Penguins minor league notebook: Physical winger Payerl making up for lost time
WILKES-BARRE — From last May through September, the forward prospect who impressed Penguins management the most probably was Adam Payerl.
A 6-foot-3, 218-pound right wing with a body-fat percentage in the single digits, Payerl is strong on pucks, devoted to getting to the blue paint and will fight when needed.
In the playoffs last spring, Payerl had two goals and an assist in a four-game stretch as the Baby Pens rallied from 3-0 down to Providence to win a second-round series in seven games.
In development camp in July, NHL camp in September and into the early part of the AHL regular season, his name was on the tip of the tongues of assistant to the general manager Tom Fitzgerald and player development coach Bill Guerin among others.
Then, on Nov. 30, Payerl suffered an upper-body injury in a fight in Hershey that required surgery. He was out until Feb. 14. With seven weeks left in the regular season, he's trying to make up for lost time.
“I was just playing with more confidence,” Payerl said. “Trying to get back to that level and exceed that this year.”
An undrafted prospect who will turn 23 this week, Payerl hasn't been an impact player consistently, but the Penguins don't have many — if any — young forwards who play like him, so they're likely to give him ample time and opportunity to develop.
“Setting a tone for real hard, competitive games, there's a guy you need to step up in that power-forward type of role,” coach John Hynes said. “He looks like he's on track to do that.”
Spencer Machacek, the 25-year-old winger acquired for Paul Thompson in a Feb. 6 trade with Columbus, has six goals in his first seven games with the Baby Pens, including two in the third period as the team snapped a six-game losing streak with a 6-5 win over Hershey on Tuesday.
“I'm more of a two-way guy. I don't feel comfortable in those kinds of (high-scoring) games, to tell you the truth,” Machacek said. “But it's nice to come out on top.”
Hitting the rookie wall
After giving up just 11 goals in 10 appearances in January, winning the AHL's Goalie of the Month award, rookie Eric Hartzell has nose-dived in February. He has allowed 18 goals in six appearances and has been pulled from four of his six starts in the month.
“That's something we'll have to talk about with him and with Mike Buckley, our goaltending coach, and see if we can get some consistency and some normalcy back to his play,” Hynes said.
Freshman Jake Guentzel, the Penguins' third-round pick in the 2013 draft, was one of eight Nebraska-Omaha players forced into temporary housing last week when a two-alarm fire damaged their dorm. .
The 5-10, 160-pound Guentzel is on a playmaking tear, posting two goals and 11 assists in his last 11 games heading into this weekend.
Jonathan Bombulie has covered the Baby Pens for the Citizens' Voice in Wilkes-Barre since the team's inception in 1999. He can be reached via email at email@example.com.