With summer mostly wrapped up, let’s take a look at how things have shook out for the WBS Penguins. Their summer certainly isn’t done, and they’ll likely look to add a couple more forwards for depth purposes, but we’ll cover those moves as and when they occur.
On two-way NHL contracts, the Penguins retained left wingers Tobias Lindberg and Thomas DiPauli, centers Teddy Blueger and JS Dea, defensemen Kevin Czuczman, Ethan Prow and Zach Trotman, and while not signed yet, restricted free agent Tristan Jarry looks likely to return to the WBS crease as the clear #1 goalie. On AHL contracts, left winger Joseph Cramarossa, centers Jarret Burton and Troy Josephs, right wingers Ryan Haggerty and Patrick McGrath and defenseman Kevin Spinozzi all earned extensions with the Baby Penguins. The only real surprise here for me is Tobias Lindberg, who spent last year finishing the season with the Chicago Wolves after being acquired by the Penguins in the Brassard trade. It’s certainly not an unpleasant surprise, though. He’s a useful bottom 6 style AHLer, and will look to have his two-way game developed by the Penguins, who usually do a good job of grooming guys to play in the NHL from that role. Returning both Kevin Czuczman and Zach Trotman is big for a WBS blueline that suffered through some injuries last year.
Only a handful of departures for WBS this summer. Gage Quinney earned an ELC with his hometown Vegas Golden Knights, so congratulations to him. As previously covered, both Andrey Pedan and Lukas Bengtsson returned to Europe (although the Penguins have retained their rights if they do ever return to North America), and 4 other forwards left for greener pastures, that being Reid Gardiner departing for Utica, Riley Bourbannis leaving for the Maine Mariners, Cody Wydo opting for the Swiss 2nd division with Thurgau and Christian Thomas heading to Rogle in the SHL. Of the 5 forwards who were on AHL contracts and left, 3 of them didn’t feature often for WBS, and Thomas taking likely more money in Europe makes sense. Thomas may take something from the goal scoring, but none are major losses otherwise. It’s also worth noting in here that Dominik Simon, Daniel Sprong and Zach Aston-Reese have all done their duty with WBS and should be considered full time NHLers at this point of their career.
Some solid reinforcements for the NHL Penguins were signed by WBS GM Billy Guerin, with two guys from pro European leagues being added in the guise of Jusso Riikola from Liiga and Stefan Elliot from SHL. Also added were right winger Jimmy Hayes, formerly of the New Jersey Devils, and goaltender John Muse who formerly played for Lehigh Valley and Reading Royals. WBS themselves got to bring in former Penguins Will O’Neill on an AHL contract, as well as adding right winger Cam Brown who was on Wheeling last year and was loaned up to WBS for the playoffs. There’s also the arrival of numerous rookies on the first year of their ELCs who appeared in a few games on PTOs, with left winger Sam Miletic, centers Sam Lafferty and Linus Olund, right winger Anthony Angello and defenseman Dane Birks all beginning their professional careers, as well as Joe Masonius beginning his pro career on an AHL contract.
Factoring in the AHL’s development rule, in that 12 of the players in the lineup must have played less than 260 pro games and a 13th having played less than 320 or fewer, the only who would exceed that limit would be: Czuczman (293 pro games), Elliot (383 games), Will O’Neill (397 games), Riikola (283 games), Chris Summers (520 games), Trotman (278 games), Joseph Cramarossa (288 games), Dea (282 games), Hayes (457 games) and Garrett Wilson (479 games). That means that no more than 6 of those players can be in the lineup at the same time. My projected lineup is as follows, with scratches in italics. The development rule leads to a few good players being scratched:
Expect to see a lot of rotation to allow Hayes, Summers and O’Neill to get into games in place of your other veterans, as well as looking to get some younger guys like Tiffels and Miletic into AHL games.