The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins ended the 2016-17 campaign on Saturday night with the leagues best record of 51-20-3-2 good for 107 points and the top overall spot in the American Hockey League. They won the Atlantic Division Championship, the Eastern Conference Championship and the Macgregor Kilpatrick trophy for tops overall in the 30 team AHL.
The cadre of players graded here today played a large part in carrying what the recalled batch of players set them up for from grades before to the finish line.
Here’s how it works, everyone who played in the last 20 games for the Penguins gets a mention.
Six or less games gets an incomplete which will be mentioned at the bottom of this post. We start with the forwards as soon as you hop through the jump…
Josh Archibald – 9 GP, 5-1-6, +1 – Archibald is currently in Pittsburgh right now as the extra forward. Whether or not he returns in time for Game 1 against Providence Friday is anyone’s guess. Wilkes-Barre can certainly use the dynamic forward. Archibald’s numbers certainly warrant the call-up. Grade: B+
Zach Aston-Reese – 10 GP, 3-5-8, +2 – Aston-Reese hit the ground running and was a point a game player for a large stretch of his debut. I project him on a track like Jake Guentzel last season, and Guentzel’s meteoric production in the NHL needs no introduction. Grade: A
Teddy Blueger – 20 GP, 2-8-10, +9 – That plus / minus is something. Blueger has been the glue that has held this team together and really coming into his own after joining the team late last year. Grade: A+
Jarrett Burton – 19 GP, 5-3-8, +6 – Has become a regular in the lineup and a player who produces and you don’t notice it. At least I didn’t until I put his numbers together. This should continue as Head Coach Clark Donatelli puts Burton in situations he will thrive in. Grade: A
J-S Dea – 19 GP, 4-6-10, +7 – Dea would have played in all 20 games this quarter but was recalled for Pittsburgh’s final game against the New York Rangers a few weeks ago. He’s consistent and can score whenever he is out there on the ice. The plus / minus shows that he’s capable defensively also. Grade: A
Thomas DiPauli – 13 GP, 1-0-1, -1 – Wasted year for DiPauli who had back surgery, returned, and is out again. So many players with NHL potential are crippled by injuries. If he comes back while the Penguins are still playing you hope he does so 100% healthy and ready to contribute. Otherwise, the focus should be on next season. Grade: C-
Sahir Gill – 11 GP, 2-1-3, +4 – Gill is currently injured and seemed to be the hard luck forward who always found himself a scratch whenever there was player down from Pittsburgh or a new toy in the form of an ATO / PTO that the Penguins signed. The injury could not have come at a more inopportune time for Gill who was finally carving out a niche for himself. I almost want to go incomplete here grade wise. Grade: C
Ryan Haggerty – 20 GP, 4-6-10, +8 – Haggerty, like Burton, is a player you expect to see in the lineup night in and night out who contributes on a daily basis, almost unnoticed. We gave Burton an A, so let’s do the same here with Haggerty. Grade: A
Troy Josephs – 13 GP, 1-1-2, +1 – Josephs is not a liability by any stretch. This season for him is a bonus because he gets out in front of things for next year where he will be a big contributor to the Penguins for next season. Now, just look for him to contribute here and there. Grade: B
Tom Kostopoulos – 18 GP, 4-6-10, +4 – I don’t think that the retirement talk will or should come up for Kostopoulos, who clearly still has it. He’s the lifeblood of this team. Grade: A+
Adam Krause – 13 GP, 3-4-7, +10 – Coach is losing scorers to Pittsburgh or injury. Coach needs a guy to step up and score some key goals. Coach, I am that guy. That was Adam Krause’s mindset Saturday when the Penguins were down late against Bridgeport. Krause went 2-1-3 and a +3 in the final game of the season against the Sound Tigers. Is the enough to bump him grade wise? No. Is it enough to give him the spot over another guy in Game 1 against Providence Friday? Probably, yes. Grade: C
Patrick McGrath – 8 GP, 1-2-3, +1 – McGrath finally potted his first AHL goal in a game against the Hartford Wolf Pack on April 8. It was good to see that monkey get off his back because he does work hard when he is on the ice. Shockingly, McGrath was not suspended for amassing 10 fighting majors because he never got to that number. Depending on if personnel filters back to Pittsburgh before the Penguins run to the Calder Cup, McGrath’s services will be needed. Grade: B
Kevin Porter – 17 GP, 3-9-12, +2 – These numbers are OK from a standpoint when you are talking about Kevin Porter. He thrives when he has better line mates but with the Carter Rowney’s and Josh Archibald’s of the world going up the numbers are down. Still, Porter will be a key contributor to the Penguins run in the Calder Cup Playoffs. Grade: B
Dominik Simon – 17 GP, 6-7-13, +11 – Your fourth quarter MVP is Dominik Simon. He will be making a case to stick in Pittsburgh next season with his strong play to close out the season in the AHL. In playoffs, look for Simon and his line mates to create chance after chance to hopefully carry the Penguins to their first ever Calder Cup. Grade: A+
Oskar Sundqvist – 13 GP, 4-5-9, E – Focus of opposing teams game plans is stopping Oskar Sundqvist. While it may have worked, the scoring comes from Haggerty or Burton. Sundqvist will have a big playoffs, just watch. Grade: A-
Garrett Wilson – 8 GP, 0-2-2, E – Wilson returned from injury after being boarded and suffering a separated shoulder on a suspendible hit by Sam Morin. The offense isn’t where it should be, and that could be due to a number of factors. You are hoping that the scoring comes around and quickly. Grade: C
Frank Corrado – 17 GP, 1-3-4, +3 – I don’t know what everyone was clamoring over regarding Corrado. 4 points in 17 games and a +3 isn’t anything to get me excited about. Corrado had a brief cup of coffee with Pittsburgh after his acquisition and was quickly returned. He’s a restricted free agent in the summer, I don’t think he’s going to get a qualifying offer on the basis of what we have seen. Grade: D
Tim Erixon – 19 GP, 1-5-6, +8 – Erixon is the rock on the backend for the Penguins. The defensive unit for the Penguins has stayed the course and got the Penguins to where they are today. Usually it’s Tim Erixon driving the bus. Grade: A
Derrick Pouliot – 14 GP, 2-7-9, +9 – I haven’t had a problem with Pouliot’s play at all. It does appear that he is stuck in between the nothing left to prove at the AHL level and the hasn’t proved enough at the NHL level line. I guess that is good for us fans in Wilkes-Barre. Grade: A
Ethan Prow – 18 GP, 0-5-5, +5 – I have no qualms about Prow’s play of late. Thrust into the spotlight because of callups to Pittsburgh, Prow has held his own for the most part. Grade: B
Brett Stern – 11 GP, 0-2-2, +9 – Stern has not looked out of place at all in his 11 games here in the Fourth Quarter. Provided that Cameron Gaunce doesn’t come back, Stern is probably in for Game 1 against Providence. Even if Gaunce is available for Friday, I don’t take Stern out of the lineup. Grade: B+
David Warsofsky – 17 GP, 4-5-9, +4 – Boy, how important has Warsofsky been to this club? Like Erixon, he has been a huge piece in getting the Penguins to the best record in the league’s regular season. If he stays healthy, the Penguins can go deep, deep into the playoffs. Grade: A+
Casey DeSmith – 9 GP, 7-1-1, 1.33 GAA, .955 SV% – DeSmith actually finished the season with the league’s best goals against average at 2.01. DeSmith is not a stopgap for when Jarry returns, he isn’t even a 1B to Jarry’s 1A, he is playing like a starter on an AHL team which will play himself into an NHL contract this summer. Grade: A+
Tristan Jarry – 10 GP, 5-4-1, 1.70 GAA, .967 SV% – Nothing left to say here, Jarry’s play has been nothing short of spectacular. If and when Matt Murray returns from injury up top in Pittsburgh and Jarry returns, he will guide the Penguins through the playoffs and hopefully the Calder Cup. Grade: A+
These players just get mentions, no grades.
Cameron Gaunce (0-0-0, E) and Tom Sestito (0-1-1, E) – 2 GP each – Are with Pittsburgh at the time of this writing. Question becomes whether either return for playoffs.
Christian Hilbrich – 3 GP, 0-0-0, E – Hilbrich was used sparingly and his size is his biggest asset.
Sean Maguire – 1 GP, 1-0-0, 4.00 GAA, .846 SV% – Played the final game against the Sound Tigers and picked up the win, giving him confidence for next year where he should challenge for work.
Kevin Schulze (0-0-0, +1) and Dylan Zink (0-0-0, -2) – 1 GP each – Both played Saturday night against Bridgeport while regulars were rested.
Ryan Segalla – 1 GP, 0-0-0, E – Appeared in the March 25 game against Lehigh Valley.
Nick Sorkin – 3 GP, 0-0-0, +1 – Callup from Wheeling that played three games. Probably not going to be seen in the playoffs.
Jeff Taylor – 6 GP, 0-0-0, E – Taylor is just getting his feet wet in professional hockey.
Cody Wydo – 3 GP, 1-0-1, +1 – Callup from Wheeling that played three games. Probably not going to be seen in the playoffs.