The Pittsburgh Penguins have tapped the pipeline from Northeastern University yet again, as the organization as brought in the Huskies’ top-scoring forward from this season on an AHL contract. The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have announced that Brandon Hawkins has signed a contract for the 2019-20 season and the slick right winger will join the team on an amateur tryout for the rest of this season. Hawkins, 24, took an interesting path through his collegiate career, but it all worked out. Hawkins played two seasons at Bowling Green State University before opting to transfer to Northeastern, but was forced to sit a year due to NCAA transfer rules before playing two more years. Yet, in his fifth and final college season, Hawkins put together 21 assists and 33 points to lead all Huskies forwards. Hawkins will be an asset at the minor league level for the Penguins and could push for an NHL deal with a strong season. The intriguing forward is yet another Northeastern standout to turn pro lately; star goaltender Cayden Primeau (MTL) and dynamic defenseman Jeremy Davies (NJ) both signed entry-level contracts, while Liam Pecararo has joined the AHL’s Springfield Thunderbirds on an ATO. The Huskies are holding out hope that Tyler Madden (VAN) doesn’t unexpectedly join the pro ranks as well.
The WBS Penguins also added Jan Drozg to their roster on a tryout basis to close out the year. Drozg, 20, is a 2017 fifth-round pick of Pittsburgh’s who signed his entry-level contract last month. After another dominating offensive season for the QMJHL’s Shawinigan Cataractes – 62 points in 60 games and another six points in six playoff games – Drozg is eyeing the pro level. This brief stint in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton is just a precursor to what should be a full-time role next season, potentially with a chance to see some games in Pittsburgh if things go well.
- Another promising prospect joining his drafted organization on an ATO is Chicago Blackhawks’ breakout star Philipp Kurashev. Kurashev was a fourth-round pick out of the QMJHL just last year, but has drastically improved his stock this season with 65 points in 59 games for the Quebec Remparts, as well as another five points in the team’s first round playoff series, on top of a point-per-game performance for Team Switzerland at the World Juniors. The 19-year-old will look to make it a trifecta of strong showings in his time with the AHL’s Rockford Ice Hogs. Kurashev is a long shot to make the Blackhawks out of camp next year, but it never hurts to get a look at a prospect against pro competition.
- Two other teams adding interesting prospects to their affiliates’ rosters are the Los Angeles Kings and New York Rangers. The Kings have brought in two 2018 draft picks on ATO’s in fourth-round forward Aidan Dudas and sixth-round goaltender Jacob Ingham. The pair of OHLers each made strides this season and L.A. can now see how they do with the Ontario Reign when the competition is raised. The Rangers have also added a junior player, but alongside two college free agents. Jake Elmer, an undrafted forward who enjoyed a breakout season with the WHL’s Lethbridge Hurricanes, signed an ELC with New York in March and will get his first taste of the AHL down the stretch before turning pro full-time in the fall. Joining him for now and hoping to land AHL contracts are Harvard University captain Lewis Zerter-Gossage and American International College captain Shawn McBride. The pair of experienced locker room leaders will look to make a good impression on the Hartford Wolf Pack.
- While some junior and college players are just now embarking on their first pro experience, some in the AHL are already looking ahead to their next pro gig. Iowa Wild goalie C.J. Motte, who played largely in the ECHL this season but performed well in a handful of AHL games, has reportedly already signed his next contract and it isn’t with Iowa. Instead, Motte is heading to Austria to join the EBEL’s HC Innsbruck, the team announced. With the NHL off-season coming significantly later than many of the European markets, this kind of overlap isn’t uncommon. However, it is strange for Motte to still be playing with one team having already committed to another as soon as the season ends.