Wilkes-Barre/Scranton season preview

By Alan Saunders

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins made a memorable run in the Calder Cup playoffs in 2004-05 after a 39-27-7-7 season, and it looks like another strong team in 2005-06.

The parent club had a busy offseason, drafting phenom Sidney Crosby, and signing free agents Ziggy Palffy, Mark Recchi, John LeClair, and Sergei Gonchar. That left few spots available for promotions for players from Wilkes-Barre.

Centers Shane Endicott and Maxime Talbot, left winger Matt Murley, and defenseman Rob Scuderi have all made the NHL club out of training camp. Center Kris Beech was traded to Nashville just before the start of camp.

Virtually all of the rest of the 2004-05 players will return for this coming season, almost every one a Penguins prospect. A number of exciting rookies are part of the mix.

Offense

At left wing, the Penguins return veterans Tomas Surovy and Guillaume Lefebvre. AHL rookie Daniel Carcillo, a big hitter from Mississaugua of the OHL, will probably land on the checking line. Expect one of the centers to slide to left wing for most of the season because of the depth at center.

On the right wing, the Penguins bring back Colby Armstrong and Michel Ouellet. Both of these players came close to making the NHL team, and were among the last to be released. They will probably be called up at some point during the season. Joining them on the right side will be veteran agitator Dennis Bonvie and rookie Jonathan Filewich from Lethbridge of the WHL.


Down the middle, the Penguins have great depth. Veteran Matt Hussey leads this group of young players, followed by second-year AHL-ers Erik Christensen and Ben Eaves. Ryan Stone (Brandon, WHL) is an exciting young prospect and it looks like he will get a lot of playing time. Stephen Dixon (Cape Breton, QMJHL) will spend his first pro season on the fourth line. Endicott is on the IR to start of the season in Pittsburgh, so when he is again healthy, Penguins will send down a center. Also, Cam Paddock was sent down to Wheeling (ECHL), but expect him to be up at some point during the season.

Defense

On the blue line, these Baby Pens look very strong. Returning team captain Alain Nasreddine and veterans Dave Koci and Chris Kelleher may lead the defense, but it’s first round pick Ryan Whitney and second rounder Noah Welch that should excite fans in Wilkes-Barre. Joining them will be rookies Ryan Lannon, who was Welch’s partner in Harvard, Andy Schneider, another NCAA grad, and Swedish prospect Daniel Fernholm. So stacked on defense were they that Drew Fata, Alexandre Rouleau, and Paul Bissonnette were sent down to Wheeling and Michal Sersen was returned to his junior team, Rimouski of the QMJHL.

Goaltending

In net, returning starter and team record holder in just about every category Marc-Andre Fleury will return for another season. The soon to be 21-year-old went 29-19-4 in 2004-05, with a .901 save percentage and 2.52 GAA. Backing him up will be 25-year-old Dany Sabourin. Twenty-two-year-old Andy Chiodo was sent down to be the everyday starter in Wheeling.

Behind the bench, Head Coach Michel Therrien and Assistant Coach Mike Yeo will return for yet another season.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins should have high expectations for their seventh season. And with eight rookies making the squad, the future looks bright as well.




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