I haven’t been this excited for a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins’ season in a long time.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m always excited for the team I hold closest to my heart, but things could be really fun this time around.
For the first time in awhile, they Pens are kicking off the season with an awesome roster. And that’s not including the very real possibility that we’ll see Eric Tangradi, Derek Engelland and Ben Lovejoy at some point this year. Mark Letestu is on that list as well, but so far he seems to be the guy that had the best camp with the big boys.
Without further adieu, a quick glance at what's in store this season:
Okay, I know the team does not revolve around Sterling, but when I hear his name I think of how he dominated us in the Calder Cup Finals. Then I realize he's on my side now, and I love it. Sterling is not a big guy by any means, but he can score. Some say his signing is the biggest in WBS history. I'd have to look back, but if it's not the biggest it's certainly in the top 3.
Ryan Craig was another nice pick-up, coming off a 45 (23+22) point season with the Norfolk Admirals. He's battling a groin injury right now, but once he's healed up I think he could be a nice asset to have around.
Familiar faces like Dustin Jeffrey, Nick Johnson, Chris Conner and Tim Wallace are all returning. Toss in Joey Vitale and you have a nice little offensive group.
My eyes are on Brian Strait and Robert Bortuzzo this year. They looked good last season, and as they mature, they'll get even better. Part of the fun of watching an AHL team.
Newcomers include Corey Potter, former BC Eagle Carl Sneep, Andrew Hutchinson and Jason DeSantis. Hutchinson is the one to watch out of this group.
The defensive corps aren't going to be as strong as the forwards, but it's nothing I'm going to lose sleep over.
This is the one area I’m concerned about. Both Brad Thiessen and John Curry have a lot of potential. We’ve seen them play great, and we’ve seen them play not-so-great. This goaltending situation reminds me of the San Jose Sharks: two guys who are good, but neither of them are above and beyond spectacular. You don’t look at either one and think: ‘Okay. I’m completely confident in him.'
Brad Thiessen earned himself the starting job last season, and he starts out at number one again. I hate to admit this by the way. Like, it makes me cringe. He was a Hockey East foe, and to see a Northeastern kid be ahead of my BU boy ... well, it’s just a tough pill to swallow. BUT I always gave Thiessen credit when he was a Husky. It’s not like he’s Nate Gerbe or anything. If all goes according to plan, Thiessen will have a solid year.
The Baby Pens are going to be a good team. Hockey's Future said the Pens won't be any different from last year. I disagree. I think they're already different from last year. Yes, they'll have to compete with the mighty Hershey, but they can do it. The key will be establishing good chemistry, having fun and working hard. If they can work night in-night out, they'll be rewarded. Those are the Penguins teams that have excelled in the past, and this year will be no different. I think they have the right group of guys to do it.
And what's more fitting than to play the first regular season game against our interstate brothers, the Hershey Bears? They're stacked again - even without guys like Alex Giroux (who failed to make the Edmonton roster. This continues to blow my mind). Rumor has it Sheldon Souray will not be playing in tonight's match-up. I'm certainly not complaining about that.