Pens sign big-time scorer with local ties
By Jonathan Bombulie (Staff Writer)
Published: July 2, 2011
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins hit the daily double when Pittsburgh signed winger Colin McDonald on the first day of NHL free agency Friday.
Not only did they potentially add an elite AHL scorer to their lineup, they also brought in a player with local ties.
On the ice, McDonald was the breakout performer of the year in the AHL last season, leading the league with 42 goals for the Oklahoma City Barons.
His mom, the former Suzanne Schultz, was born in Wilkes-Barre and lived in Kingston before moving to Connecticut when she was 10. She has relatives in the area, including a cousin, Robert Anthony, who is the principal at Kistler Elementary.
"It's very, very exciting," Suzanne McDonald said Friday. "I know (the Penguins) were aggressive contacting his agent. He spoke with a few teams, but they were the team that made him feel the most comfortable."
McDonald, 26, was a second-round draft pick of the Edmonton Oilers in the 2003 NHL draft. After four years at Providence College, he joined the AHL's Springfield Falcons and played a checking-line role for the better part of three years, never topping the 12-goal mark.
Last year, however, was a completely different story.
The Oilers moved their AHL affiliate to Oklahoma City, and once there, the 6-foot-3, 205-pound McDonald was given a top-line role with center Brad Moran and winger Alexandre Giroux. He responded by playing in the AHL all-star game en route to a 42-goal campaign.
He also earned a two-game promotion to Edmonton, scoring a goal in his second NHL game.
"One thing I think (Pittsburgh) liked was that I can play first line or fourth line. Last year, I played in every situation - power play, penalty kill, 4-on-4, shootouts," McDonald said. "Before last season, I always knew I was going to be a bottom-six guy up top. After last year, who knows?"
McDonald said his 42-goal season put him in an enviable position when free agency began. He could sift through offers and choose which one he liked best. He didn't have that luxury last year, starting the season on an AHL contract.
"When we did talk to other teams, we viewed Pittsburgh as the benchmark," McDonald said. "We waited to see if another team would sort of go above and beyond, and when they didn't, I knew I felt most comfortable signing with the Penguins."
After bringing back Tyler Kennedy and adding Steve Sullivan on Friday, the parent Penguins have 12 forwards signed to one-way contracts. It won't be easy to crack the NHL roster come training camp, but McDonald is willing to give it a shot.
"They said I'll have an opportunity to make an impression and that's all I can ask for," he said. "It's something I didn't feel like I got with Edmonton."
If he doesn't stick in the NHL, McDonald will immediately slot in as a top-line winger and power-play threat for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
"It's a win-win situation," McDonald said. "Pittsburgh is going to be in the playoffs. Wilkes-Barre is going to be in the playoffs. Wilkes-Barre is one of the top teams in the league every year. It's a great organization. I'm looking forward to playing in front of that fanbase with good players and good coaches. I think it's a situation where I can continue to produce offensively and help the team win."