First-year coach takes Baby Penguins to task
Five weeks into the season, it’s become clear that first-year Baby Pens coach John Hynes is more of a stern taskmaster than either of his two predecessors in Wilkes-Barre, Dan Bylsma and Todd Reirden.
Even though the team is off to a 10-1 start, his practices have been fairly long and intense.
During one recent skate, he stopped practice to chew out winger Eric Tangradi for failing to complete a drill, then made the Penguins’ top prospect skate the length of the ice twice before the workout resumed.
“Whether we were 5-5 or 6-4 or 10-1, it’s about getting better. We want to make sure we make every player here better as the year goes on,” Hynes said. “To do that, you have to put the work in in practice and in the weight room on a regular basis.”
Veteran forward Ryan Craig was named 17th captain in Baby Pens history Thursday.
Craig, 28, has 184 games of NHL experience with Tampa Bay and has previously captained the Brandon Wheat Kings in the Western Hockey League and Springfield and Norfolk in the AHL.
“He’s got a maturity about him. Not just that he’s a very good player, but he understands the dynamic of how a team works and the dynamic of a season and what it takes to be a consistent professional,” Hynes said.
Tim Wallace and Andrew Hutchinson are the alternate captains. Brett Sterling and Nick Johnson will fill in when the three permanent captains aren’t in the lineup.
Plus and minus
Second-year pros Robert Bortuzzo and Brian Strait continue to dazzle as the top defensive pair in Wilkes-Barre. They each carried a plus-9 rating into this weekend, good for a tie for second on the AHL plus-minus leaderboard.
They were on the ice as a pair for just two of the first 18 even-strength goals the Baby Pens allowed this season.
On the flip side, veteran offensive defenseman Steve Wagner was on the ice for 12 of those 18 goals.
A little-known fact about speedy 5-foot-8 winger Chris Conner, who was called up from Wilkes-Barre when a flu bug swept through the Penguins’ locker room last week: He’s played in the NHL for at least eight games in each of his four previous pro seasons. Two years ago, he even spent about half the season with the Dallas Stars, posting three goals and 13 points in 38 games.
One to watch
St. Cloud State (NCAA) – Winger
6-foot-2, 210 pounds
Sophomore Ben Hanowski, a third-round pick in the 2009 NHL draft, scored his first career hat trick in St. Cloud State’s 6-3 win over Bemidji State last Friday night.
Hanowski, who probably represents the Penguins’ best chance to develop a homegrown sniper in the near future, leads the Huskies with five goals in nine games, which puts him on pace to more than double his total of nine goals in 43 games as a freshman last year.
Hanowski is best known for the ridiculous numbers he put up as a Minnesota high school star, recording 196 goals and 405 points in 117 games.