is with the Penguins organization for 2 years, likely signaling the intent to have him serve as one of the alternates this season. A good skater with a solid 6’2″ frame and a useful first pass, Summers would be one of the first call ups for the NHL Penguins when injuries inevitably hit. He fits the mold for a Penguins defenseman extremely well. Don’t expect an offensive explosion from Summers, but he will play in every situation for the Baby Penguins. Provided he avoids a significant period of time in the NHL, Summers could set career AHL highs in points and goals. I expect 5 goals and 15 assists from Summers this year while providing steady veteran presence on the backend.
Jarred Tinordi, AHL Experience : 5 Years
The other first round pick playing with WBS for 2017-2018 is Jarred Tinordi, a former draft pick of the Montreal Canadiens. He signed a one year deal with the Coyotes before last season, where he spent all year with Tucson in the AHL. Tinordi is a huge 6’6″, 230 pounds. As is expected with a player of this size, Tinordi makes his living with his physical play, amassing 102 PIMs in 64 games for Tucson last year. He does possess good skating for his size, but has a limited hockey IQ, so don’t expect Tinordi to catch fire and become a reclamation project for the Penguins. Not much in the way of an offensive threat. It’s reasonable to expect similar output in comparison to Summers of 5 goals and 10/15 assists over the course of the year.
Jeff Taylor, AHL Experience: Rookie
A Penguins 7th round draft pick in 2014 who just graduated from Union College, smooth skating and puck moving are the main parts of Jeff Taylor’s game. Somewhat undersized at 6’0″ and 185 pounds, it is no surprise that Taylor skates extremely well and has great puck skills to compensate for his lack of bulk and height. His offensive production in college went up and down, but this fell in line with both his team’s performance and his deployment in more defensively stressful situations. In his senior year, Taylor scored 33 points in 38 games while playing in all situations for Union. Expect Taylor to spend a lot of this year working on getting his defensive game to a better level against professionals. If Taylor can find a steady spot with some PP time, 10 goals and 15/20 assists is not out of the question.
Kevin Czuczman, AHL Experience : 3 Years
Kevin Czuczman signed a one year deal with the Penguins organization having spent the last year playing for Manitoba on an AHL contract, where he scored a very solid 32 points in 76 games. A prototypical fit for the Penguins system, he’s a solidly sized 6’2″, 205 with good skating and a good first pass. Don’t be surprised if Czuczman is the pick of the LD to play a lot of time with the big club this year, as he is only in his 4th pro year. Expect 10 goals and 30 assists from Czuczman this year.
Dylan Zink, AHL Experience: Rookie
A rookie who signed an AHL contract with Wilkes-Barre at the conclusion of his senior season at UMass-Lowell, Dylan Zink is along the lines of Taylor in that he’s a somewhat undersized puck mover with good offensive production in the NCAA. Given the amount of defensive depth, I don’t know how many games we will see out of Zink in the AHL this year, but he has the potential to put up some solid offensive numbers if his defensive game does not hold him back from being on the ice. Expect a 10 goal pace from Zink, but don’t be surprised to see him miss this as he shuttles back forth from WBS to Wheeling.