With their 3-1 win in Syracuse Saturday, the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins crossed halfway in the 2016-17 AHL Hockey Season. They are the best team in the AHL and have been for about a month or so and one of the AHL’s top teams all season.
So making grades for the second quarter should be a walk in the park.
So here’s how it works, everyone who skated in a game in the last 19 games for the Penguins since December 3 gets a blurb, players that have played in 6 or more games get a grade. Only those stats during the 19 games played are listed in stats.
Please skip through the jump if you didn’t link in direct and let’s get started.
Josh Archibald – 4-5-9, +13, 19 GP – Started putting Archibald’s numbers together and was really surprised by the +/-. Nine points, given Archibald’s role, is right where he should be and it’s nice to see the offense finally coming together. Grade: B+
Teddy Blueger – 3-3-6, +5, 16 GP – Blueger and Tom Sestito have developed some fourth line chemistry and it has been great to see as the Penguins continue to roll. You can see his confidence beaming in every game and every shift he takes. This next period will be a good test to see how much more Blueger can bring to the table offensively. Grade: B+
J-S Dea – 3-3-6, +3, 19 GP – Dea has played every game this season but one, when he was scratched. Is it a situation where he his not given the chance to show his offensive side because of all of the firepower on this team right now? I think so. Dea has shown the ability to go to the dirty areas of the ice and that has been where he has scored most of his goals. If he starts getting hot and this team remains intact, Wilkes-Barre will become unbeatable. Grade: C+
Reid Gardiner – 0-1-1, +2, 7 GP – Gardiner will get a mention here with the guys that get grades because he played seven of them, but he gets an incomplete because he returned back to juniors to play in the Western Hockey League. You only hope that the release was mutual and that if Gardiner decides to play in the AHL again, he does so with the Penguins because he was just a player that wasn’t getting playing time because he was on a loaded team stacked with talent. Grade: Incomplete
Jake Guentzel – 14-11-25, +17, 17 GP – You and your buddy are playing a video game. You are both great video game players and can beat anyone else playing this game but you have a cheat code and win all the time. That’s how Jake Guentzel must feel playing in the AHL. He is simply on another level. Watch him make plays. See how he waits for the rush to go by before feathering a pass to a teammate for a shot on goal? See how he makes plays off the wall to get by a guy for a chance on net? See that goal where he faked out the goalie with a changeup? That’s things that they teach in the AHL that Guentzel has mastered. It’s only a matter of time before he graduates, with honors, to the NHL. Grade: A+
Ryan Haggerty – 2-2-4, +4, 11 GP – Haggerty is a player lumped in with the Sahir Gill’s on the team that are vying for the 13th forward spot. I think he belongs in the lineup more, but with the way that Teddy Blueger is developing coupled with the way Tom Sestito has reinvented his game, it’s a tough couching decision to make to place Haggerty in the lineup consistently. Grade: C
Tom Kostopoulos – 6-9-15, -4, 19 GP – Here’s one thing I mined going through Kostopoulos’ numbers. At no point in the second quarter was he ever a player on the plus side of +/-. But that doesn’t seem to matter here as Kostopoulos, at near age 40, keeps piling up the points. There doesn’t seem to be any stopping him. Grade: A
Danny Kristo – 3-3-6, +1, 16 GP – It’s been an interesting second quarter for Kristo, his first full quarter with Wilkes-Barre since being acquired from Chicago for Reid McNeill. Is it more of a case of having players like Josh Archibald and Jake Guentzel on the team that Kristo isn’t leaned on offensive like days gone by or has he lost a step? I don’t really have an answer to that question because Kristo has become a regular player in the lineup only being scratched three times, most recently in Syracuse Saturday. I’d say his numbers have been average, and that’s where the grade will be. Grade: C
Kevin Porter – 2-10-12, E, 18 GP – Was suspended a game for a hit against Rob O’Gara of Providence. Plays the setup role nicely as the assists show. Centers the top line. Offense really when you think about it, runs through Porter. Is probably third or fourth in line for a call-up. Grade: B
Tom Sestito – 5-3-8, +2, 14 GP – Sestito is a fighter. The AHL wants to phase out fighting. Guys who fight for a living in this league will be gone in two years. Not Sestito. What does he do in response to the AHL’s crackdown on knuckle throwing? Become one of the biggest offensive threats on the ice. He has a great setup man in Teddy Blueger, and is finishing. If you fight for a living and that’s all you do, you fade away. Sestito is playing like someone who deserves to be in the lineup and will contribute with points instead of penalty minutes. You just hope he keeps it up. Grade: A-
Dominik Simon – 2-12-14, -2, 19 GP – One of the two regulars in the lineup with a minus. Simon’s goal scoring prowess has been snakebit since last year. Asissts are there, but no one remembers who assisted on the goal, they remember who scored the goal. Maybe he turns it on soon. Grade: B-
Oskar Sundqvist – 8-9-17, +10, 19 GP – Nearly point a game, with a great +/- and an everyday player and most nights you forget about him. That’s the type of player Sundqvist is. He’s biding his time in the AHL while Jake Guentzel continues to dazzle. Pittsburgh could recall both he and Guentzel, insert both into the lineup and they would look like everyday NHL players. Make no mistake, Sundqvist’s presence here in Wilkes-Barre is one of the reasons why the Penguins are in first place overall in the AHL. Grade: A+
Garrett Wilson – 6-7-13, +11, 19 GP – These numbers are awesome and Wilson has probably been overshadowed by the likes of Jake Guentzel and Oskar Sundqvist. But when you see him on the ice don’t you think that he leaves you wanting more from him? I do. He can still play in the NHL and should be striving to get there. Maybe he is happy in his role in the AHL and if so, great. I just get this feeling like he should be a point a game player. Maybe I am overanalyzing. Grade: B
Lukas Bengtsson – 1-4-5, +15, 11 GP – That plus minus for Bengtsson is something else, isn’t it? Product of being a player that can hold his own defensively coupled with the fact that the Penguins have been the best team in the AHL for quite some time. Grade: A-
Tim Erixon – 2-5-7, +6, 13 GP – Erixon has been in and out of the lineup because of nagging injuries. Not the best defenseman on the team, not the worst either. That’s just fine. Grade: C+
Cameron Gaunce – 2-1-3, -7, 19 GP – These numbers shock me a bit because you would think a team that only has 7 regulation losses would not have a defenseman playing in every game this quarter with a plus / minus south of five, but such is the case with Cameron Gaunce. With the Penguins being one of the top defensive teams in the AHL, I am not going to be too harsh on Gaunce. Grade: C+
Stuart Percy – 1-4-5, +3, 16 GP – Percy is finally healthy it seems and a plug in type player that can be paired with anyone. Offense is there when the forwards let him score. Grade: B+
Derrick Pouliot – 1-7-8, +7, 13 GP – I think his second reassignment to the AHL really shook up Pouliot in a good way because all of his points this quarter came after that second demotion. He needed to play like a player with a bee in his bonnet and has been, so far. Grade: B
Ethan Prow – 0-1-1, -8, 13 GP – Trial by fire for Prow who most nights looks great but other nights looks lost and when you are the best team in the AHL everyone you play is going to get up to play and beat you. Prow will learn and will continue to develop. He will be fine. Grade: C
Chad Ruhwedel – 2-5-7, E, 9 GP – Ruhwedel has been recalled and missed the last month. Penguins are a good team without him and a great team with him. Grade: B
David Warsofsky – 4-17-21, +21, 14 GP – Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. Penguins were already sending a coach, a forward and a goaltender to Allentown laster this month. They couldn’t find room for Warsofsky though so he was snubbed. A nice consolation prize was being named AHL Player of the Week last week. Grade: A+
Casey DeSmith – 9 GP, 6-2-1, 2.86 GAA, .889 SV% – Don’t get too put off by DeSmith’s numbers. He can adapt to a game and keep it close like he did this past Saturday in Syracuse or keep his team in it during a game where goals just pour in. Still looking for his first regular season shutout. I think it comes this quarter. Grade: A
Tristan Jarry – 9 GP, 8-1, 2.23 GAA, .921 SV% – Jarry was named to the Atlantic Division AHL All-Star squad and is slowly edging ahead as the full blown number one in Wilkes-Barre. With huge matchups with Lehigh Valley on the schedule in the third quarter, look for Jarry to carry the share of the games in the second half of the season as long as he and the two guys tending nets in Pittsburgh stay healthy. Grade: A+
Again, players with five or less games played get thrown in this bucket. No grades, just mentions.
Jarrett Burton – No points, -1, 4 GP – Burton was sent to Wheeling about two weeks ago. He should have company in Patrick McGrath fairly soon, in my opinion.
Doug Carr – 2 GP, 1-0, 3.00 GAA, .897 SV% – Carr appeared in two games and won one. He can be a capable backup if something catastrophic happens to Marc-Andre Fleury or Matt Murray up top or Tristan Jarry or Casey DeSmith here.
Sahir Gill – 1-1-2, +1, 5 GP – Gill gets lumped in with players that get incomplete grades. I think that he should be playing more or at the very least use Gill as the 13th forward and insert him into the lineup on the tail end of a three in three weekend for another guy. If not, send him to Wheeling.
Barry Goers – No points, -2, 6 GP – Goers is your plug in player and really more of an eighth defenseman than he is a seventh. He’s capable but knows his role. Grade: C
Patrick McGrath – No points, -1, 4 games played. I don’t know why they keep McGrath up in Wilkes-Barre when he really belongs in Wheeling if the Penguins aren’t going to play him. With Tom Sestito back and producing, look for McGrath to be sent to Wheeling sooner rather than later.
Carter Rowney – 2-1-3, +1, 2 GP – Rowney just returned from injury and has started to put up numbers again and has no residuals from whatever his upper body injury was. He falls in the ‘incomplete’ threshold for now. Watch him run away now piling up points as the third quarter gets going Monday afternoon in Syracuse.
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