The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins kick off the 2015–16 season tonight with a new coaching staff and some new players expected to impact the lineup and continue to develop into Pittsburgh Penguins.
Several veteran fringe NHL players to give the big club insurance. Kael Mouillierat led the Bridgeport Sound Tigers last season with 24 goals and managed one goal and one assist in six games with the New York Islanders. Kevin Porter comes with 206 games of NHL experience, but none since 2013–14.
Expect left wingers Scott Wilson and Conor Sheary and right winger Bryan Rust to be candidates for call ups throughout the season. Rust played in 14 regular season games last season and Wilson played in one regular season and three playoff games while Sheary led Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with 45 points in 58 games.
Two new forwards to keep tabs on include Oskar Sundqvist and Czech forward Dominik Simon. Sundqvist a Swedish center with good size at 6’3”, 209 lbs. and a knack for defensive play scored nine goals and finished with 19 points in 41 games with Skelleftea last season. Simon, taken in the fifth round of the NHL draft in June, played in the Czech professional league last season and impressed at the 2015 IIHF World Championships with six points in 10 games, often playing on a line with Jaromir Jagr.
Tyler Biggs and Josh Archibald really need to impress in the 2015–16 season. Biggs, acquired in the Phil Kessel trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs, comes in with only 15 points in 108 AHL games, failing drastically to meet expectations of a former first rounder. Archibald, though with less of a pedigree, pieced together a highly productive college career with the University of Nebraska-Omaha, scoring 29 goals in 37 games in 2013–14, but struggled in the AHL last season and earned a short demotion to the ECHL.
On defense, the Pittsburgh Penguins elected to send touted prospect Derrick Pouliot down to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Pouliot looks to plays big minutes in the AHL and continue to develop into the offensive threat from the blueline the Penguins expect.
Two new additions to the blueline boast NHL experience in Steve Oleksy, a gritty blueliner not afraid to drop the gloves with 62 games of NHL experience, David Warsofsky, a smallish puck mover with 10 games of NHL experience. Another set of new additions, Will O’Neill and Niclas Andersen, served as team captains last season, O’Neill for the St. John’s IceCaps of the AHL and Andersen for Brynäs of the Swedish Hockey League.
Rounding out the defense, Reid McNeill, a budding shutdown type, managed seven points in 54 games last season and led Wilkes-Barre/Scranton blueliners with 121 penalty minutes.
In net, Matt Murray hopes to repeat a historic season while Tristan Jarry, a 2013 second rounder, looks to compete for playing time and adjust to the professional game. Murray led the league in nearly every statistical category last season, won a slew of awards and established several new AHL records. Jarry struggled at times with the Edmonton Oil Kings in 2014–15 after guiding the team to a 2014 Memorial Cup, but still finished as one of the top goaltenders in the WHL. Expect playing time to be at a premium in net for the talented, young goaltenders.
For the first time in a few seasons, the Penguins actually possess some young talent in the AHL and seeing the prospects develop in the 2015–16 season, hopefully, proves to be exciting.