WILKES-BARRE — It might be one of the most cherished mementos of his 23 years on earth.
Anthony Angello’s puck from his first NHL goal will likely be something he hangs onto for the remainder of his life.
But currently, he is separated from it by about four hours and countless potholes which festoon the interstate asphalt over the Appalachian Mountains.
Having played in a 5-3 road loss to the Washington Capitals, the rookie Penguins forward traveled with his teammates to Los Angeles for the start of their three-game road swing through California.
But Monday, following the acquisition of veteran forwards Patrick Marleau, Evan Rodrigues and Conor Sheary through trades, Angello and fellow rookie forward Sam Lafferty were assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League. That meant flying back across North America to Philadelphia then a two-hour drive to Wilkes-Barre.
Angello’s car, with his puck and other belongings, remains in Pittsburgh.
Tangible possessions aside, Angello did bring something back to northeast Pennsylvania after his three-plus week apprenticeship in the NHL.
“First, I think it was a good confidence boost,” said Angello, who, after being recalled Jan. 30, appeared in seven NHL games and scored one goal. “Not only played but to have a good impact, have a positive outcome in some of the games and play well. I learned some things from the older guys, the veterans, of how to go about. I did more listening than talking. I tried to learn and pick up every little thing that would help me as a whole.”
The goal Angello scored was fairly representative of the skillset most might envision of a 6-foot-5, 210-pound power forward.
During a 5-2 home win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Feb. 18, Lafferty took a pass above the right circle and fired a wrister on net. Angello had his ample frame planted above the blue paint and tipped the puck with his stick through the legs of goaltender Frederik Andersen.
(Video courtesy NHL)
“The net-front is nothing new for me,” Angello said. “I’d like to plant myself there and create havoc on screens. That’s where pucks are going to get funneled.”
Angello has figured that out sufficiently in the AHL level. In 46 games this season, he is Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s leader with 16 goals to go along with nine assists.
“Everything they were telling him up there was what the same thing we were saying down here,” Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins coach and general manager Mike Vellucci said. “Sometimes, it takes (a rookie) to go up there to understand the game is pretty similar. You’ve got to do things the right way at both levels.”
Management seems to be satisfied with what it saw out of Angello at the NHL. During his news conference following Monday’s trade deadline, general manager Jim Rutherford lauded Angello’s play, even if it was limited to an average of 5 minutes, 37 seconds of ice time per game.
“(Angello and Lafferty), I think did a good job for us,” Rutherford said. “They got good experience, and they’re in a good place moving forward.”
When veteran forward Jared McCann came down an undisclosed injury, Lafferty was recalled Tuesday and had to make that cross-continent trek in reverse less than 24 hours after being assigned.
Angello seems to have a firm grasp on what he has to do to earn another recall.
“Obviously, it took a lot of hard work to get there. And it’s going to take more hard work to earn that next recall. I think I’m in a good spot, mentally, physically, emotionally,” he said.
“Going forward, it’s just continually having that impact. Trying to get one percent faster, one percent stronger, have one percent better of an impact. It starts right now for that next recall and trying to stay up as long as possible. Because obviously, that’s the goal. You want to be a full-time NHLer.”
Follow the Penguins all season long.
Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Seth by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .