Assistant GM Jason Botterill and the Penguins brass have decisions to make in the event of a lockout, pertaining to the Wilkes Barre/Scranton Penguins roster.
The AHL season will go on regardless of whether the NHL endures another lockout and the Penguins have to make decisions on whether to risk any notable players on two-way deals on waivers to continue their development.
Penguin management at the NHL level have the mindset that defensemen Simon Despres, Brian Strait and Robert Bortuzzo will take up at least two of the seven spots on the blueline and possibly three of the seven spots. Simon Despres will be playing in the minors during the lockout, while Bortuzzo and Strait would have to clear waivers. The Penguins won’t risk Strait on waivers but there could be a slight chance with Bortuzzo.
Despres and Bortuzzo would already add to a stacked blueline that is getting an infusion of top talent on the blueline in top prospect Joe Morrow and Brian Dumuolin. Some young players who probably should be in the AHL are going to be pushed out of the top-6 and possibly forcing the team to send them to Wheeling.
Under the scenario where a lockout is in place, a potential top-7 excluding Brian Strait could include Simon Despres, Robert Bortuzzo, Joe Morrow, Brian Dumuolin, Alex Grant, Carl Sneep and Dylan Reese.
That scenario though leaves two notable prospects destined for Wheeling in Phillip Samuelsson and Reid McNeil and veteran Joey Mormina who was signed along with Reese to complement the young talent on the blueline but whether a spot will be there for Mormina remains to be seen.
Samuelsson, the Penguins 2009 second round pick, is a player I’ve felt all along who got bad advice from the Penguins and his reps to turn pro after his sophomore year. He would now be entering his senior season getting top pairing minutes at BC, instead of likely playing in Wheeling the bulk of the time this upcoming season.
Upfront, the Baby Pens have a group of their top young forward prospects joining the organization full-time in Beau Bennett, Tom Kuhnhackl and Dominic Uher.
From the NHL roster, there’s only one player on a likely two-way deal that management would have to debate but waivers will surely make that answer for them.
That’s 23 year old winger Eric Tangradi who like Bortuzzo and Strait, is one of those players who could be counted on for a regular NHL roster spot but would benefit from more time in the AHL especially if there is a lockout. Tangradi hasn’t officially signed his RFA tender but when he signs, he’s going to receive a two-way deal for this season. The Penguins though are unlikely to risk him through waivers.
How the Baby Pens roster has shook out this summer is that they’re very strong on the wings but are really lacking a No. 2 center behind Trevor Smith with Zach Sill, Warren Peters and Philippe Dupuis all No. 3, No. 4 type checking line centers.
Five of the top-six spots on the first and second lines figure to be taken up by wingers Brian Gibbons, Benn Ferriero, Tom Kuhnhackl, Beau Bennett and center Trevor Smith.
Forwards Dominic Uher, Keven Veilleux, and Paul Thompson are all ideal top-9 candidates on the wings to round out the top three lines.