The Penguins are just one step away for Cody Wydo

Author: Alan Saunders, Times Sports Correspondent
Date: Aug 10, 2017

During the Penguins’ two-year run as back-to-back Stanley Cup champions, some undersized forwards have had outsized roles in the team’s success.

None of Jake Guentzel, Bryan Rust or Conor Sheary cracks the 6-foot mark, but they combined for 54 regular-season goals in 2016-17 and another 22 during the team’s run to a second straight title.

Those three players have more than just stature in common, though. They’re good skaters with high skill levels that cut their teeth in the collegiate ranks before working through the minors to get to Pittsburgh.

Former Robert Morris forward Cody Wydo fits that paradigm perfectly. Wydo, 26, signed an American Hockey League contract with the Penguins’ top affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton last week. 

Listed at 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, the undersized Wydo has taken some time to adjust to the pro game after going undrafted out of RMU in 2015. But he broke out in 2016-17, when he had 30 goals and 30 assists in 70 games to lead the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers in goals and tie for the team lead in points. The successful season also got him his first taste of the AHL level, when he scored one goal in three games during a late-season call up to WBS.

Clearly, the Penguins organization likes what they’ve seen out of Wydo from the time they scouted him as a Colonial. Clark Donatelli, who is the head coach in Wilkes-Barre, was Wydo’s first pro head coach in Wheeling at the end of the 2014-15 season and he’s very familiar with him.

"Cody is a quick skater who can score, very competitive and skilled,” Donatelli said. “That stands out right away. One thing we've seen from him over time is that he has a really good work ethic on and off the ice, something you can't teach. We are very happy to sign Cody in Wilkes-Barre."

Entering his third full season with the Penguins organization, Wydo thinks the things he does best mesh pretty well with what the team is trying to do from the NHL level on down.

“They like the style of hockey that I play,” Wydo said. “Pretty much every team needs a goal-scorer. Just being able to be the guy for them is a special thing. Luckily, I’ve been able to have a good relationship with them and they’ve wanted to keep me around. … I kind of thought there would be a good chance of getting an AHL deal after the season I had, but you never know. People have had better years than I had an not gotten AHL deals, so it’s just kind of the right place, right time, right opportunity kind of thing.”

The level of familiarity between Wydo and Donatelli was instrumental in taking him to the next level with the Penguins.

“It was a pretty big factor having a coach that’s familiar with me and I’m familiar with the coaching style that he has," Wydo said. “Anytime you can have that, it’s a big factor to bringing you in to somewhere.”

While the speed and quickness that made him Robert Morris’ all-time leading scorer when he left the school remain, Wydo thinks that two years of playing against bigger and stronger opponents in the ECHL has made him a more well-rounded hockey player that is better suited to have success at a higher level.

“I think there’s always going to be that developmental period from college to the pros, especially because I’m not the biggest player,” he said. “I got a lot stronger in the corners and being able to play the pro style of hockey. Those two years have helped me develop into that type of player."

The Colonials have never had a player reach the NHL. Zac Lynch, a Shaler native and 2016 RMU graduate, also played in the AHL last season, appearing in 21 contests with the Florida Panthers’ top minor-league affiliate. 

“It’s a really fun thing to be a part of,” Wydo said. “It’s not that big of a program yet. They’re under 15 years at the NCAA level. There’s not too many of us yet, but hopefully, it just keeps growing and building up every year.”

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