With the forward prospect depth in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this year, it would have been difficult for most new guys coming in on AHL contracts to crack the roster out of camp. There just weren't many spots to be won at the time.
Still, forward Myles Powell sees a path to the next step in the Penguins organization.
Powell, 25, is a second-year pro who signed an AHL-level contract with Wilkes-Barre for this season.
Powell turned pro at the conclusion of his senior year at RIT in 2017-18, signing with the Rochester Americans of the AHL. He played four games with Rochester and five with the Cincinnati Cyclones of the ECHL to get a taste of the pro game, then played his first full professional season last year.
Powell spent the majority of the 2018-19 season in the ECHL with Cincinnati, where he led the team in goals (31), and finished No. 2 overall in scoring with 66 points. He played seven AHL games in Rochester, where he was scoreless.
When Powell was a free agent this summer, he was in search of an opportunity that would provide the chance for more AHL time.
"I just was with Rochester and Cincinnati last year, and was sort of looking to break into the AHL," Powell told me this week. "Obviously that hasn't happened yet, still hopeful. Just talking with my agent and with the organization I just thought it would be a good opportunity for me to come here and show what I can do."
Powell knew, especially with the number of forwards in the organization, that there was a good chance he could still start the season in the ECHL with Wheeling. After attending Wilkes-Barre's training camp and playing in the AHL preseason, Powell was among the first big group of cuts to be sent to Wheeling.
"I thought no matter where I sign, you never know if you're going to end up there, if it's a given," he said. "You've got to earn it and work for it. So I thought it was a possibility. Obviously I'm hoping to be up at the next level, but you've got to work with what you're given and always work hard for what situation you're in. Everything's been good so far here, I can't complain."
Powell has looked strong through the first six games of the Nailers' season, and he currently ranks No. 3 in team scoring with three goals and five assists. While the line combinations have shuffled through the first few games of the season, Powell has found himself lately centering the top line between Nick Saracino and Jan Drozg, which makes for a line with a lot of speed.
"It's really nice to have good players to play with," Powell said. "Right now it's me, Janny, and Nick Saracino. They're both complementing me very well I think, whether it's speed or vision or just skill level. They're both good players so it makes it easy for me to work with them."
Powell and Drozg teamed up for a goal this week against Reading, with Powell getting the finish off a nice backhand shot:
In the game against Tulsa the following night, Powell scored this goal off of a feed from Saracino:
Powell describes himself as a well-rounded, 200-foot player.
"I think I sort of bring a lot to the game with all aspects," he said. "Offensively I think I have good vision and can score if I get the puck. I'm always trying to be the best I can be on defense too, but I think I'm more offensively as a player."
At 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, Powell is on the smaller side. Last season, when I was talking with 5-foot-7 Cam Brown, he told me how he believed his size was an advantage because it allowed him to be quicker on his skates, and "sneak around in spots where other people can't." I asked Powell if he felt his size gives him similar benefits.
"I've never really thought of it being a disadvantage," he said. "Growing up I was always smaller than everyone too, so you sort of get used to it. You've got to play your own game and use what works for you. I think like Cam (Brown), I think our speed, being shifty, really helps us get away from those big guys. I just try to use what I have and it's worked out for me so far."
So far this season Wilkes-Barre has had to recall two forwards from Wheeling, Ryan Scarfo and Brandon Hawkins. Scarfo only played one game in Wheeling before the recall, and was first in line by virtue of having played 25 games in Wilkes-Barre last season. Hawkins, though, is new to the organization, and was rewarded with the opportunity after a hot streak of two goals and two assists in four games.
Powell is still waiting for his call, but it's encouraging to see his teammates get their shots and actually be utilized by Wilkes-Barre.
"There's some injuries in Pittsburgh and in Wilkes too, and it's good to see guys here be rewarded for their hard work and effort," he said. "Hopefully more get called up too throughout the year and everyone gets an opportunity."
In the meantime, Powell said he wants to focus on growing his overall game, but especially his defensive game, so he can be ready to take the next step."
"Trying to get to the next level you've got to be good in all areas of the ice, so defensively I want to be a little better, maybe a little more vigilant in the defensive zone," he said. "Hopefully just keep growing my offensive abilities too and make that jump to the next level.
THE ROSTER MOVES
• The Nailers acquired 25-year-old defenseman Cameron Heath from the Reading Royals in exchange for future considerations on Oct. 23. Heath hadn't played for the Royals this season. He's appeared in two games with the Nailers since the trade, and has posted no points and an even plus/minus.
• Defenseman Macoy Erkamps was recalled to Wilkes-Barre on Oct. 23. Erkamps, 24, posted one assist and a minus-2 rating in three games with the Nailers prior to the recall, and has recorded two assists and an even plus/minus in two games with Wilkes-Barre since the recall.
• The Nailers released defenseman Jake Schultz on Oct. 24. Schultz, 23, had recorded no points, a minus-2 rating, and 14 penalty minutes in two games this season. He signed with the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs of the SPHL following his release.
• The Nailers acquired defenseman Marc-Olivier Duquette from the Fort Wayne Komets in a trade for future considerations on Oct. 26. Duquette, 21, is in his first professional season and appeared in four games with the Komets prior to the trade, recording no points and a minus-3 rating. Before he turned pro, he recorded 14 goals, 56 assists, and 164 penalty minutes in 191 QMJHL games. He played in one game with the Nailers since the trade, and was a plus-2.
• The Nailers signed 23-year-old defenseman Nick Minerva out of the Macon Mayhem of the SPHL on Oct. 26. Last season, Minerva recorded one goal, 10 assists, and 74 penalty minutes in 53 games with Macon.
• Wilkes-Barre reassigned forward Scarfo to the Nailers on Oct. 29 as a result of receiving Adam Johnson and Joseph Blandisi back from Pittsburgh. Scarfo, 25, appeared in one game with the Nailers prior to the recall, posting a minus-1 rating. He played in two games with Wilkes-Barre during the recall, recording a plus-1 rating.
• The Nailers released 28-year-old defenseman Brandon Lubin on Oct. 29. Lubin played in four games with the Nailers this season, recording one assist and a plus-3 rating.
• Lubin and Alex D'Orio spoke about what Hockey Fights Cancer night meant to them:
• Oct. 25: vs. Tulsa, 6-4 win
Cam Browngot the Nailers off to an early lead, scoring just 18 seconds into the game, but the Oilers answered 96 seconds later to tie the game, 1-1.
Chris Brown scored the first goal of the second period two minutes in to regain the lead, but then things fell apart. The Oilers outshot the Nailers 17-10 in the middle frame, and scored three goals to take a 4-2 lead. Drozg scored his second goal of the season before the end of the period to bring the Nailers back within one.
Powell scored the tying goal midway through the third period, and Drozg scored his second of the game at 17:27, the eventual game-winner. Yushiroh Hirano capped off the win with an empty netter in the final minute.
D'Orio was outstanding, stopping 37 of the Oilers' 41 shots.
• Oct. 26: vs. Reading, 3-1 win
The Royals scored the lone goal of the first period to take a 1-0 lead on Saturday.
After a scoreless second period, Powell tied the game at 11:52 of the third period. Drozg redirected a Cam Brown shot into the net 15 seconds later, and Chris Brown scored a power play goal at 14:33 to extend the lead and ultimately put the game away.
D'Orio had another strong night, stopping 35 of 36 shots in his second of the back-to-back starts.
• Goals: Hirano, Drozg, four in six games
• Assists: Hirano, Brown, Powell, Saracino, six in six games
• Points: Hirano, 10 in six games
Nick Saracino — Myles Powell — Jan Drozg
Alec Butcher — Cam Brown — Yushiroh Hirano
Renars Krastenbergs — Chris Brown — Lucas Kohls
Steve Johnson — Aaron Titcomb
Craig Skudalski — Jack MacNee
Cameron Heath — Brandon Lubin
• The Nailers’ record of 4-2 has them in a two-way tie points-wise for first place in the Central Division. With the tie breaker of games played, and goal differential, the Nailers rank second.
• The power play is operating at 20 percent, ranking 14th in the league. The penalty kill is at 86.7 percent, third in the league.
• The Nailers have just one game this week, a road game against the division rival Kalamazoo Wings (3-1-1) on Saturday.
GOALS OF THE WEEK
A loose puck popped out to Cam Brown on Friday and he capitalized:
Chris Brown scored this one from a difficult angle:
Drozg scored twice on Friday -- the goal to start the rally and bring the Nailers within one goal, and the game-winner:
SAVE OF THE WEEK
D'Orio was solid in the win on Hockey Fights Cancer night:
WHEELING FUN THING
The Nailers all dressed up for Halloween. Cam Brown as budget Pikachu gets my vote for best costume:
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