Chirps from Center Ice

A fan blog about the AHL's Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins

First Quarter Grades

The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins passed the quarter pole with Saturday’s win vs. the Rochester Americans. With that, 20 games out of 80 are in the books. The first quarter complete, it’s time to pass out some grades.

Please note that I have never played hockey before in my life. That said, this blogging a minor league hockey team is sort of a passion of sorts, something to kill the spare time in a day. So these grades should by no means really mean anything, other than what a fan with a blog with 300 or so followers on Twitter has to think about them.

All stats are from the American Hockey League’s Daily Report and are good thru 5:15 a.m. November 28. No stats from yesterday’s win in Springfield are included below. That said let’s get started!

Dustin Jeffrey: Without a doubt, the next Pittsburgh call-up to stay up. His numbers are phenomenal at this point, (8-15-23) leads the team in points with 23, and is tops in the league in short-handed goals, which means he is one of the best penalty killers in the league. Every day he is in Wilkes-Barre is a bonus for us. Grade: A+

Brett Sterling: Has only played 14 games due to being injured for a spell, but is (7-6-13) and has been as good or better than advertised. Every time he is on the ice he is a threat to score. A leader in the locker room also. Would be an A+ with Jeffrey but missed some games so we’ll give him a, Grade: A

Tim Wallace: No other active player has played more games in a WBS uniform than Wallace. His (7-8-15) shows that he gets the systems in place by Hynes / Nasreddine and knows how to execute. Is a leader in the locker room. Grade: A

Andrew Hutchinson: Spent some time in Pittsburgh when they were dealing with injuries. Is (3-10-13) which means he is unselfish from the blueline on defense or his rockets get tipped en route to the goal. Was one of the big signings in the offseason and is a rock defensively. Has lived up to expectations so far. Grade A-

Joe Vitale: His game is all meat and potatoes. No one works harder than Vitale on the ice and it shows sometimes. Is a huge role player on this team. Is (5-6-11) and is +10. Would not surprise me one bit if he was called up to Pittsburgh once this year. Grade: A+

Chris Collins: Quietly a +9 on the team, is (4-5-9) and you barely notice him sometimes, yet he is on the ice when the goal is scored. Adds depth to this team. Grade: B+

Nick Johnson: Has been injured but has returned, and has taken some inopportune penalties of recent. His (3-6-9) is a bit disappointing, but with all the depth on the team he can easily get lost in the shuffle, but remains a lethal threat. Grade B+

Ryan Craig: The Captain. Missed a few games at the beginning of the year, and is (4-2-6). They say the Captain should be an extension of the coaching. Craig is that, and the early success shows. Grade B+

Robert Bortuzzo: Second year defenseman who is a joy watching develop into a bona fide NHL talent. Game isn’t supposed to be points (1-6-7) but production on the ice. Is a +10. Is everything you want your developing second year defenseman to be. Grade: A

Jesse Boulerice: The veteran NHL heavyweight is a voice in the locker room. Is a surprising (3-3-6) thru 20 games. Will stand up to any one any time. Grade: B

Steve Wagner: (2-3-5) Frankly a disappointment this year. Has been pointless in forever. If the other team scores, it’s usually due to Wagner’s spotty defensive play. He will need to tighten this up soon before I start calling for Joey Mormina in the lineup over him full-time. Grade: D

Brian Strait: Paired with Bortuzzo for the most part on the Pens blue line this year. Is (1-4-5) but like Bortuzzo, is by no means asked to chip in offensively. Is +9 and is another home-grown, budding NHL defenseman. Grade: A

Geoff Walker: Finally found the score sheet Saturday vs. Rochester, is (1-6-7) but was brought in as a role player and is filling that role quite nicely so far. Grade: B

Eric Tangradi: Started the year in Pittsburgh. Many in the 412 area code think that he is the answer to their woes whenever something goes wrong at that level. Is in his second professional year. Is only (4-1-5) and an argument can be made that with all the offensive juggernauts in front of him, he isn’t asked to score. Is a power forward with good hands. I will give him some leniency having only played 14 games, but he’ll need to start putting up Dustin Jeffrey-esque type numbers if he is to ever be given consideration to get the call to play and stay in Pittsburgh. Grade: B-

Zach Sill: Centers a fourth line on most nights. Is a grinder. His (2-2-4) just shows how deep this team really is. Will fight anyone. Grade: B+

Keven Veilleux: (1-3-4) Once he learns how to play the pro game, that is not look lost out there sometimes, BeastMode will be an absolute scoring terror. He’ll need at least two, maybe three years here in Wilkes-Barre. But again, once he catches on, get your popcorn ready. Grade: B-

Carl Sneep: Victim of a scratch here and there for Joey Mormina, Carl is a pure rookie learning on the fly. Is (1-1-2) and is just being a sponge out there with how to play, act and look like a pro. Grade: B

Bryan Lerg: (0-2-2) Has only played 11 games, but when he is in is not a liability out on the ice. Grade would be higher if only he played more games. Grade C

Corey Potter: Was injured a few games early in the year. Only (0-2-2) but as a defenseman is not asked to score. His -1 could be a victim of being paired with Steve Wagner. Was a depth signing from New York Rangers organization last year. Grade C+

Joey Mormina: Has played only 9 games, but really should have played more. Is here on a try out, which is a shame in my opinion as he was tops in +/- two years ago. If Steve Wagner continues his downward spiral, John Hynes would be silly not putting Mormina in the lineup over Wagner. Has not recorded a point, but is a +4 in the nine games he has played. Grade: (adjusted on a curve) B+

Chris Conner, Jason DeSantis, Drew Fata, Nick Petersen, Joey Haddad: But for Conner’s (3-6-9) the rest of these guys are either no longer here, in Wheeling or healthy scratches. Conner is currently serving time in Pittsburgh, something well deserved. I can’t really give grades here. Grade: Incomplete

Brad Thiessen: Has played more games than John Curry. His numbers (2.08 GAA, 0.927 SV% 9-2 record) are slightly better than Curry’s but it’s really an alternating 1a-1b tandem which can take the team very far this year. Curry has been around longer, and it only helps his own development having a younger guy coming in and push him. Will get a higher grade slightly due to numbers only. Grade: A

John Curry: Left for dead last year, has re-invigorated and found his game from when he was a rookie and took Wilkes-Barre to six games to the Calder Cup Finals in 2008. Getting pushed by the younger Thiessen, but instead of playing mad and having poor results, he is playing mad and not letting many pucks by him. At (2.43 GAA, 0.909 SV% 7-2 record) he shared goaltender of the month of October with Thiessen. Gets a lower grade than Brad simply because of the numbers game. Grade A-

So there you have it. Feel free to agree or disagree with me in the comments section. If you want to you can also e-mail me your thoughts.

Let’s Go Pens!

9 responses to “First Quarter Grades

  1. Kim November 29, 2010 at 11:59 am

    Nice article! I agree with all but a few of your grades! I would give Geoff Walker at least an A-. Everytime he is on the ice he is hustling hard. During that one home game where we fell apart, he was one of the only ones that showed up and played hard.

    Also, I know Sneep is a rookie…..but does he really deserve a B? I don’t think he does. Even though he is still learning, he should know what to do in many of the situations and he fails. IDK…I just don’t like him on the ice at all.

    • nafsnep November 29, 2010 at 12:51 pm

      Kim: First, thank you for reading and responding. Let me address my thought process for grading Walker and Sneep.

      Re: Walker – as I stated, he was brought in as a role player. He’s not asked to score goals. His role is to hustle and never give up on the play. Should a pure role player be ranked higher than Jeffrey, Sterling, Vitale, etc.? In my opinion no. He isn’t a liability on the ice which role players sometimes can tend to be, so therefore the B.

      Re: Sneep – on occassion he looks out of place, I grant you that. However when he does get scratched he normally comes back the next game looking better then the last game he played. He is a rookie under contract so by default Pittsburgh wants him to develop, which is accomplished by learning on the fly over a more experienced Joey Mormina (who is on a PTO). You also have to keep in mind he is playing off of the other defensemen out there. Given the faith Hynes & Co., have put in him I had to give him a B.

      I do appreciate your opinion though Kim. Thanks again for reading!

  2. Kim November 29, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    I can definitely see you point about why you gave Geoff the grade he did now. it makes sense 🙂

    He is def doing the job he was brought here to do, but I can see your point as to why you would give him a lower grade than those who do score a lot.

    As for Sneep….to each his or her own. haha

  3. JC November 29, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Nice recap. Hard to believe the season is one-quarter old. Do you have grades for the coach and asst. coach? Thanks for your twitter updates, especially the excitement you bring when there are goals (!!!!!!!)

  4. Melanie November 29, 2010 at 4:44 pm

    Very nice! Agreed with all grades, with the exception of Conner.

    Conner should be given a grade even though he is in Pittsburgh. He played for us and now has his shot.
    It’s a shame though that D.Jeff isn’t up there year.

    Of the playing time of Conner, here- what would you grade him?

    • nafsnep November 29, 2010 at 6:28 pm

      I debated giving Conner a grade, adjusted on a grade, but really couldn’t. Here’s why. Conner is in Pittsburgh. Dustin Jeffrey isn’t. Pretend for a minute Conner and Jeffrey are still here in Wilkes-Barre. Arguably, you can say that Jeffrey is more NHL ready to stay in Pittsburgh over Conner. Yet, Conner is chartering to Boston while Jeffrey is bussing to Bingo. Giving a grade to someone who is in Pittsburgh and succeeding isn’t really fair in my opinion.

      Thank you Melanie for your input and for reading! Appreciate it very much!

  5. frankie2003 November 29, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    Nice writeup. I think your grades highlight the main focus on this team…despite Jeffrey/Sterling/Wallace clearly being the “stars” this team has so much depth which is what helps us win games each and every night. The last two games are perfect examples as we have outscored opponents 4-0 in the third to claim two big victories

  6. Siena November 29, 2010 at 8:55 pm

    Don’t know if you can give Lerg that assessment. the kid does what’s asked of him when he’s in the lineup, he even earned a bump up in lines at one point, it’s more than I can say for a guy like Sill who’s done not much to keep a nighly spot on the ice over some guys who get scratched.