The Pittsburgh Penguins continued re-upping their Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins core Tuesday. The club signed 25-year-old minor league forward and oft-injured Thomas Di Pauli to a one-year, two-way deal, according to Penguins GM Jim Rutherford.
Di Pauli, 25, was a 2012 fourth-round draft choice by the Washington Capitals, one year after the Penguins selected eventual Notre Dame teammate Bryan Rust. However, Di Pauli elected to play four years at Notre Dame and signed with the Penguins as a college free agent in 2016.
His first training camp was impressive, but necessary back surgery cut short his first professional season and injuries have dogged the spark plug type forward. Di Pauli has not played in more than 58 games in any of his three professional seasons and has played in only 108 games career AHL games.
The 5-foot-11, 188-pound forward had 15 points (7g, 8a) in 29 games last season.
The NHL side of the contract will pay Di Pauli $700,000. Di Pauli was born in Caldaro, Italy but grew up in Illinois was a teammate of Rust for two seasons (2012-13 and 2013-14).
The WBS Penguins missed the playoffs this season for only the third time in their 20-year history and the first time since 2001. A lack of prospects and high draft choices have depleted the Penguins farm club, however, defenseman Zach Trotman and forward Garrett Wilson did make an impact on the Penguins NHL roster after being recalled.
Analysis from Dan Kingerski:
Di Pauli had a chance to make the NHL as a grind line forward. He showed a spark and the necessary hop during his first NHL training camp in 2016. However, injuries have depleted the player. If he can get healthy, he may get his career back on track, but back injuries are brutally tough to overcome for hockey players.
At 25, this is likely Di Pauli’s last shot to get on the NHL radar before being tossed in the “minor league forward” bin. Garrett Wilson eventually broke through (again), so it is possible. Hopefully, Di Pauli can get healthy. We graded him well in the 2016 camp, but have not been able to do so since.
Without Riley Sheahan and Ian Cole, Bryan Rust has been a lonely golden domer in the Penguins locker room.