Beginning his pro career out of Ohio State, Nick Schilkey appreciated Mike Vellucci’s honesty.
Schilkey, now 26, played under the former Penguins head coach in Charlotte from 2017-19, going from a rookie trying to earn his stripes in the AHL to key contributor for the still-defending Calder Cup champions.
“It took me some time to kind of become a regular in the league, and Mike was a big part of allowing me to grow,” Schilkey said. “He was really honest with me from the start. We had such a mature team, and I think he complemented that really well.”
Not surprisingly, a potential reunion with Vellucci was one of the reasons Schilkey signed with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last summer. And while that didn’t materialize once the coach was promoted to Pittsburgh’s bench, it’s clear his influence is still paying dividends.
Schilkey has taken advantage of an expanded role with the Penguins among the top six and power-play units to lead the team in points through six games (G-5A), providing a boost with NHL-contracted players like Josh Currie, Anthony Angello and Jordy Bellerive shuffled back and forth between the AHL and Pittsburgh’s taxi squad. And although his career is still relatively young, this being only his fourth pro season, his experience with that juggernaut Charlotte team is valuable to a team relaying on a lot of rookies in the lineup.
“He’s got a lot of playmaking ability,” Penguins head coach J.D. Forrest said. “A lot of 2-on-1s. He’s smart — he plays on the right side of things. He uses the skill when he has to, and he’s been a good addition to our organization.”
It’s been a fun start for Schilkey after what was a trying season for Bridgeport in 2019-20.
The Sound Tigers were the league’s worst team by point percentage at 23-33-5-2 and scored a league-low 152 goals. Schilkey, coming of a 37-point campaign, saw his production dip to only 22, albeit in 15 fewer games played.
“Definitely frustrating at times.” Schilkey said. “I mean, I definitely enjoyed my time there. Living there was awesome. The guys were great, just something about the way how he always felt like there was a little bit more that wasn’t going our way. Just
“One of the first things he said when he went up to Pittsburgh was the team’s in great hands, and he’s absolutely right,” Schilkey said. “With JD (Forrest) here, it’s been awesome so far. J.D.’s been great with us and, just really excited to continue growing along with him now.”
Tyler Piccotti has covered the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for Times-Shamrock newspapers since 2017. In the Penguins Insider blog, he provides a look at NEPA’s only professional hockey team, sharing analysis and insights that go beyond the game sheet. A 2015 graduate of Syracuse University, he also has written for Bleacher Report, The Post-Standard and Lacrosse Magazine. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-821-2000; @CVPiccotti