Will O’Neill happy to return to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

By Tom Venesky - [email protected]
During his only season with the Penguins in 2015-16, Will O’Neill scored a career-high 50 points and played in the all-star game. - Fred Adams | For Times Leader

The way Will O’Neill sees it, for any hockey player to be successful it’s a two-way street. It takes coaches and players working together to bring out the best in everyone.

“Opportunity and trust have a lot to do with how a player can produce. I’m eager to get back to that,” he said.

That’s why O’Neill is excited to return to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins after spending the last two seasons with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. In his lone season with the Penguins in 2015-16, the defenseman amassed a career-high 50 points and was named to the AHL All-Star team.

That success was made possible, he said, because of the trust the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton coaches had in him. With the Penguins, O’Neill was a mainstay on the power play and was used in key situations throughout the game.

That opportunity is something O’Neill didn’t think he had with the Phantoms, despite earning his first NHL game with the Flyers on Nov. 2. But O’Neill didn’t play in any of Lehigh Valley’s 13 playoff games last season, one reason why he feels he didn’t get a good opportunity with the Phantoms.

“I don’t think I did. I never thought the opportunity arose for me there,’ said O’Neill, who scored 19 points in 59 games last season. “What I had in production was a credit to me with the amount I played and the situations I was used in.”

O’Neill returns to the Penguins on an AHL deal and he’s anxious to be re-united with head coach Clark Donatelli, a coach he says has shown trust in him in the past.

“There’s a comfort level that you just feel. You go into a meeting and a coach makes you feel comfortable,” O’Neill said. “Clark Donatelli gave me a great opportunity. He trusted me.”

Entering his seventh season, O’Neill, 30, has established himself as a defenseman with a penchant for producing offense. His 50 points in 2015-16 ranked third on the Penguins, behind Carter Rowney (56) and Tom Kostopoulos (52). Four of O’Neill’s eight goals that season came on the power play, and he doesn’t hide the fact that contributing offensively is the style he enjoys most.

“I was a go-to guy and I took advantage of it,” O’Neill said of his season with the Penguins. “Live with me and die with me, and it will all come out well.”

Now that he’ll be donning a Penguins uniform again this season, O’Neill is looking forward to facing the Phantoms. A rivalry game, he said, is when his true colors show.

But as much as O’Neill is looking forward to seeing his Lehigh Valley teammates, he’s equally excited to be a part of the Penguins-Hershey rivalry again.

“That is more of a rivalry game in that division. The roots are that much deeper,” O’Neill said.

And after not seeing any playoff action for the last two seasons, O’Neill is eager to get back to playing postseason hockey. That’s a big reason why he signed with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

In fact, O’Neill’s favorite memory as a Penguin was Game 6 of the series against Hershey in which Wilkes-Barre/Scranton won, 6-2. O’Neill scored a goal in the first period and got into a fight with Nathan Walker in the third period, following a dust-up between Tom Sestito and Hershey’s Liam O’Brien.

“Sestito got the boys going, beat someone up and we all got into the mix,” O’Neill said. “That’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton hockey.”

During his only season with the Penguins in 2015-16, Will O’Neill scored a career-high 50 points and played in the all-star game.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/web1_Will-O-Neill.jpgDuring his only season with the Penguins in 2015-16, Will O’Neill scored a career-high 50 points and played in the all-star game. Fred Adams | For Times Leader
Defenseman played in WBS in 2015-16 and spent last two seasons with Phantoms

By Tom Venesky

[email protected]

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins signed forwards Joseph Cramarossa, Jarrett Burton and Troy Josephs as well as defenseman Kevin Spinozzi to American Hockey League contracts for the 2018-19 season on Thursday

Cramarossa returns to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton after spending the latter half of the 2017-18 campaign with the Penguins. Acquired in a Valentine’s Day trade with the Stockton Heat, Cramarossa went on to produce six goals and six assists for 12 points in 28 games as a Penguin. Combined with his stats from the first half of season with Stockton, the Markham, Ontario native earned a career-high 22 points (9G-13A).

Cramarossa, 25, has played 229 career games in the American Hockey League, and he has 26 goals, 27 assists, 53 points and 269 penalty minutes in that time. Cramarossa was originally drafted by the Anaheim Ducks in the third round (65th overall) of the 2011 NHL Entry Draft after playing for the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors in the 2011 Memorial Cup tournament.

Burton also had a strong 2017-18 season with the Penguins, posting AHL career highs in goals (9), assists (10), points (19) and games played (52). The two-way forward has played the entirety of his AHL career with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, previously skating for the Penguins’ ECHL affiliate, the Wheeling Nailers. In 232 professional games played, Burton has 51 goals and 61 assists for 112 career points.

Josephs spent the majority of last season with the Nailers, and during 43 games in a Nailers uniform, he posted 36 points (16G-20A). The rookie also notched his first career hat trick on Feb. 2, 2018 against the Indy Fuel. Josephs skated in four games with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last season, as well, but did not produce any points in that time.

Originally a seventh round pick (209th overall) by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Josephs turned pro last season after a four-year career at Clarkson University. The 24-year-old from Whitby, Ontario also won the 2013 Ontario Junior Hockey League championship as a member of the St. Michael’s Buzzers.

Spinozzi, 22, was an undrafted free agent who made Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s team out of training camp on a professional tryout agreement. He ultimately signed an AHL contract with the club on Dec. 16, 2017 and posted two assists in 16 games. The rookie defenseman also appeared in 12 games for Wheeling, registering two goals and three assists for five points in that time.

Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TomVenesky

Reach Tom Venesky at 570-991-6395 or on Twitter @TomVenesky