The Oilers’ Kyle Brodziak will start the season in Wilkes-Barre.TIMES LEADER Staff Photo/Don Carey
WILKES-BARRE TWP. – When Tim Sestito took the ice for practice last week at Wachovia Arena it was something of an historic occasion.
Sestito, a second-year pro out of Rome, N.Y. with nine games of AHL experience, became the first Edmonton Oiler to skate as a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguin.
Sestito was in camp with the Penguins as part of a loan agreement the teams signed in the offseason.
The Oilers, whose minor league team suspended operations at the end of 2004-05, will spread their top prospects among five AHL teams.
Wilkes-Barre/Scranton was expecting to receive up to 10 Oiler players for its training camp. Of the 10, as many as four or five could stick with the Penguins.
Center Kyle Brodziak is one of them.
Brodziak, who began his pro career with the Edmonton Road Runners in 2004-05, played last season in Iowa.
According to the 6-foot-2, 195-pound center, there aren’t any real drawbacks to playing for another organization’s farm team and many of the pitfalls imagined by people unfamiliar with the situation are just that – imagined.
“I really think the only difference is in the teams’ systems,” Brodziak said. “You know, guys around the hockey world are all the same pretty much. Everyone can relate with each other. There’s never a problem with that. It’s just getting to a new city where you’re meeting new guys and playing a different system of hockey than what you were used to in camp. That’s pretty much the only difference.”
Brodziak said that at the beginning of the year he expected the Edmonton players to stick together and the Pittsburgh players to stick together, but from his experience last year in Iowa he didn’t expect a cliquey atmosphere to develop in the locker room.
“Last year we had a great group of guys (in Iowa) and everyone got along very well,” Brodziak said. “You know, when you first get there the Edmonton guys are going to stick together because they know each other, but like last year, once guys started getting to know each other more, it was fine.”
Albany River Rats head coach and GM Tom Rowe said that’s been his experience the past four years while coaching the Carolina Hurricanes farm team.
For two years, the Hurricanes and Calgary Flames shared an affiliate in Lowell, Mass. Carolina’s shared its affiliate with the Colorado Avalanche each of the past two seasons.
“We had Colorado players rooming with Carolina players,” said Rowe of last year’s team.
Rowe said one of the most frequent questions he gets in regard to coaching two teams’ prospects is how he divvies up ice time and keeps two GMs happy.
According to Rowe it’s actually pretty easy.
“It’s not as difficult as people think,” Rowe said. “If you have a guy who’s struggling or isn’t playing hard, he doesn’t play. When we were with Calgary, and now with Colorado, there was an understanding. They leave the playing time to me and (assistant coach) Joe Sacco. I honestly never worried about it. We’re putting the guys out there who deserve to be playing.”