Penguins hire AHL champ Mike Vellucci as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins have a new coach with strong championship credentials.
The Penguins announced Friday night that WBS coach Clark Donatelli had resigned for personal reasons and was replaced by Mike Vellucci, who parted ways with the Carolina Hurricanes organization earlier in the day.
Vellucci, 52, coached Carolina’s AHL team, the Charlotte Checkers, to the best record in the league and a Calder Cup championship last season. He also won an Ontario Hockey League championship with the Plymouth Whalers in 2007.
“He’s coming off a championship season,” assistant general manager Bill Guerin said. “He’s been a very good coach for the last 25 years or so, very accomplished at the American League level. We couldn’t ask for a better guy. We’re really excited.”
Guerin said he had a few recent conversations with Donatelli about his future, culminating in the coach’s resignation on Thursday. The Penguins were aware that Vellucci was stepping away from the Hurricanes organization, and they knew they wouldn’t be the only team interested in picking him up. So they acted quickly.
“Really quick,” Guerin said. “This just doesn’t happen all that often. I guess we saw it with Barry Trotz last year, but I can’t really remember too many times this happening. We’re extremely excited to get a guy like Mike.”
Vellucci followed the same Peter Karmanos-inspired path to the NHL as Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford, going from the Compuware youth hockey program in Michigan to Plymouth in the OHL to Carolina. He has extensive front-office experience in addition to coaching.
“I know his players like him. His organization likes him,” Guerin said. “They’re probably sad to see him go, but we’re very excited to have him.”
Donatelli, 51, won one playoff series in his four seasons as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coach. Last season, the AHL club missed the playoffs for the first time since 2001-02.
Assistant coaches Jarrod Skalde and J.D. Forrest will remain with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in their current roles.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review assistant sports editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .