Prior to Stefan Noesen's debut with the Penguins on Wednesday against the St. Louis Blues, head coach Mike Sullivan was asked what he expected from the forward, who agreed to terms on a one-year, two-way deal with Pittsburgh on Monday.
"My hope is that he'll come in and make a positive impact on the game," Sullivan replied. "He's had a real good start in Wilkes-Barre. He's one of the leading scorers in the American League. He has a hundred-plus games of experience in the NHL. He's a good hockey player. So our expectation is that he's going to come in and make a positive impact and help our team."
Noesen certainly lived up to that expectation.
The 26-year-old scored in his Penguins debut to help Pittsburgh get an emphatic 3-0 win over the defending Stanley Cup champions at PPG Paints Arena.
"It felt good," Noesen said afterward. "Coming to a new team, it's a way to make your mark. Usually that's not the way I do that. Usually I'm more of a checking role and chip in every now and then, so the first game felt good."
Noesen played in 159-career NHL games prior to this season split between Anaheim and New Jersey, dressing in 41 games with the Devils in 2018-19. He attended Dallas Stars training camp on a tryout this summer, but didn't make the club.
Noesen ended up signing an AHL-only deal with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with the goal of working his way back into the NHL - and was thrilled to accomplish that tonight.
"The offseason was pretty long for us," Noesen said. "Not making playoffs was hard, as was not signing right away and not knowing where I was. Once you get back to playing hockey again it's just hockey, and you go out there and play and do your best. Try to find your way back."
Noesen did that by racking up 14 goals, which rank second in the entire AHL, and 22 points, which rank ninth. That helped earn him the contract and a call-up to Pittsburgh.
While Noesen said he surprisingly didn't have any nerves going into the game, once the puck dropped his excitement took over.
"First period, I had a lot of energy and adrenaline going," Noesen said before jokingly adding, "In between periods I had to kind of catch my breath and understand that we are in a hockey game and there are three periods. But it was good overall."
Noesen was slotted in at right wing of the second line with Alex Galchenyuk and Jared McCann. His goal came with 39.1 seconds left in the second period to give Pittsburgh a 2-0 lead heading into the intermission.
The play started with Dominik Kahun dropping a pass to McCann along the wall. He sauced a pass towards Noesen at the net, who knocked it down, put it on his forehand and buried it.
"I forechecked. (Zach Trotman) kept it in," Noesen said. "We were able to change sides there. I think Kahun skated that puck to the other side and went to 'Canner.' He made a good play at the net and I happened to get behind those guys and kind of got lucky."
Noesen is displaying the same nose for the net in Pittsburgh that he had with WBS. So far, it's been a good organizational fit, and he hopes to keep it going as his confidence keeps building.
"I love the way that we're playing," Noesen said. "I love the way that they let us be ourselves, in a way, while playing in the structure. Seems like here you have a little bit longer of a leash in a sense. When you're able to do that and make plays you don't have to hold your stick as tight. I get to be me."