Chirps from Center Ice

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

First Quarter Grades

The Penguins hit the quarter pole of the 2014-15 season with a 5-1 win in Albany on Friday night. To make it easier on me to pass out grades, I have included the stats that went with the 3-2 loss to Manchester Saturday night bringing the total games played by the Penguins to 20 instead of 19. I’ll adjust in future quarters.

The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins sit at the top of the East Division with a 11-8-1-0 record, good for 23 points. With a lineup full of first and second year guys and not hit by the injury or call-up bug that badly, I don’t think I could come across anyone upset with the start that the Penguins have had.

One thing you will see me refer to from time to time in player capsules is GF%, which is part of my season long examination of goals scored both for and against the Penguins, in all situations. You can link over to that here, but know that the numbers I refer to are only good to before Wednesday night’s game in Hershey.

If you are new to the blog, here’s how the grades work. Anyone who skated in a game for the Penguins gets a grade. Pretty straightforward, right? Let’s get started, after you jump through if you didn’t link in direct.

Forwards

Josh Archibald (9 GP, 2-2-4, +1) — Rookie in his first year pro doesn’t look out of place so far. Was injured in practice and missed the first part of the season. Grade: B

Jean-Sebastien Dea (16 GP, 5-7-12, +3) — If Jayson Megna is in fact graduated to full time NHL work, his replacement would likely be Dea, and the kid won’t be out of place. Dea is better on the power play than Megna is, and has a higher overall GF% (75%) than Megna. I’d like to see him in the lineup more and more to see what he can do and if this trend can continue. Grade: A

Andrew Ebbett (16 GP, 5-11-16, +10) — Ebbett leads the team in scoring, and is in the Top 25 in AHL scoring. His success on the ice usually dictates the teams overall success that night. Grade: A+

Bobby Farnham (17 GP, 0-3-3, -2) — Went overboard in Hershey a few weeks ago and got suspended a game, but he is exactly the type of player that you want on your team. Busts his tail very shift. Grade: B-

Tom Kostopoulos (17 GP, 2-3-5, -1) —Kostopoulos hasn’t needed to carry the offensive load like he did last season for the Penguins thanks to fresher legs in the lineup this season. Average numbers for the veteran Kostopoulos. Grade: C

Tom Kuhnhackl (16 GP, 1-3-4, +3) — Some nights you notice him, other nights you don’t. It’s Kuhnhackl’s second full year of pro and these types of numbers really isn’t going to do anything to get you called up. His 44% GF% is lowest among forwards who are looked upon to contribute offensively from time to time. Grade: C

Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond (13 GP, 0-0-0, -3) — With fighting being taken out of the game more and more, Leblond’s role is fading. Grade: C

Matia Marcantuoni (8 GP, 0-1-1, -1) — Marcantuoni wasn’t getting any benefit in his current role with the team, so he was sent to Wheeling where he has totally dominated and is among the team leaders in points there. Grade: C

Jayson Megna (17 GP, 9-3-12, +8) — Megna is currently on NHL recall to Pittsburgh, and the NHL Pens are trying to model him into a full time NHL player. At the AHL level, I don’t think there is anything left for Megna to prove. His 53.85% GF% shows that he needs to work on his defense, but that has been on his scouting report for years. Grade: A

Adam Payerl (11 GP, 0-1-1, even) — I don’t know what it is about Payerl, he’s been a regular scratch in the lineup more recently and hasn’t really established himself at all. Maybe a trip to Wheeling could benefit? If not, you could see him get traded like Paul Thompson was last season. Grade: D

Carter Rowney (9 GP, 1-2-3, +3) — Rowney is a call-up from Wheeling getting more playing time than Adam Payerl. He’s got better offensive numbers than Payerl and has a better GF%. Rowney is a guy that started the season in the ECHL looking to find a home in the AHL. I think he’s found one. Grade: B

Bryan Rust (20 GP, 7-4-11, -1) — Rust has appeared in every game and led all AHL rookies in scoring for a time before hitting a dry spell. He’s developing a role as a key contributor of the team and you want to see this trend continue into the second quarter and beyond. Grade: B+

Conor Sheary (11 GP, 5-0-5, -1) — Sheary was hurt at the beginning of the year and hasn’t been the house on fire like he was in the Calder Cup Playoffs. But this is his first year professional against a different opponent every night, not the same opponent in a playoff series. I’m interested in seeing what Sheary can do in the second quarter. Grade: B

Zack Torquato (8 GP, 1-0-1, even) — Was a call-up when Sheary and Archibald was sidelined and went back to Wheeling. Will probably see him again soon. Grade: C

Dominik Uher (19 GP, 3-3-6, +4) — Uher has probably been the biggest player overshadowed by the rookie class for the simple fact that he has appeared in nearly every game. It’s important for Uher to not get left behind by the rookies. I would like to see a spike in his points. Don’t be alarmed by his 45.83% GF%, he kills penalties a lot and the penalty kill unit isn’t the greatest. (29th out of 30 AHL teams) Grade: B

Scott Wilson (19 GP, 3-8-11, +9) — I’m loving Wilson’s body of work 20 games in. Wilson leads the team in GF% (88%) and has consistently been at the top of the big board all season. You sometimes forget about Wilson when you watch the game, but he’s always on the ice when good things happen. Grade: A-

Defense

Taylor Chorney (20 GP, 2-4-6, +16) — Chorney and Brian Dumoulin lead the AHL in plus / minus. The first call up should the need arise in my opinion is either Dumoulin or Chorney, in my opinion. Grade: A

Brian Dumoulin (20 GP, 1-8-9, +15) — If Dumoulin adds more offense to his game, he’s NHL ready and I think that lack of offensive prowess is what separates him as a minor leaguer vs. an NHL player. You can make an argument now that he is NHL ready, but the Pittsburgh lineup is a tough one to crack. Grade: A

Scott Harrington (14 GP, 0-3-3, +3) — Harrington has been on the Pittsburgh taxi a few times this season but hasn’t actually appeared yet in a game. The Penguins are a better team when Harrington is in the lineup. Grade: B

Reid McNeill (20 GP, 1-2-3, -4) — McNeill isn’t going to put up a ton of points, so that means he’s a defensive-defenseman. His -15 goal differential is the largest on the team. The hope is that McNeill can start buttoning this up. Grade: C

Derrick Pouliot (14 GP, 2-10-12, -4) — Pouliot has stellar offensive numbers. But looking more deeper into the numbers, his overall GF% is 58.33% and his even strength GF% is a paltry 35.71%, amongst the lowest on the team. He’s great on the power play, but every where else, he’s not close to NHL ready as most people think. The numbers don’t lie. Grade: B-

Philip Samuelsson (20 GP, 0-4-4, -3) — If the other team scores, Samuelsson is usually on the ice when it happens. It’s not a knock, it’s a fact. 12 even strength goals scored against and 12 power play goals scored against. Samuelsson will have his day in the NHL someday, but that day may not come soon. Grade: C

Goaltenders

Jeff Zatkoff (10 GP, 5-5, 2.18 GAA, 0.900 SV%) — Zatkoff’s numbers aren’t exactly like they were two years ago with this team, but take away opening weekend and the fact that he missed about three weeks with injury, he is this teams number one. Grade: B

Matt Murray (9 GP, 4-3-1, 2.37 GAA, 0.902 SV%) — Murray has proved that while Zatkoff was down with injury that he was more than capable of carrying the load as the number one. This is great for him and the Penguins, because he is backing up one of the best. Grade: B+

Incomplete

Players that have appeared in six games or fewer appear here. No grades, just warm words.

Beau Bennett: Was here for a rehab assignment that wasn’t labeled as a rehab assignment. Had a four assist game against Syracuse. Was recalled that following Tuesday.

Alex Boak: Small sample size of five games, but his GF% isn’t bad (60%) but it’s not enough for him to get regular minutes with Wilkes-Barre. In fact, was sent to Wheeling Monday.

Nick D’Agostino: Wasn’t seeing any time in Wilkes-Barre so he was sent to Wheeling where he gets to play every game. Was swapped for Alex Boak Monday and is again with the Penguins.

Nick Drazenovic: Has battled with a lower body injury. When he gets healthy again, who do you scratch?

Barry Goers: With this defensive unit, Goers may never see the lineup again till January.

Eric Hartzell: Didn’t look great, didn’t look terrible in his two game appearance for the Penguins as Murray’s backup when Zatkoff was down with injury. Is with the Wheeling Nailers.

Harrison Ruopp: Is with the team because of a roster limit in the ECHL. I doubt we will see the sight of him any time soon.

Anton Zlobin: Needed a breakout 2014-15, and instead struggled and got hurt and is out week to week.

If you disagree with my assessment / grade of a player, please let me know in the comments.

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