Former Minto Klassen inks pro deal with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

Photo by Megan Connelly/Portland Winterhawks Gabe Klassen has signed with the AHL’s Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins of the American Hockey League.

The next step for Gabe Klassen is a shot at the pro ranks.

The former Prince Albert Minto inked a two-year contract with the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins earlier this month.

Klassen says he was excited to get the chance to play at the professional level.

“It’s obviously been a dream of mine to keep playing after junior hockey, so when the opportunity came up, I jumped all over it.”

Klassen is coming off a season where he recorded 35 goals and 71 assists in 67 games for the Portland Winterhawks. He also served as the team’s captain for the previous two seasons.

The Winterhawks made it all the way to the WHL Championship Series, where they would fall in four games to the Moose Jaw Warriors.

Despite the final result not being in favour of his team, Klassen says the experience of playing in the WHL Championship Series is something he will remember for many years to come.

“We had a really special group here in Portland, a lot of guys that I’ve played with for four or five years, so it was a super fun year. To be able to make the Finals and have a good go at it, that’s something I’ll always remember. It didn’t go our way, but it was a good learning experience and it was fun to do it with the guys I was with.”

Klassen appeared in 248 regular season games for the Winterhawks, recording 118 goals and 147 assists for 265 points. In 38 career playoff games, he recorded 31 points (12 goals, 19 assists).

In his final three seasons in the WHL, Klassen got better in terms of production. As an 18-year-old, Klassen recorded 33 goals and 31 assists for 64 points. In his 19-year-old campaign, Klassen recorded 69 points in 64 games before adding 106 points in his overage season.

Klassen gives credit to the coaching staff and his teammates in Portland for helping him unlock the individual success.

“I think it helps getting a little bit older and playing against younger guys, we had a good team every season here, so it gives you the opportunity to put up the numbers and have success there. My teammates and coaches really helped push me towards being the best player I can be and improve every chance I get.”
Klassen spent his entire WHL career in the Rose City after being selected by the Winterhawks in the first round of the 2018 WHL Prospects Draft, 19th overall.

It’s a trip of more than 1,900 kilometres between the two cities, but Klassen made the move as a 16-year-old during the 2019-20 season.

Despite the uncertainty at the time of moving to play hockey in a different country, Klassen says playing in Portland was one of the best things that has happened to him.

“I think it was the farthest place in the Western League that I could have gone, so I wasn’t sure what to expect at 16 years old. I moved in with a billet family and I stayed with them every year I was there. That helped me a ton, just to make me feel comfortable there. It had a good group of guys to bring me in when I was 16, it made it a lot easier. Moving away wasn’t easy for me or my family, but it’s what you’ve got to do and it ended up working out really well for me.”

Klassen was one of three players signed from the CHL ranks by the Penguins earlier this month. Joining Klassen is Atley Calvert, coming off a 47-goal campaign with the Moose Jaw Warriors and Jack Beck, who posted 85 points with the Ontario Hockey League’s Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds last season.