Welcome to the fourth and final installment of the Chirps from Center Ice Fourth Quarter Grades!
Before we get to that though, let’s off some news that happened Sunday…
Jeff Deslauriers and Eric Hartzell won the Hap Holmes Award, which is given to the goaltenders with at least 25 games played on the team that allows the fewest goals in the regular season.
As crazy as the hockey world is, Hartzell and Deslauriers are afterthoughts now with the resurgence of Peter Mannino. In fact, in these grades, Hartzell and Deslauriers get “incompletes” for not meeting the 6 game threshold to get a grade. That’s how forgotten those two are.
It’s the third time in four seasons under Head Coach John Hynes that the Penguins have ranked first in goals against.
Elsewhere, when someone talked to you about Westward expansion in the AHL, you’d normally scoff at them. Not so fast my friend. It’s a building crescendo now as this report out of Cedar Park had words from AHL Commissioner David Andrews in it. It may be an interesting next couple of years in the AHL.
Alright, so back to the Grades. Anyone who skated in this Quarter gets talked about. If you didn’t play in at least six games, you get no grade and placed in the “Incomplete” category.
If you didn’t link in direct, hop through for the Grades…
Josh Archibald — (7 GP, 1-0-1, even) — Archibald wowed in his second game on his ATO and scored a goal against the Norfolk Admirals. Since, not much. But as the ATO and a future Penguin, it’s about being a sponge and soaking it all in and not turning the puck over. Grade: C+
Mike Carman — (15 GP, 0-0-0, -2) — Carman’s role isn’t scoring, it’s more checking. Can hold his own and has shown it and the numbers have too. Grade: B
Nick Drazenovic — (17 GP, 2-5-7, +2) — Drazenovic had a veteran scratch in a game in Norfolk, but hasn’t been since. Secondary scoring from him will be key in the postseason. Grade: B
Andrew Ebbett — (15 GP, 4-13-17, +5) — Ebbett had a 12 game point streak. If he re-ignites this someplace during playoffs, it may be a long, deep run for the Penguins. Grade: A+
Bobby Farnham — (18 GP, 2-2-4, -1) — Since there really isn’t any fighting in playoffs, that doesn’t mean Farnham doesn’t dial it down. The two goals and two assists are a bonus, too. Grade: B-
Chuck Kobasew — (12 GP, 11-2-13, +7) — The best player for the Penguins was a godsend after being outcast from Pittsburgh. Absolutely tearing it up for the Penguins. If Kobasew has success in the playoffs for Wilkes-Barre, so will the Penguins. Grade: A+
Tom Kostopoulos — (17 GP, 2-6-8, +1) — The lifeblood of this team. You don’t think he wants to get this city a Calder Cup? Watch this weekend. Not a bad final quarter for Kostopoulos, either.
Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond — (17 GP, 1-0-1, -4) — Fists will get a break now as no one fights in playoffs. You wonder if some of those ATOs wowed enough Saturday in Utica to consider scratching Leblond.
Spencer Machacek — (13 GP, 4-2-6, +5) — If Machacek doesn’t return next year, he’ll probably land with a team that doesn’t have a veteran issue, as he’s been the odd man out for the Pens with the arrival of Chuck Kobasew. You really can’t justify scratching him, he’s done so well since coming over in the Paul Thompson trade in February. Grade: B+
Denver Manderson — (8 GP, 1-3-4, +2) — Played in eight games at the start of the Quarter and was shuffled out when Chuck Kobasew came to town. Grade: C+
Adam Payerl — (16 GP, 3-2-5, +1) — Payerl surprised some getting a two game call up to Pittsburgh. The staff thinks highly of him. I’d still like to see some offense out of him on a more consistent basis. Grade: B
Carter Rowney — (8 GP, 1-0-1, even) — Recalled from Wheeling after the coaching staff pulled the plug on the Tom Kuhnhackl Experiment and hasn’t looked that out of place. Would still like to get some more scoring from him, but Chuck Kobasew won’t pass him the puck. Grade: C
Dominik Uher — (18 GP, 2-3-5, +7) — Most underrated player for the Penguins is probably Uher, who goes unnoticed most nights, in the best way possible. Grade: B+
Anton Zlobin — (16 GP, 3-6-9) — If Anton Zlobin scores in the playoffs, the Penguins are probably winning that game because that means Wilkes-Barre will be getting secondary scoring. Overall not a bad period for Zlobin. Grade: B+
Harry Zolnierczyk — (11 GP, 1-5-6, +3) — Zolnierczyk has been on the bubble all season going up and coming down to Pittsburgh. He’s here now and should be down for good which should help.
Nick D’Agostino — (15 GP, 0-2-2, -1) — Has seen more game action this period from last. D’Agostino’s first year was a trial by fire. Grade: C+
Brian Dumoulin — (16 GP, 2-7-9, +7) — Dumoulin returned from his minor injury last weekend, one that the Penguins clinched. Will be relied on heavily to shut down the top line of the Binghamton Senators this weekend. Grade: A
Barry Goers — (14 GP, 0-2-2, +2) — Goers played well enough to get an AHL contract for the Penguins and was a staple on the blue line for Wilkes-Barre. Grade: B
Scott Harrington — (19 GP, 2-5-7, +6) — Harrington is the only player to appear in every game for the Penguins. A remarkable feat for the rookie defenseman. Respectable numbers throughout. Grade: A
Reid McNeill — (17 GP, 0-1-1,+5) — Probably no coincidence that the Penguins lost both of their games this past weekend with McNeill out of the lineup with an injury. Should be good to go Friday in Game 1 in Binghamton. Grade: B
Brendan Mikkelson — (17 GP, 2-6-8, +6) — Was a veteran scratch once. That mistake wasn’t made again. Not like it had to be, Mikkelson is the anchor that keeps this corps running. Grade: B+
Philip Samuelsson — (9 GP, 0-1-1, -1) — Samuelsson was hurt March 26 against Providence and is still a week or two away, if not more. Getting Samuelsson back this season would mean a lot, and would help too. Grade: B
Peter Mannino — (13 GP, 9-3-1, 1.23 GAA, .940 SV%, 4 SO’s) — The Prodigal Son returns and puts up insane numbers. Goaltender of the Month for March, leaving all other goaltenders in this Quarter in the dust. If these numbers continue, the Penguins may be celebrating in June. Grade: A+
Players with 6 or less games played. No grades, just some warm words.
Beau Bennett — (3 GP, 0-1-1, even) — Three game conditioning stint for Bennett, who would have been eligible to be sent here for playoffs had he not been injured all season for Pittsburgh.
Chris Conner — (2 GP, 0-0-0, -2) — Like Bennett, Conner was sent here for conditioning. Conner’s stint was the final weekend of the season.
Jeff Deslauriers — (2 GP, 2-0, 2.40, .909 SV%) — Started year as number one guy, then was yo-yo’d from starter to backup. His injury has gone virtually unnoticed with the play of Mannino.
Simon Despres — (2 GP, 0-1-1, +1) — Shuffled down by Pittsburgh because he is not in the picture for playoffs for the NHL club. His addition will help.
Eric Hartzell — (1 GP, 0-1, 6.00, .778 SV%) — Went from hero in his January Goaltender of the Month Award from zero when he fell off a cliff and was sent to Wheeling then was torched by the Binghamton Senators for 5 goals in the first period a few weeks ago. You hope that whatever it is that is bothering Hartzell is worked out this summer.
Jayson Megna — (6 GP, 0-2-2, even) — Megna was called up to Pittsburgh where he has stayed and thrived. May be graduated for good, depending on off season moves.
Harrison Ruopp — (5 GP, 0-0-0, -3) — I will ask the same question I asked last Quarter: Do you think he deserves more ice time over Nick D’Agostino?
Zach Sill — (2 GP, 0-0-0, -2) — Sill returned in the second to last weekend from his nasty skate cut blade in Norfolk back in January. A welcome addition.
Tomas Vokoun — (2 GP, 1-1, 2.41 GAA, .891 SV%) — Recovered from his blood clot which sidelined him in the Fall, played in a two game conditioning stint. Fans in Wilkes-Barre that Sunday afternoon against Toronto may have witnessed Vokoun’s final professional game.
Some players signed to ATO’s this Quarter include Jean-Sebastien Dea, Matia Marcantuoni, Goaltender Matt Murray, Bryan Rust, Conor Sheary and Scott Wilson. All saw a game or two at the tail end of the Quarter. None made any memorable teeth gnashing errors, which is a good thing. These men are the future of the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins.
If you disagree with my grades, spot an error or anything, leave me a comment.