The AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are off to a torrid start to 2005-06. The team had yet to lose in regulation time until just last evening and set a new professional record for consecutive road victories with 15. What’s more surprising is that the roster has been gutted since the start of the year as the Pittsburgh Penguins have been plagued with injuries and a horrific start to their season. Forward Erik Christensen, defenseman Ryan Whitney, and goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury all appear to have cemented spots in Pittsburgh.
The Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL are also off to a fine start, and are tied for first place in their division. Here’s a look at how the Penguins prospects playing in the AHL and ECHL have done so far this season.
Michel Ouellet, RW
Ouellet earned a call-up based on his very consistent play after an up-and-down season in 2004-05. He suffered an ankle injury while skating in Pittsburgh and has since returned to the AHL. He was held pointless in his three NHL games. For WBS, however, he has been a scoring at a great clip, with ten goals and 19 assists for 29 points in 18 games. Those numbers are good enough to tie him for sixth in the league in points, and tie for fourth in assists. He had back to back two-goal, three-point games on October 22nd and 23rd, and was a +10 in the month of October. Look for him to be back in a Pittsburgh uniform some time this year, perhaps sooner than expected if Mario Lemieux’s heart condition forces him to miss time.
Colby Armstrong, RW
Armstrong just celebrated his 23rd birthday, but he is seen as a veteran leader in a locker room that has nine rookies. The hard working winger has been seeing lots of minutes this season, particularly on special teams. His 12 assists, 20 points, and four power-play goals place him third on the team in each category in 23 games. Armstrong is looking to make his first trip to the big club, and with the Penguins still struggling, more call-ups could happen at any time.
Ryan Stone, C
A second-round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Stone came to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with high expectations. He has been one of the few constants for this team, dressing in 22 games. The rookie has scored six goals and tallied nine assists for 15 points, which is good for eighth on the team. Stone should see improvement in his numbers as the season goes on and he gets more acclimated to the professional game.
Jonathan Filewich, RW
Filewich, another rookie, has been a pleasant surprise for the Baby Pens this year. He’s played in all 24 games, scoring seven goals and adding two assists for nine points. He also has two game winning goals, one of which was his first AHL goal on October 8th at Hershey, the other was the second of his first two-goal game on December 2nd at Norfolk.
Daniel Carcillo, LW
Another rookie, Carcillo is a rough-and-tumble winger with a nasty streak. He is among the league leaders in minor penalties, and has a total of 92 penalty minutes. Veteran agitator Dennis Bonvie leads the team with 139 PIMs. Carcillo can get the puck to the net as well, with seven goals and eight assists for 15 points. He has appeared in 23 contests for Wilkes-Barre, and is a +9.
Stephen Dixon, C
When Dixon arrived in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton from the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles of the QMJHL, he had all the physical tools to be a successful checking line center. That’s what he’s been working on thus far, improving his game defensively. He stands at +2. He has scored only two goals and notched just four assists thus far, but has dressed for every game. After getting off to a rough start offensively, he started scoring in the month of November.
Ben Eaves, C
A young center that has seen limited ice time, Ben Eaves has been sidelined with a knee injury. He scored a goal and recorded two assists in five games from October 28th to November 6th. He has not seen action since.
Cam Paddock, C
Paddock has spent the season toiling with the Wheeling Nailers of the ECHL. While minor-leaguers Kenny Corupe, Tim Verbeek, and Arpad Mihaly have played their way to stints with AHL squad, Paddock has been unimpressive so far. The 22-year-old has appeared in all 19 games but has scored only two goals. He does have eight assists for a total of 10 points, but that is only good enough for tied for sixth on the team. Paddock needs to step up his play at the ECHL level first.
The former Harvard blueliner has stepped his game up in the absence of Ryan Whitney. The rookie is second among WBS defensemen with seven points, and he has an impressive +15 rating, tops in the league. His lone goal of the campaign was the game-winner against Philadelphia on October 5th.
Welch’s former Harvard linemate has been playing well in the AHL as well. Lannon has been one of Wilkes-Barre’s most consistent defenders, with a +12 rating in 21 games. That is good enough for fifth in the AHL. The rookie has also scored four points, with his only goal coming on October 28th against the Hershey Bears.
Schneider was not known as a goal scorer at the University of North Dakota, and he has yet to net one in his first professional season. He has been caught in a numbers game at Wilkes-Barre and was sent down to Wheeling for a short time. All together, he has played in 13 games this year with a total of four assists and 23 penalty minutes.
After nearly making the Pittsburgh Penguins out of camp in 2003-04 as a junior player, Bissonnette has had a disappointing start to his 2005-06 season. He started the year in Wheeling of the ECHL, where he played in seven games, scoring a goal and five assists. On November 8th, the rookie was called up to the AHL, but has played only nine games with WBS. His lone AHL point of the season was an assist on Tomas Surovy’s goal against Binghamton on November 26th.
The big Swede started the season with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, but after one appearance, was sent down to Wheeling. The rookie played 18 games there, scoring his first two North American professional goals, and tallying one assist, while collecting 18 penalty minutes. His played warranted a call-up, and he did go up on December 6th and has played one game since his return.
While likely a dream of Drew Fata’s to play with his older brother at some point this season, neither of them probably expected Rico Fata’s sudden demotion to the AHL. Drew was called up to Wilkes-Barre once this year, and appeared in one game, where he recorded an assist and a whopping 14 penalty minutes. He has stepped up his offensive production this year, scoring four goals and getting five assists. His career high is seven goals and 12 assists in 2003-04, when he split time between Wheeling and WBS.
This feisty defenseman has received much love from the Wheeling fans for his willingness to drop the gloves. He recorded 127 PIM in 2004-05, and is well on his way with 50 in just 19 games in 2005-06. Rouleau must improve his all around play, however, if he ever expects to receive that kind of attention in Pittsburgh. He has spent the entire year in Wheeling.
Fleury is currently a Pittsburgh Penguin, and it appears that he is to remain there for the time being. While in the AHL, he dominated with a .939 save percentage and a 1.57 GAA en route to a 10-2 record.
Chiodo is well-traveled again this season. He was sent down to Wheeling at the outset to be the everyday starter for the Nailers. After Jocelyn Thibault was injured prior to the Penguins’ home opener, Chiodo was called up directly from Wheeling to Pittsburgh. He then was sent down to Wilkes-Barre after the game in exchange for Fleury. When Thibault returned to health, he was returned to Wheeling. Then on November 10th, Chiodo was again called up to the AHL. He then suffered an injury and remained in Wilkes-Barre until November 23rd. He was called up to WBS yet again on November 29th, and finally played his first game of the season as a Baby Penguin on December 3rd. He gave up two goals and had a save percentage of .905 which was good enough to get the win over Norfolk. That game wasn’t enough for him to stick, as Sebastien Caron cleared waivers, and was sent down to the AHL. On December 5th, Chiodo was returned to Wheeling yet again. In between trips across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Chiodo has played seven games for the Nailers, with a .882 save percentage, 3.11 GAA and a 6-1-1 record.
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