Arizona State hockey can now find itself represented in Pittsburgh.
Technically speaking, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton will likely be the new home for Sun Devils defenseman Josh Maniscalco, as the undrafted ASU product recently signed a three-year entry-level deal with the Pittsburgh Penguins that expires after the end of the 2022-2023 season. Maniscalco will join the Penguins' AHL affiliate for initial development.
Maniscalco has quite the resume on the ice, as his recent sophomore campaign for the Sun Devils saw him total 32 total points in 36 games as a defenseman, ranking sixth in the NCAA at his position. As a 6'2" defenseman that's well-versed on the offensive side of the game, Maniscalco was a problem in both phases of the game during his time in Tempe.
"In just two short years, Josh had a major hand in bringing Sun Devil Hockey to national relevance," said head coach Greg Powers in a press release. "Josh has our unwavering support in every way. Pittsburgh is getting a spectacular player and special human being in Josh Maniscalco. Josh will forever be a Sun Devil for life."
Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford also shared high remarks for Maniscalco:
"Josh is a solid puck-moving, offensive defenseman," said Rutherford. "He jumps into the rush and plays a style that is complementary to our group. We think highly of his character and are happy to add Josh to the organization."
The ties to Pittsburgh for Maniscalco are unique, as he played with NHL legend and Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux's son Austin in his two seasons with Arizona State. Aside from being a Pennsylvania native, Maniscalco also played prep hockey for Shattuck St. Mary's in Minnesota, a school that also saw current Penguins Jack Johnson, Teddy Blueger and Sidney Crosby play for their colors as well.
Maniscalco's future appears to be bright, as time in the NHL can be a real possibility if he progresses rapidly, such as defenseman John Marino did upon his arrival to the team. However, such development is rare, and Maniscalco will need sharpening in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
To find out how Maniscalco currently fits into the present mold of the WBS Penguins, I had the privilege of speaking with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins play-by-play broadcaster Nick Hart.
Hart said Maniscalco was on his radar thanks to the ASU's tremendous season last year and an impressive freshman campaign from Maniscalco, yet conference/national tournaments prevented him (as well as the rest of the hockey community) from seeing more from Maniscalco.
In terms of immediate impact, Maniscalco may take some time getting adjusted for a variety of reasons:
"Suddenly, we in W-B/Scranton have a pretty crowded blue line," said Hart. "We have a stable of returning, reliable veterans who are part of our leadership corps, David Warsofsky, Zach Trotman and Kevin Czuczman, plus a first-round prospect in Pierre-Olivier Joseph who will be in a starring role for our club. Add in other college signees like draft pick Will Reilly and another undrafted kid in Cam Lee, and there's not a lot of ice time to go around (especially if you're competing with other returning prospects Jon Lizotte and Niclas Almari).
All of that being said, that outlook is, of course, subject to change with other offseason maneuverings. I think Josh will be a guy who will be given a shot in the lineup regularly at the start of the season and be put in situations to showcase his offensive skill-set, but the adjustment to the American Hockey League isn't an easy one, so I wouldn't be surprised to see his minutes and usage sheltered a bit at the start so he can work more with JD Forrest until he can be given a little more responsibility."
In an ideal scenario, Maniscalco would be a candidate to fill the shoes of another offensively-gifted defenseman in Kris Letang down the road. While it remains to be seen how Maniscalco's initial impact will be felt, however, there's no doubting the potential is there for the Sun Devil product:
"Right-handed defensemen are coveted players these days, and ones that come with size and an offensive element are understandably exciting to add to an organization," said Hart.
The AHL currently hopes to begin play on Dec. 4.