The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins will his the three quarter pole when they take on the Hershey Bears next Saturday before hitting the road again to Hartford, Connecticut next Sunday. Currently, there are 20 games left and the Penguins remain at the top of the Atlantic Division with strong play. For simplicity sake, I am cutting off the last game scheduled for next Saturday in Hershey which technically puts the Penguins 3/4’s of the way through to give you the Third Quarter Grades today.
Only players who played in eight or more games get a grade. I start with forwards and go alphabetically. Here goes….
Josh Archibald – 14 GP, 4-3-7, +5 – Archibald had a well deserved call up to Pittsburgh a few weeks ago and left an impression. With forwards healing up in the NHL Archibald may not get another call this season, but if he does the management knows that he’s more than capable of handling the skill level of the NHL. As long as he stays in the AHL he remains an asset. Grade: A
Teddy Blueger – 18 GP, 2-13-15, +10 – Only other player other than Tom Kostopoulos and Dominik Simon who has appeared in every game this quarter. Superb, breakout quarter for Blueger who is a plug in type player you can use anywhere. Grade: A+
J-S Dea – 17 GP, 5-6-11, +3 – Dea has probably next in line behind Archibald on player to be recalled to Pittsburgh. His production increased in the third quarter and he’s really coming into his own and becoming a dangerous player. Phantoms fans hate him as he burns them. The Penguins play Lehigh Valley the most of any other opponent this home stretch. Grade: A
Sahir Gill – 15 GP, 3-5-8, +4 – Gill has come into his own and accepted the challenge of being an everyday player for the Penguins because of forwards being called up to Pittsburgh. I am happy with the numbers put forth by Gill and he will only improve on these. He’s quietly been one of the Penguins more unheralded players. Grade: A
Ryan Haggerty – 16 GP, 4-2-6, -1 – Haggerty is a useful third or fourth liner. That’s all you really can ask for. Grade: B-
Tom Kostopoulos – 18 GP, 8-9-17, +1 – Was talking to a friend the other day and was speaking on why the Penguins were in the slide that they were in during the four game losing streak. One of the things I told them was that they Penguins were relying too heavily on a 38 year old to carry the load offensively. But that doesn’t seem to faze the veteran Kostopoulos who does not seem to want to slow down as he approaches 40 years old. Even at full strength up front, Kostopoulos can still run with the young guns. Grade: A+
Patrick McGrath – 9 GP, 0-0-0, +3 – Two more fights for McGrath and he is automatically suspended by the AHL because of their sissified rules on fighting. Anyone want to take a bet on when that is? As for a grade, McGrath didn’t record a point in the Quarter, but when he is on the ice he is an exciting player to watch because you never know what will happen when he’s on it. Grade: C+
Kevin Porter – 17 GP, 2-11-13, -2 – Porter’s presence is really helping the Penguins maintain first place in the division and one of the best teams in the AHL. He’s fifth in the team in points, fourth if you take Jake Guentzel’s name out of the mix and an extremely valuable player. Grade: A
Tom Sestito – 17 GP, 1-6-7, -1 – Sestito has become a useful player for the Penguins and a threat to score and throw fists. Sestito has phased out the pugilistic end of his play and is a solid contributor. It’s going to be hard to get him out of the lineup. Grade: B
Dominik Simon – 18 GP, 4-9-13, +2 – Goals are up this quarter for Simon who has a lethal scoring touch and can put it to use more often than not. I’d like to see him become even more of an offensive scoring threat. Grade: B
Oskar Sundqvist – 14 GP, 2-2-4, -5 – Anyone who is asking why Sundqvist isn’t in the NHL need look no further than these numbers he put up this quarter. Are these numbers ones that scream NHL everyday player? Not to me. Sundqvist’s day will come, but it’s clear that he needs more seasoning. Grade: C+
Garrett Wilson – 13 GP, 2-4-6, -2 – It’s no surprise than when Garrett Wilson went down with injury on a suspendible hit by Lehigh Valley Phantoms defenseman Sam Morin that the Penguins started to struggle to get goals and leads. Wilkes-Barre fell into an uncharacteristic four game losing streak. One player does not a team make, but Wilson’s presence on the lower lines opens up opportunities for players. When he heals up and gets back into the lineup for the Penguins it should be around playoff time. Grade: B+
Tim Erixon – 11 GP, 1-1-2, -5 – It’s been a disappointing quarter for Erixon. He is the type of player that should be in the lineup more often but when Wilkes-Barre is full at defense he’s a healthy scratch. He’s battled injuries, but that only goes so far. If you are hurt, get out of the lineup and heal up and don’t be a detriment to your team. With Pittsburgh / Wilkes-Barre being in the season where someone gets injured daily, Erixon, if healthy is going to need to step up huge in the fourth quarter if the Penguins wish to sustain the run they have been on. Grade: C
Cameron Gaunce – 9 GP, 0-5-5, +10 – Gaunce’s presence is sorely missed in Wilkes-Barre, plain and simple. He s the engine that makes the train run smoothly. If he gets back, other teams should watch out. Grade: A
Barry Goers – 11 GP, 1-1-2, +2 – Goers is a capable defenseman and scored a big overtime goal this past Saturday to beat the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and snap the Penguins four game losing streak. I’d put him in over both Erixon and Percy right now. Grade: B
Stuart Percy – 16 GP, 0-1-1, +2 – These numbers are not first round draft pick numbers. Durability is not an issue with Percy as he’s played in nearly every game for the Penguins this Quarter, he’s been the most disappointing defenseman on the Penguins certainly this quarter. Perhaps he gets packaged at the trade deadline for someone in a deal by Jim Rutherford. Grade: D
Derrick Pouliot – 16 GP, 4-2-6, E – In this microwave society, we want everything yesterday. Such is not the case with the development of Derrick Pouliot who many expected to be in Pittsburgh months ago. That hasn’t happened yet because of a number of reasons. Is Derrick Pouliot an NHL caliber defesneman that you can feel confident to put out there with the game on the line? If the answer is no then is he a defenseman you would rather see in the press box or playing in the minors honing his skills? The answer is the latter for the management of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Grade: B
Ethan Prow – 16 GP, 1-5-6, +2 – It’s been a trial by fire for Prow in his rookie season. Some nights you barely notice him (good) others your really notice him (bad) and that could mean a bad turnover that leads a to a goal for the opposing team. Presently, Prow’s status is up in the air as he is injured now having sustained the ailment last Saturday in Utica. Grade: B-
David Warsofsky – 17 GP, 5-5-10, +6 – The lone bright spot of the regular blue liners is Warsofsky, whom Wilkes-Barre owes much to because without his services, the Penguins could be mired in a battle for second, third or worse in the division. I get the sense that he may be insulated from call-up to Pittsburgh because the Penguins do not want to lose him to waivers like they did last year. Grade: A
Casey DeSmith – 5 GP, 3-2, 2.21 GAA, .919 SV% – Nearly identical numbers for DeSmith as the number one goaltender in Tristan Jarry. Grade reflects the backup role, but as you will see there isn’t much drop off. DeSmith will be a capable number one if there is a move that sees Marc-Andre Fleury depart at the trade deadline. Grade: B+
Tristan Jarry – 13 GP, 7-6, 2.60 GAA, .915 SV% – Jarry has established himself as the true number one goaltender in Wilkes-Barre. The numbers put him in the top ten among goaltenders in the AHL. Should the need for call up or injury arise, hoary has a capable backup in Casey DeSmith. Grade: A
As mentioned in the open, players with seven or fewer games payed get a mention here with no grade.
Jarrett Burton – 7 GP, 1-1-2, -2 – Wheeling call-up and a bubble ECHL / AHL player. Will probably go back down when Carter Rowney gets back in town. Hasn’t been a liability out there, he’s just looking for a shot to stick on an AHL roster.
Christian Hilbrich – 3 GP, 0-0-0, E – Hilbrich is a monster, standing in at 6’7, 261 pounds. I was telling that same friend I was talking to in the Kostopoulos capsule that with Hilbrich, he needs to use his big size effectively. With the forward corps stripped down, Hilbrich’s greenhorn status is exposed more often versus being insulated in a lineup stacked with talent. If he puts it all together, then the Penguins will have one special player on their hands.
Steve Oleksy – 6 GP, 0-1-1, +3 – Oleksy was down for six games then called back up to Pittsburgh when defensemen started going down again. Perhaps he will come back. If it comes down to either he or Cameron Gaunce, Oleksy may be the one heading back west to Wilkes-Barre from Pittsburgh.
Carter Rowney – 6 GP, 3-2-5, -3 – Rowney doens’t classify for a grade here, but look for him to be reassigned back to Wilkes-Barre sooner rather than later as long as no setbacks are met to the forwards coming back from injury in Pittsburgh. The AHL Penguins will welcome his offensive acumen.
Brett Stern – 6 GP, 0-0-0, -1 – Wheeling defensive call-up. Has shown flashes of brilliance, but the sample size isn’t enough to offer a grade because he doesn’t meet the requires number of games played.
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