As we get ready for the the 2014-15 season, it may be time to get yourself reacquainted with your team’s minor league affiliates and what could be in store for your team should they need a call-up or two. I’ll go through them team by team in hopes that this enlightens some people to their affiliate teams. Today, Pittsburgh’s Penguins are up with their affiliate teams in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Pennsylvania and Wheeling, West Virginia.
Affiliate Since: 1999-2000
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 265 miles
Last Season: 42-26-3-5, 2nd in East Division, 6th in Eastern Division
The season for the Baby Pens was something almost similar to last year, with the same amount of wins, the same first and second round opponents, and the same fate as they lost in the Eastern Conference finals. Despite their power play being 28th in the league, the Pens were still successful and got up to the 200-goal mark after a dip last year.
One guy who flourished on the power play, however, was leading scorer Tom Kostopoulos. Kostopoulos put up 13 power play goals in 71 games, which accounted for more than half of his goals on the season, which was 22. There wasn’t much dynamic goal-scoring for the Pens, until Chuck Kobasew came down and put up 11 goals in 12 games from late March and into the playoffs, where he put up eight goals and 14 points in 14 games.
On the back line, Brendan Mikkelson and Simon Despres played solidly, despite Despres missing chunks when he was recalled to Pittsburgh. Luckily, the Pens did have a lot of experience on the blue line, with Nick D’Agostino being the only rookie who put in real time on defense for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
The back-up goalies for the Baby Pens did have better numbers than starter Jeff Deslauriers, but Deslauriers’ experience got him the nod for most of the season, despite only putting up 20 wins in 40 games. Veteran nomad Peter Mannino had a 1.56 GAA in 18 appearances, while rookie Eric Hartzell had a .902 save percentage for his troubles in 25 games.
Leading Scorers: Tom Kostopoulos (22g, 25a), Nick Drazenovic (13g, 29a), Andrew Ebbett (13g, 27a)
Possible Frequent Flyers: A serviceable bottom-six forward Jayson Megna could be on the shuttle back and forth to Pittsburgh, especially with a lot of center injuries in the past few years for Pittsburgh, while D’Agostino could very well get a lot of looks with the youth blue line in Pittsburgh.
Outlook: The windfall of goalies could see Jeff Zatkoff in WBS for the season, whether it be for a full season or half a season, which should help out Hartzell in his sophomore campaign. Carter Rowney, with his solid performance in the ECHL, could see plenty of time and may add a scoring punch the Baby Pens were so desperately lacking last season. The returning defensive corps should be able to keep the scores low and it’s just a matter of captain Kostopoulos trying to kick start the offense.
WHEELING NAILERS (Split with Montreal)
Affiliate Since: 1998-99
Distance From Parent Team (Arena to Arena): 60 miles
Last Season: 39-27-1-5, 2nd in Atlantic Division, 7th in Eastern Conference
Youth was served well in the Wheeling, with three of the top-five in team scoring being rookies to the Nailers in 2013-14. Sahir Gill, Carter Rowney, and Cody Sylvester stood out in a big way for the Nailers with Rowney and Sylvester getting an extended look in the AHL with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Defenseman Mike Ratchuk was superb on the power play, putting in a team leading six goals with the extra-man from the blueline, while another rookie– Max MacKay— was second in PPGs with five.
Another rookie starred in net, with Mike Condon being top-six in the league in wins, save percentage, and GAA, while putting up 23 wins in 39 games, leading the way for the Nailers to help upset the South Carolina Stingrays in the first round of the playoffs.
Leading Scorers: Sahir Gill (13g, 41a), Zack Torquato (14g, 38a), Mike Ratchuk (15g, 29a)
Possible Frequent Flyers: For the Penguins side, Rowney and Sylvester are primed candidates to shuttle back and forth to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton if they don’t make the AHL team outright. If there’s a logjam in WBS of forwards, Matia Marcantuoni could see himself between Wheeling and WBS.
Outlook: Usually a dual affiliation is pretty tough to deal with, especially in the ECHL with guys getting called from every direction, but the Nailers have been able to survive with it. Should they have a good luck where very few guys get called up, then they’ll be setting a little better than last year. Not to mention having guys who are another year more experienced doesn’t hurt either so long as they don’t have a sophomore slump.