The Pittsburgh Penguins continued paring their roster towards the final 22, maybe 23, players Friday by assigning forwards Jake Guentzel and Carter Rowney to their American Hockey League affiliate in Wilkes Barre. Both players have drawn praise from coaches and teammates over the past couple weeks, but their paths to the NHL are quite different.
Rowney, 27, has been a career minor league player since leaving the University of North Dakota in 2013. For the Sexsmith, Alberta native it has been a steady climb. The 6′-2″ forward has not yet made an appearance in the NHL, but has played 44 games for the Wheeling Nailers and 145 games for the WBS Penguins. 165 AHL games (161 for WBS, 4 for Abbotsford Heat in 2013), Rowney has 92 points including 37 goals. Rowney scored two preseason goals and played in all five Penguins preseason games this season.
The climb for the undrafted free agent will continue, though at 27 years old, time is not a friend.
Guentzel, 22, signed a three year Entry Level Contract with the Penguins this summer after two years of collegiate hockey at Nebraska-Omaha. He is seen as a player who will soon wear an NHL sweater, and perhaps join the Penguins top 6 forward rotation. In preseason games, Guentzel did not record a point, though had no shortage of shot attempts. Guentzel, a native of Woodbury, MN, figures to play a prominent role in WBS. Pending injuries and development, the rookie could be a candidate for mid-season recall.
The Penguins training camp roster with 29 players. At least six more will be placed on IR or sent to WBS before the puck drops on the Penguins regular season Stanley Cup defense, Thursday. Thomas Di Pauli and Teddy Blueger are injured and will be placed on non-roster IR, then sent to WBS when healthy, so the actual number of players in camp stands at 27.
Still fighting for the potential final forward roster spot are Tom Sestito and Kevin Porter. Bryan Rust remains absent with an undisclosed injury, which could create an extra spot.
Defensemen David Warsofsky and Lukas Bengtsson also figure to be sent to WBS soon.