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September 14, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie

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London rookie game 3: Toronto 6, Penguins 2


The Toronto Maple Leafs had the most dynamic collection of forwards at the London rookie tournament, a fact they showed off repeatedly in a 6-2 win over the Penguins tonight.

With top-10 draft picks William Nylander and Mitch Marner scoring goals to lead the way, the Leafs took advantage of a makeshift Penguins defense better than Montreal or Ottawa did in the first two games of the tournament. Lesser-known prospects Michael Joly and Brad Vail had big games too.

Matt Murray played the first period and gave up one goal. Tristan Jarry played the last two periods and surrendered five. The Penguins finished the tournament 2-1.

Some other notes:

— Daniel Sprong was the Penguins’ most dangerous player by a large margin. In the first period, Leafs goalie Garret Sparks robbed him with a pair of glove saves. Later, Sprong beat his man up the wing and centered to Sahir Gill for a goal and then scored one himself from a bad angle in the right-wing corner.

Sprong does have a tendency to float in the defensive zone. I think the best-case scenario for the Penguins would not be if he eliminated that part of his game and became some kind of grinder. It would be if he toned down the cheating just a little, became an adequate player in his own end and kept the risk-taking parts of his game that made him fun to watch.

— The Leafs had some shift-disturbers in the lineup — Vail and Marner were the most effective in that area – and it gave the Penguins problems. They ran around a good bit.

— Cheswick’s Miles Liberati had the second assist on Gill’s goal.

— Toronto’s Rinat Valiev drilled Ty Loney’s head into the glass in the second period and he left the ice leaking blood. No penalty was called, curiously enough. Loney returned for the third period.

Loney’s game is interesting. His first instinct is to try to beat defenders with skill, stickhandle by them, that sort of thing. If that doesn’t work, it looks to me like he gets a little frustrated and tries to run defenders over. It makes me think he might be better served making the running-over option his first choice sometimes. He’s a big kid.

— That wraps things up from London. The next item on the calendar is the opening of training camp with physicals Thursday and the first practice Friday. Make sure to stop back here at Chipped Ice regularly throughout camp. I’ll share my impressions nearly every day. You can share yours in the comments too.

A quick note before I go. Because seating is limited, the Penguins have instituted a lottery for free tickets to camp Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Cranberry. The deadline to apply on the team’s website is Monday at 5 p.m., so get on it.

Bye for now,



September 13, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie

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Rookie tournament Game 2: Penguins 4, Ottawa 1


The last time we saw Tristan Jarry in a Penguins uniform, he was getting torched in the scrimmage that ended development camp in July.

That was two months ago and the outcome of the scrimmage couldn’t have been more meaningless, so I felt downright stupid asking Jarry this question today, but I did anyway: Did he need a good performance to erase that one from his mind?

He said no, that it’s way in the past. He’s right, of course. It would be silly for him to carry it with him for two months. But the general point remains. Jarry is a kid who has had some adversity since emerging as one of the top goalies in junior hockey two years ago. As he begins his first pro season, he could use a little psychological boost.

He got one with a 34-save performance today. He carried a shutout until Ottawa’s Matt Puempel scored on the power play with 42.2 seconds left. He was especially effective in the first 10 minutes of the first period, when the Senators rookies were making a push.

After that, it was mostly Penguins. Jaden Lindo, Jean-Sebastien Dea, Matia Marcantuoni and Mickael Beauregard scored.

Some other notes:

— Beauregard had an eventful game. He laid out Gabriel Gagne with a huge hit and did fine in the fight with Ben Harpur (and the Innocent Criminals) that followed. He joined the rush pretty regularly. He scored a goal on a play where Ottawa left him alone to skate up the left wing and his centering pass, intended for a driving Anton Zlobin, went in off a defender’s skate.

Like Matt Murphy and Cheswick’s Miles Liberati, Beauregard is a young defenseman trying to earn a contract with an organization that is thin on prospects at his position. He’s 6-3, 195 with a dose of offense and a dose of physicality. Not a great skater, but a lot of other things to like.

— Speaking of Liberati, he was in the lineup today. I think he’s come to the right organization. He’s got a little bit of gamble in his game. Many teams would frown on that. With Mike Johnston at the helm, I don’t think the Penguins mind a defenseman who makes a mistake now and then if the end result is a dynamic breakout.

— The Penguins gave a few key players the day off — Scott Wilson, Oskar Sundqvist, Derrick Pouliot among them.

Bryan Rust, who had yesterday off, entered the competition at forward with a solid game. He was the screen on Dea’s goal, a power-play shot from the left dot. He drew a penalty with his speed. He played on the left side without incident, which should help his case. A good game overall.

Josh Archibald was active today, using his speed and getting in opponent’s faces. I think the organization still holds him in high regard, even though he didn’t produce as a rookie in the AHL last season. He wore an A today. He is a great skater. His story is still unwritten.

Dominik Simon has been consistently good for two games now, at left wing yesterday and at center today. He’s shifty and creative with the puck and at least respectable in his own end. The only knock on him is that he’s small.

Dea is an interesting player in the prospect pool. He came to this tournament unsigned two years ago and earned an NHL deal, so he’s a role model to a lot of his younger teammates in that regard. He also has known Daniel Sprong since they were 10, growing up together in the Montreal area.

As a player, Dea’s game is about skill. Creativity and a nasty one-timer. The knock on him is that while he’s fun to watch on the power play, his five-on-five play leaves something to be desired. Regardless, he’s been good for the last two days. Performances like this can’t hurt his cause.

More tomorrow after the tournament finale against Toronto at 7:30 p.m. Bye for now,



September 12, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie

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London Rookie Game 1: Penguins 4, Montreal 3 (OT)


When the score was tied at the end of regulation of the opener of the London rookie tournament tonight, there was some excitement in the air. The new, five-minute 3-on-3 overtime period was getting its first test run.

The more I thought about it, it wasn’t really that big a deal. Many of the players on the ice were in the AHL last year, and that league had 3-on-3 as part of its overtime package, but whatever. It was fun anyway.

The first shift or so, both teams were a bit cautious. Once the scoring chances started, though, they didn’t stop. It culminated with a sequence where Montreal hit a post, the Penguins counterattacked and Daniel Sprong scored on a backhand breakaway move on top goalie prospect Zack Fucale for a 4-3 Penguins win. Like I tweeted, it’s a gimmick, but it’s a fun gimmick.

Other notes from Game 1:

Oskar Sundqvist really stood out to me. He’s coming off a leg injury but didn’t seem slowed by it. He protected the puck well in the O zone. His size stands out against competition of his same age and skill level. He scored a goal when Dominik Simon made a centering pass and he slid a shot inside the post before Fucale could react. He had a key shot block on a 5-on-3 penalty kill. Makes me wonder if GM Jim Rutherford is reconsidering his contention that Sundqvist might need some time in the minors to continue to rehab his leg.

Scott Wilson did nothing to hurt his chances. He scored a first-period goal when he finished off a nifty backhand centering pass from J-S Dea at the right post. He also played with an edge.

— Tryout D Matt Murphy was very noticeable in spots. He fought Jeremy Gregoire, dangled down the slot for a scoring chance on the power play and sprung Sprong for the overtime breakaway. (Yes, I’ve been dying to write that.) Given the lack of defensive prospects in the system, it seems to me that signing Murphy is a no-brainer. He’s got some issues in the D zone, but he’s 20. The skill and size are there.

Ty Loney scored again. He’s on the verge of graduating from feel-good story to legit prospect. He’s not fast, per se, but he’s athletic and has good hands. He scored a goal on a play where he drove to the net with a defender on his back and somehow slid a shot past Fucale just before crashing into the boards.

— Speaking of feel-good stories, Montreal prospect Tim Bozon scored the tying goal with 1:09 left in a 6-on-4 situation. Bozon is making a comeback after battling meningitis last year. He was even in a medically induced coma for a time.

— Now a feel-bad story. Tryout D Evan Wardley, a big, strong kid from Seattle of the WHL who played a few games with the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers at the end of last season, suffered what looked to be a serious knee injury when Montreal’s Charles Hudon took out his leg with a hit. Wilson tried to fight Hudon later in the game, but Hudon refused. Before the injury, Wardley made an impression, throwing a big hit and fighting Dalton Thrower in the first period.

— Montreal’s first two goals came on odd-man rushes after some questionable decisions by Penguins D in the neutral zone. If that’s the price of more scoring chances, I’m all for it, but in general, they’ll probably want to tighten that up a bit.

— WBS coach Mike Sullivan is running the Penguins bench. Here’s who stood out to him: “Conor Sheary had a real solid game at both ends of the rink. I thought Scott Wilson played extremely well. I thought J-S (Dea) had a good game in the middle. Ty Loney played a good game. For a guy that this is really his first experience as a pro, he’s got a real nose for the net. He can make plays. He’s a hockey player. It was exciting to watch him.”

— As for the coverage in the paper and online, I wrote about Derrick Pouliot and how he still has quite a bit to prove and about Cheswick native Miles Liberati’s big weekend.

More tomorrow after the Pens rookies meet Ottawa at 4 p.m. Bye for now,



September 11, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie

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Setting the stage in London


Greetings from the rookie tournament in London, Ontario. Penguins rookies had a full practice last night and a morning skate today in preparation for three games in three days — 4 p.m. today vs. Montreal, 4 p.m. tomorrow vs. Ottawa and 7:30 p.m. Sunday vs. Toronto. All three games will be streamed on the team’s website, which is a first. A fine September hockey fix for the hardcores.

One fun fact about London that I did not know before arriving here. It’s almost equidistant from Toronto (115 miles) and Detroit (130 miles). So there’s a billboard hawking Red Wings tickets next to a sports bar offering discounts when the Blue Jays win.

The Budweiser Gardens — interesting naming rights since there’s a Labatt’s brewery in town — is a beautiful junior hockey rink that holds about 9,000. Sometimes you hear people talking about an NHL team being added in Southern Ontario. Having never been here, I thought that meant Hamilton. It might very well mean London.

Anyway, I’ll have updates on Twitter (@BombulieTrib) during the tournament games and a wrap-up here on Chipped Ice afterwards each of the next three evenings. The No. 1 thing I’m watching is the competition for the final forward spot in the opening-night lineup. Wrote a story about it yesterday.

Basically, there are 11 locks for the opening-night lineup up front. For the sake of convenience, I’ll list them like they’re lines, but line combinations will obviously be hashed out during training camp. Dupuis-Crosby-Kessel, Plotnikov-Malkin-Hornqvist, Kunitz-Bonino-Perron, ???????-Cullen-Bennett.

While Eric Fehr remains out recovering from elbow surgery, there’s an open forward spot for a young forward. I thought it would be fun to follow this race closely throughout the preseason, posting Vegas-style odds from time to time, starting now.

Scott Wilson (5-2): As today’s story says, Wilson is the incumbent, having been in the lineup last spring for the Rangers series. He has a nice combination of speed and jam and says his injured wrist is 100 percent.

Bobby Farnham (4-1): Just like the rest of the league, the Penguins don’t seem keen on rostering fighters these days, but that’s not really who Farnham is. He’s more about speed on the forecheck, constant energy and chaos.

Bryan Rust (6-1): Just as fast as Wilson, but a different kind of jam. A go-to-the-net jam rather than a get-in-someone’s-face jam. Hurt slightly by the fact that he’s right-handed and the open spot will probably be on the left side.

Tom Sestito (8-1): If all Sestito can do is sit on the bench, make mean faces at opponents and fight once a game, the Penguins won’t turn his tryout into a contract. But he’s capable of more than that. At his best, he’s a 6-foot-5, 224-pound bull in a china shop. That’s useful.

Oskar Sundqvist (10-1): Sundqvist’s odds are long for two reasons. One, GM Jim Rutherford has said he thinks Sundqvist might need some rehab time in the minors to get his injured leg right. Two, the Penguins seem to be more in need of a winger than a center. If it weren’t for those two facts, he’d be closer to the favorite. He’s a big kid with a two-way game and a little bit of swagger.

Conor Sheary (12-1): If the Penguins want their fourth line to be a sort of JV scoring line anchored by Bonino and Bennett, Sheary would be a perfect fit. He’s quick and skilled.

Field (20-1): Tyler Biggs is a big, strong kid. … Dominik Simon has an intriguing resume and high-end skill. … Daniel Sprong will almost certainly go back to juniors, but who knows? He could change some minds. … Anton Zlobin has scored big goals and is willing to backcheck, but he has an injury history. … Kael Mouillierat is a do-everything minor-league free agent addition. … Kevin Porter is a professional tweener centerman. … Dominik Uher plays a prototypical fourth-line winger game with grit and a little bit of skill. (Those last three aren’t in London because they’ve aged out of the rookie tournament. Same for Farnham and Sestito.)

More later tonight. Bye for now,



September 10, 2015
by Jason Mackey

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WJC, USHL and more notes


Good morning, Penguins fans. Finally feels a little like hockey season, I suppose.

Had a few bits of info I wanted to pass along, and I figured it was better placed here than on Twitter.

>>First off, the team adjusted its skating times today from 10 a.m. until noon to between noon and 2 p.m. (I realize this information is largely useless now.)

>>More useful (I hope) is the idea that the UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex will host a USHL preseason showcase Sept. 18-19, involving the Youngstown Phantoms, Muskegon Lumberjacks and both the U-17 and U-18 USA National Team Development Programs. Should be cool. Remember, Troy Loney is a co-owner of the Phantoms.

>>It’s also expected, by the end of September, that the Penguins will learn whether or not they’re going to host the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship. Pittsburgh, you may remember, was among five finalists. Buffalo, Chicago, St. Louis and Tampa Bay were the others.

USA Hockey has been examining proposals and making site visits. From what I’ve been told, the Penguins feel very good about how they’re viewed in this process. Which, if you think about the amenities and everything the city would have to offer, you can understand why.

The last time an American city hosted the annual tournament was Buffalo in 2011. They did, as Mike Johnston would say, a bang-on job, similar to how I would think the Penguins would handle things.

>>No word yet on whether Pittsburgh will serve as a training site for North America in the World Cup of Hockey, although there’s similar optimism from the Penguins camp. This makes all the sense in the world to happen. It just hasn’t become official yet.

>>The team leaves later today for their annual rookie tournament, to be held Friday through Sunday at Budweiser Gardens in London, Ontario. Wish colleague Jonathan Bombulie well. It’s his first road trip for us, and it should be a fun one. I know I really enjoyed that trip last year. You can follow along via Twitter @BombulieTrib.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



September 9, 2015
by Jason Mackey

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World Cup of Penguins?


Air Canada Centre in Toronto will host the World Cup of Hockey Sept. 17-Oct. 1, 2016, and you can consider at least two Penguins — Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin — as locks.

But who else?

Here are eight a few more nominations, listed in order of likelihood.

F Phil Kessel, USA — If Malkin’s prediction comes true, Kessel “can score 50 goals, at least.” While I don’t know if Kessel can flirt with 50 in today’s game, an uptick in his production while playing with Crosby or Malkin is a reasonable expectation. I’m pretty sure they’re better than Tyler Bozak.

Something interesting I stumbled upon this afternoon: Only Steven Stamkos, Corey Perry, Rick Nash and Alex Ovechkin — have more five-on-five goals since 2009. Let’s also remember Kessel that (50) has as many as or more power-play goals than Malkin (50) and Crosby (49) during that same span.

For what it’s worth, has Kessel on its team.

D Olli Maatta, Finland — If he’s healthy, I have a tough time seeing Maatta NOT producing like a top-pair defenseman. If he’s healthy. And if Maatta produces, Finland could conceivably have Maatta, Sami Vatanen (37 points w/Ducks in 2014-15) and Buffalo’s Rasmus Ristolainen on a young and superbly talented blue line.

D Kris Letang, Canada — Like Maatta, the same disclaimer applies. Few can do what Letang can do when he’s healthy. But there’s an incredible amount of talent here. Drew Doughty, Shea Weber, Duncan Keith, Mark Giordano and PK Subban have to be on there, right? has Letang on its list.

Edit (3:48 p.m.) — I’m evidently still on vacation, at least mentally.

F Patric Hornqvist, Sweden — Thinking about his tenacity and the fact that he’s scored at least 20 goals in five of the past six seasons, I’m even more upset at myself over this omission. Just dumb. Team Sweden could have the Sedin twins, Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Backstrom, among others. Why wouldn’t you want someone like Hornqvist working down low? Or someone with his energy on the bench? He should elbow me in the head for missing this.

D Derrick Pouliot, North America — Joining a fictional team for an international competition should be enough to motivate Pouliot into a breakout year, no?

As much as I don’t like the idea of this or Team Europe — Say one wins, what song do they play, “Pomp and Circumstance?” — Pouliot would fit the profile, especially if he performs the way he’s shown glimpses of.

Hey, at least he could join Brandon Saad, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel as some of the NHL’s best, young talent who are prohibited from representing their country.

G Marc-Andre Fleury, Canada — Fleury won’t exactly be young: 31 at the time of the tournament, not far away from 32. But he’s also coming off perhaps the best two regular seasons of his career: 73 wins, a .918 save percentage and 15 shutouts. He’s second among active Canadian netminders with 322 career wins, but he’s also competing with Carey Price, Roberto Luongo, Corey Crawford, Devan Dubnyk and Braden Holtby, to name a few. Tough crowd.

F Sergei Plotnikov, Russia — Based on what Plotnikov has done in the KHL? Probably not, although his play over there should not be ignored. What could likely boost Plotnikov’s stock is if his game translates to the NHL the way Penguins management thinks it can. Skating alongside  Malkin could provide an interesting variable. It’ll even be reasonable to get 15 or so goals from Plotnikov if he skates on a third line with Eric Fehr and Nick Bonino.

F Dominik Simon, Czech Republic — He’s more advanced than you might think. Playing on a line with Jaromir Jagr — I feel like we as members of the media have typed that sentence, oh, about 956 times so far — couldn’t have hurt. Same for his familiarity with Jagr, who it stands to reason has at least some input in the process. Then again, maybe, like Plotnikov, we should let him play North American pro hockey before declaring anything special.

G Matt Murray, North America — Some of you have brought up Murray’s name to me via Twitter. Fair point. It’s tough to ignore his 2014-15 season. I originally did not have him on this list because of guys like Malcom Subban, Whitehall’s John Gibson and Zach Fucale. But you know what? That list doesn’t blow me away. Ken Campbell from The Hockey News examined the weakness at this position yesterday. If Murray takes another step forward in 2015-16 like he did this past one, I suppose anything is possible.

It’s Phil Fest tomorrow in Cranberry. Talk to you from there.

Be GRATEFUL to each other,



August 25, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie

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London Rookie Tournament Roster

Miles LIberati (

Miles Liberati (

Miles Liberati’s timing looks to be pretty good. The Cheswick native has earned a look from his hometown team at a time when they could really use his services.

Liberati, a 6-foot, 195-pound defenseman, is coming off a career year for the North Bay Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League, recording 11 goals and 38 points in 67 games while playing on the team’s top D pair. He was drafted by Vancouver in the seventh round of the 2013 draft, the Canucks elected not to sign him by a June 1 deadline, making him a free agent.

A few years ago, the Penguins would have been a terrible team for him to join. They had so many high-profile defense prospects that he could have easily been lost in the shuffle. Now, through trades, graduation to the NHL or prospect attrition, they lack organizational depth on the blue line.

A 20-year-old like Liberati, who played his youth hockey with the Pittsburgh Viper Stars and Junior Penguins and went to Central Catholic for two years, could definitely get his foot in the door.

That’s what he’ll attempt to do at a four-team rookie tournament in London, Ontario on Sept. 11-13. He is one of 26 players on the rookie roster released by the team Tuesday.


Here’s the rookie tournament schedule:
Friday, Sept. 11: Penguins vs. Montreal, 4 p.m.
Saturday, Sept. 12: Penguins vs. Ottawa, 4 p.m.
Sunday, Sept. 13: Penguins vs. Toronto, 7:35 p.m.

Here’s a closer look at the roster.

Tristan Jarry (6-2, 194, 20): A good prospect coming off a shaky development camp.
Matt Murray (6-4, 178, 21): The sixth-best goalie prospect in hockey, according to

Mickael Beauregard (6-3, 193, 20): A physical defender who had a combined six goals, 30 points and plus-27 rating over the last two seasons with Gatineau in the QMJHL. Went to Boston development camp the last two seasons. A contract contender.
Nat Halbert (5-11, 178, 19): Coming off a very good year for Blainville-Boisbriand in the Q.
Miles Liberati (6-0, 195, 20): Cheswick native known as a good skater with some offensive upside.
Matt Murphy (6-2, 208, 20): Moves on from development camp to rookie tournament in his quest for a contract. A big, mobile kid.
Derrick Pouliot (6-0, 208, 21): Not much left for him to prove against this level of competition.
Harrison Ruopp (6-3, 192, 22): Looked pretty decent at development camp. Physical defender needs to become an AHL regular soon.
Clark Seymour (6-4, 220, 22): I’ve said it a million times. I like his size, physicality and first pass. Like Ruopp, though, now’s the time to take a step forward.
Evan Wardley (6-2, 217, 21): A physical force who had 24 fights in the last four years with Seattle in the WHL. Did a brief stint in Wheeling at the end of last year.

Josh Archibald (5-10, 176, 22): He’s got speed and grit. Needs to show some production.
Tyler Biggs (6-2, 205, 22): Physical winger from the Kessel trade seems to be recovering from partially severed Achilles. Skating in Cranberry.
Jean-Sebastien Dea (5-11, 175, 21): Creative, undersized center looked good at development camp.
Sahir Gill (5-11, 185, 23): Third-year pro out of Boston University was excellent for Wheeling as a rookie, saw some AHL time last year. A play-making center by trade.
Kameron Kielly (5-11, 181, 18): Junior teammate of Daniel Sprong in Charlottetown coming off a good 18-year-old season.
Adam Krause (6-3, 210, 23): A big forward out of Minnesota-Duluth who had an impressive cup of coffee with Wheeling at the end of last season.
Jaden Lindo (6-2, 211, 19): A modern power forward the Penguins like. Has to keep improving.
Ty Loney (6-4, 208, 23): The star of the development camp scrimmage looking to get his rookie season off to a good start.
Matia Marcantuoni (6-0, 200, 21): Banged up a bit at development camp. Will have a chance to show off his skating-based energy-line style.
Bryan Rust (5-11, 192, 23): The captain of this group. Close to the NHL.
Conor Sheary (5-8, 175, 23): Should dominate this level of competition.
Dominik Simon (5-11, 176, 21): A good taste of North American competition for a promising 2015 draft pick.
Daniel Sprong (6-0, 180, 18): So talented. It will be fun to see how he looks when the real bullets are flying.
Oskar Sundqvist (6-3, 209, 21): If he’s healthy off hamstring injury, he has a legit shot to stick in the NHL to start the year. Big, stead, two-way center.
Scott Wilson (5-11, 183, 23): Had to watch development camp due to offseason wrist surgery. His speed and grit should play well in this group.
Anton Zlobin (5-11, 209, 22): Coming off a season lost due to shoulder surgery, he’s a mystery prospect.

Bye for now,



August 24, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie

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Burned Down

Conor Sheary (

Conor Sheary (

In its 2015-16 NHL prospects rankings, had the Penguins dead last in the league.

Corey Pronman wrote that there wasn’t even anyone close to the Penguins when he was deciding who should be in the bottom spot and that the team had “burned its system to the ground” in an effort to win now “through deals of top picks and prospects.”

Whether you want to agree or disagree with the ranking, I think I can explain where it came from.

First, Kasperi Kapanen (29th) and Scott Harrington (84th) are ranked among the top 100 prospects in all of hockey, as per the list, so their exodus in the Phil Kessel deal obviously hurt the Penguins’ position.

Second, the Penguins have some decent prospects that are a little too old to boost their overall ranking.

Example No. 1. Montreal Canadiens prospect Charles Hudon is ranked 42nd on the top 100 list. He’s a 5-11, 178-pound forward who had 19 goals and 57 points in 75 games (0.76 points per game) for Hamilton in the AHL last year as a 20-year-old rookie.

Conor Sheary, meanwhile, is a 5-9, 175-pound forward who had 20 goals and 45 points in 58 games (0.78 points per game) for WBS last year as a 22-year-old rookie.

Their skill sets are very similar. Their production is too. The two-year age difference accounts for the big gap in prospect status. Sheary wasn’t even listed among’s top 10 Penguins prospects.

Example No. 2. Detroit’s Axel Holmstrom is ranked 33rd on the top 100 list. He’s a 6-1, 198-pound center who had 10 goals and 20 points in 44 games for Skelleftea in Sweden last year.

Oskar Sundqvist is unranked in the top 100 and is seventh on the Penguins’ top 10 list. He is a 6-3, 209-pound center who had 9 goals and 19 points in 41 games with the very same team, Skelleftea in Sweden.

Holmstrom gets the accolades because he’s two years younger (and he has an awesome name).

I’m not saying this is an injustice. If two players put up the same numbers, you’d take the 18-year-old over the 20-year-old every time. What I am saying is that the Penguins don’t have those young players to boost their organizational rankings, largely due to trading away a couple of first-round picks.

They dealt a 2015 first-rounder to Edmonton for David Perron. The pick ended up going to the New York Islanders, who took Mathew Barzal, who had 57 points in 44 games for Seattle of the WHL as an 18-year-old last year. He’s ranked 13th on the top 100 list.

They dealt a 2013 first-rounder to Calgary in the Jarome Iginla trade. It ended up with the Chicago Blackhawks, who picked winger Morgan Klimchuk, who scored 34 goals as a 19-year-old in the WHL last season. He’s not in the top 100, but he’s a good prospect.

The Penguins have a high-upside forward prospect in Daniel Sprong, who is ranked No. 43. They have a high-end goaltending prospect, Matt Murray, who is No. 6 on the goalie rankings. Add Kapanen, Harrington, Barzal and Klimchuk to a prospect pool that has a handful of NHL-ready guys like Sergei Plotnikov, Brian Dumoulin, Scott Wilson and Adam Clendening, and all of a sudden, the organization doesn’t look so bad.

Instead, the loss of Kapanen, Harrington, Barzal and Klimchuk — and the fall down the organizational rankings that comes with it — is the price a team pays for trying to win now.

Bye for now,



August 21, 2015
by Jonathan Bombulie

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Sergei and the Tryouts



When the Penguins announced last week that they were inviting Sergei Gonchar to training camp, it got me thinking about tryouts.

By my count, 70 players with NHL experience were invited to camps on tryout contracts last season. I included the full list after the jump if you’re a hockey nerd and want to see the whole thing.

— Only nine of those 70 players actually made it to an NHL roster (Jamie McBain, Simon Gagne, Raphael Diaz, Shane O’Brien, Ilya Bryzgalov, Ryan Carter, Scott Gomez, Jordin Tootoo and Dan Carcillo).

— Only five of those nine made it to the NHL with the team they were in camp with (Gagne, Diaz, O’Brien, Gomez and Tootoo).

— Only three of those five were regulars in the lineup (Diaz, Gomez and Tootoo).

Look at that and do some sketchy math and you could conclude that Gonchar has a 4.3 percent chance of becoming a regular with the Penguins.

There’s a little more it than that, of course.

Most of the 70 tryouts were camp bodies who fully expected to be sent to the AHL. Example: Tom Kostopoulos knew he wasn’t making the team in Pittsburgh last fall. He came to camp to get ready for the season as the captain with WBS.

Others were longshots who knew they were longshots, but gave it a try before heading to Europe. Example: Enforcer Kevin Westgarth took a crack at the Edmonton Oilers roster, didn’t make it, and went on to play with the Belfast Giants in the British league.

So it’s probably more useful to compare Gonchar to players in a similar demographic — ones well older than 30 with hundreds and hundreds of games of NHL experience. I’ve picked out eight: Simon Gagne with Boston, Ilya Bryzgalov with Minnesota, Ruslan Fedotenko, Scott Gomez, Tomas Kaberle and Mike Komisarek with New Jersey, Ryan Whitney with St. Louis and Francis Bouillion with Montreal.

Of that group, Gagne, Bryzgalov and Gomez played in the NHL. Only Gomez became a regular.

Therefore, I have come to the conclusion, using a highly scientific method, that Gonchar has a 12.5 percent chance of being a regular with the Penguins this season.

Bye for now,


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