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Daniel Sprong and Zach Aston-Reese headline the 24-man roster that the Pittsburgh Penguins will send to participate in the 2017 Prospects Challenge held at the HarborCenter in Buffalo, New York from September 8-11.
This year, the Penguins will compete against rookies from the host Buffalo Sabres, the New Jersey Devils and the Boston Bruins. This is Pittsburgh's first year competing in Buffalo after several years participating in a rookie tournament in London, Ontario.
Pittsburgh will play in the opening game of the Prospects Challenge on Friday, September 8 at 3:30 PM. The Penguins will also play on Saturday, September 9 at 3:30 PM against New Jersey, before concluding with a night contest against the Sabres on Monday, September 11 at 7:00 PM.
All three games will be broadcast live on penguins.nhl.com with Josh Getzoff handling play-by-play duties. Michelle Crechiolo and the Pens' social media team will be on hand to provide coverage all weekend.
During the Prospects Challenge, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach Clark Donatelli will be behind the bench for the Penguins, alongside his assistants, J.D. Forrest and Tim Army.
Sprong, 20, who skated in 18 NHL regular-season games for the Penguins as an 18 year old in 2015-16, has been a member of Pittsburgh's 'Black Aces' taxi squad during the back-to-back Stanley Cup runs. Back in 2015, Sprong used a strong rookie tournament in London, Ontario to eventually make the NHL roster out of training camp, before returning to his junior club in Charlottetown of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Last year, Sprong's season was delayed by offseason shoulder surgery, but when he returned to the ice, he was one of the most dominant skaters in the QMJHL. In just 31 games with Charlottetown, he produced 32 goals and 59 points, including four hat tricks and a four-goal game.
Aston-Reese, 23, joined the Pittsburgh organization as an undrafted free agent from Northeastern after leading the NCAA in goals (31) and points (63) in 2016-17. In a brief late-season cameo with WBS, Aston-Reese scored three goals and eight points in 10 games.
Here are some tidbits on the remainder of Pittsburgh's Prospects Challenge roster:
*Five more players in addition to Sprong and Aston-Reese - defensemen Lukas Bengtsson, Ethan Prow and Jeff Taylor; and forwards Teddy Blueger and Thomas Di Pauli - are prospects signed to NHL contracts that have also logged action with WBS.
*Rookie free agent forward Adam Johnson, who inked an entry-level deal with Pittsburgh following a strong showing at the team's annual prospect development camp in July, will compete in his first game action in a Penguins jersey. Johnson was second on Minnesota-Duluth in goals (18) and points (37) as a sophomore last year.
*Three members of the Penguins' 2017 draft class will suit up, including top pick Zachary Lauzon. The 18-year-old defenseman was chosen by the Penguins in the second round (51st overall). He will be joined by forward Jan Drozg, a fifth-round (152nd overall) pick, and fellow blueliner Antti Palojarvi, who was selected in the sixth round (186th overall).
*Freddie Tiffels, a 22-year-old 2015 sixth-round (167th overall) draft pick, will be joining Johnson in seeing his first game action with Pittsburgh following a three-year collegiate career at Western Michigan.
*Of the 24 players attending the Prospects Challenge, 17 attended Pittsburgh's prospect development camp in July.
Pittsburgh Penguins' 2017 Prospects Challenge Schedule
Friday, September 8
3:30 PM - Game vs. Boston
Saturday, September 9
3:30 PM - Game vs. New Jersey
Monday, September 11
7:00 PM - Game vs. Buffalo