D’Orio took a big step forward in 2020-21

American Hockey League

With the Penguins in the midst of their offseason, the Tribune-Review is looking at all 49 players currently under NHL contracts to the organization in alphabetical order, from mid-level prospect Niclas Almari to top-six winger Jason Zucker.

Alex D’Orio

Position: Goaltender

Catches: Right

Age: 22

Height: 6-foot-2

Weight: 209 pounds

2020-21 AHL statistics: 11 games, 6-3-2 record, 2.18 goals-against average, .915 save percentage, zero shutouts

2019-20 ECHL statistics: 11 games, 2-6-1 record, 2.97 goals-against average, .892 save percentage, one shutout

Contract: Second year of a three-year entry-level contract with a salary cap hit of $733,333. Pending restricted free agent in 2022

Acquired: Undrafted free agent signing, Sept. 13, 2017

2020-21 season: As the Penguins prepared to gather for their training camp, former Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford offered something of a surprise when it came to his team’s goaltending depth.

Alex D’Orio would open the season as the organization’s fourth goaltender behind Tristan Jarry, Casey DeSmith and Maxime Lagace.

That decision was made partially due to logistical challenges related to the pandemic. Fellow goaltending prospect Emil Larmi was playing in his native Finland and management wanted to keep him in Europe in order to avoid having to sit him for quarantine protocols that would be required in entering North America.

In time, D’Orio earned his elevated spot on the Penguins’ depth chart by simply performing well enough to be there.

Initially assigned to the taxi squad, D’Orio was assigned to Wheeling of the ECHL on Feb. 24 to get his first playing time of the season.

Exactly one month later, he was recalled to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the AHL and finished the season as that team’s only goaltender with a winning record.

After DeSmith suffered a season-ending injury on May 3, D’Orio was recalled — on an emergency basis — to the NHL roster for the first time in his career May 7. One day later, D’Orio dressed for his first NHL game, serving as backup to Lagace in the season finale.

D’Orio was briefly returned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on May 14 and played his final game of the season May 15, making 23 saves on 24 shots in a 2-1 road overtime win against the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. One day later, he was recalled to Pittsburgh and served on the Black Aces squad during the postseason.

The future: A lot of things well above D’Orio’s pay grade will need to happen to dictate his place in the organization in 2021-22. After Jarry’s flameout in the playoffs, the Penguins could very well bring in another goaltender who could replace Jarry or at the very least present a legit threat to claim the No. 1 job.

Such a transaction would obviously impact the rest of the goaltenders in the organization.

That said, the undrafted D’Orio, took a big step forward in 2020-21. Blessed with a little bit of size, he started to figure out the professional game a little bit more, even during the chaos that was the 2020-21 season orchestrated during a pandemic.

It might be a bit premature to assume D’Orio is ready to claim a regular NHL job. But, if nothing else, has proven he is capable of being a leading candidate to be the No. 1 goaltender in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton next season.

Follow the Penguins all season long.

Seth Rorabaugh is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Seth by email at srorabaugh@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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