Chirps from Center Ice

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

Category Archives: Quarterly Grades

2016-17 Fourth Quarter Grades

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…

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2016-17 Third Quarter Grades

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….

Forwards

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+

Defensemen

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

Goaltenders

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

Incomplete

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.

Comments are there if you want to leave input.

2016-17 Second Quarter Grades

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.

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2016-17 First Quarter Grades

I decided this year to bring back the Quarterly Grades after a year long hiatus. Really, it’s because I need something to write about during a nearly week long layoff between Wilkes-Barre / Scranton games, so they are back for another year.

Here’s how it works. Anyone who played a game in these first 19 games, where the Penguins sit in first place in the Atlantic Division with a 13-4-2-0 record, good for 28 points or .737 percentage points, however you want to calculate it, gets a mention. Players with six or more games played get a grade.

Here you go, starting with the forwards, rolling in alphabetical order…

Forwards

Josh Archibald: 19 GP, 3-4-7, +6 — Look, I realize that the ‘GRK’ line has carried the offense and the defense has carried the mail in that category, but when the Penguins do lose, it’s because the opposing team shuts down the ‘GRK’ line and the defense lets a few in. Players like Archibald need to start filling in more offensively other than just 7 points in 19 games. If Archibald can start cashing on his chances, this Penguins team will be unbeatable. Grade: C

Jarrett Burton: 9 GP, 1-0-1, -1 — Burton finally found the scoresheet last Friday in Bridgeport, his only offensive contribution in nine games for the Penguins. You’d like to see more, but such is life for a fourth liner. Grade: C-

Jean-Sebastien Dea: 18 GP, 6-1-7, even — Was scratched last Friday in Bridgeport and took it to heart, coming out Saturday night at home against the Sound Tigers on a tear. Was the best player on the ice. Can’t grade a player based off of their last game played, but if Dea continues this, he will be among the likes of the Guentzel’s, Rowney’s and Porter’s as players in line for an NHL call-up. Grade: C

Thomas DiPauli: 8 GP, 1-0-1, +1 — Eight games played coming off of an injury suffered in training camp. DiPauli is still finding his legs and learning on the fly on how to play in the American Hockey League. He will get there. Grade: C

Reid Gardiner: 16 GP, 3-2-5, -4 — A castaway that signed after an impressive preseason after gaudy numbers in Junior. 5 points in 16 games is just fine for an undrafted player battling about six or seven players for playing time on the Penguins third or fourth line. Grade: B

Sahir Gill: 13 GP, 0-5-5, -3 — In a similar situation with Gardiner. That is, a player battling to become a consistent piece in the Wilkes-Barre lineup. Lower grade than Gardiner because of his AHL experience. Grade: C+

Jake Guentzel: 16 GP, 7-10-17, +14 — Best player on the team, was called up to Pittsburgh last week and his impact was immediate. When he is not scoring, he is setting things up to get a goal, or forecheck to get the puck out of the zone. Should be up for the duration full time, yet may be victimized by the salary cap and get sent down once Chris Kunitz / Patric Hornqvist heal up. Grade: A+

Ryan Haggerty: 11 GP, 1-2-3, -2 — In the bottom pairing with the likes of the Dea’s, Gill’s, Gardiner’s and Burton’s of the Wilkes-Barre offense. Haggerty has battled some injury, but would welcome some more playing time. Grade: C

Tom Kostopoulos: 19 GP, 6-6-12, +7 — Playing on a line with Guentzel and Rowney has reinvigorated Kostopoulos. 12 points through 19 games shows that this 18 year veteran has till got it. Grade: A

Patrick McGrath: 9 GP, 0-1-1, -2 — Plays that sandpaper style game that watchers of the game in decades past yearn for. Sadly, the game is evolving to a point to where knuckle throwers like McGrath are left behind. But nine games played and one assist shows that McGrath, in the right situation, belongs in the lineup. Grade: C+

Kevin Porter: 17 GP, 4-5-9, +2 — Like Garrett Wilson, this veteran’s 9 points through 17 games leaves the fan wanting more. Team is tops in the Atlantic and near the top of the AHL overall, so it’s nitpicking when you have the ‘GRK’ line doing all the work. Grade: B

Carter Rowney: 18 GP, 5-8-13, +8 — At times he’s been slightly overshadowed by the likes of Guentzel, but he’s played on the top line in Wilkes-Barre with the aforementioned Guentzel and Tom Kostopoulos. His NHL time will come. Grade: A

Dominik Simon: 16 GP, 3-3-6, -1 — We think Dominik Simon is going through a sophomore slump after a great rookie year last season. 6 points in 16 games is terribly underwhelming. Grade: C-

Oskar Sundqvist: 17 GP, 6-9-15, +7 — I don’t think that having Sundqvist down here in Wilkes-Barre is necessarily a bad thing. In contrast, up in Pittsburgh, he would be a third or fourth liner and his talent wasted. He’s going to have to pay his AHL dues before a permanent call up to the NHL, and he is doing just that at this time. Grade: A

Garrett Wilson: 19 GP, 3-7-10, +7 — For someone who spent 20+ games in the NHL last year, 10 points through 19 games is a bit under achieving. At times, you barely notice him, and that can be a bad thing. Grade: B

Defensemen

Tim Erixon: 11 GP, 0-2-2, +2 — Erixon is probably still dealing with a nagging type injury or, the Pittsburgh brass wants more live looks at younger prospects in Prow and Bengtsson. Just 11 games played. Grade: C

Cameron Gaunce: 19 GP, 0-5-5, +12 — Among the leaders in the AHL in +/- at +12. Can chip in offensively here and there. Paired with Chad Ruhwedel. Grade: A

Barry Goers: 6 GP, 0-1-1, even — Goers’ six games played barely puts him over the rule where every player with at least 6 games played gets a grade. You know what you are getting with Goers, steady defense, nothing flashy, occasionally an error. Grade: C

Reid McNeill: 14 GP, 1-1-2, +2 — Was in a logjam defensively so was traded to the St. Louis Blues for Danny Kristo in a straight up AHL player trade. We wish him the best. Grade: Incomplete

Steve Oleksy: 10 GP, 1-3-4, +1 — Recalled to Pittsburgh and recorded his first point with the NHL Penguins Saturday, an assist. With how loaded the Wilkes-Barre blue line and collectively, team is, you don’t really miss his presence. Grade: B

Ethan Prow: 12 GP, 0-4-4, +2 — Wilkes-Barre has a reputation of breeding NHL caliber defensemen. Prow is on this assembly line. He’s given the coaching staff confidence in him enough to become a consistent player night in and night out. Watch him skate with the puck. His ceiling is sky high and it is going to be a treat to watch him to continue to develop. Grade: B+

Chad Ruhwedel: 19 GP, 2-7-9, even — Wilkes-Barre’s best offensive defenseman, with 9 points through 19 games. Paired with Cameron Gaunce for most of the quarter. With the defense near the top in the AHL, no valid complaints here. Grade: A

David Warsofsky: 10 GP, 2-4-6, +1 — Warsofsky found his way back to Wilkes-Barre after being claimed off of waivers by the New Jersey Devils last season and was reacquired in the offseason. After a brief NHL cup of coffee with Pittsburgh earlier this season, Warsofsky has battled a few injuries but remains a quality player for the Wilkes-Barre defense. Grade: B

Goaltenders

Casey DeSmith: 6 GP, 5-0-1, 1.65 GAA, .938 SV% — Has better numbers than his counterpart Tristan Jarry but is the solid number two backup. With how gaudy Jarry’s numbers are, DeSmith’s are even gaudier. Six games is a small sample size yes, but we will be keeping a close eye on whether DeSmith can sustain the numbers. Grade: A

Tristan Jarry: 13 GP, 8-4-1 1.99 GAA, .926 SV% — Has gotten double the starts as DeSmith with 13. For now, is the number one in Wilkes-Barre and has a solid backup in DeSmith. Among the league leaders in wins, goals against and save percentage. Grade: A+

Incomplete

Players with five or less games played go here. No grades, just blurbs. On Danny Kristo, only his two games are noted in his statistics.

Lukas Bengtsson: 5 GP, 0-1-1, -1 — Finally recovered from Lyme Disease and is slowly working his way back to playing form. With the history of injuries the Pittsburgh organization normally suffers around this time of year, Bengtsson can look forward to increased ice time. How he does in that situation remains to be seen at this time.

Adam Krause: 1 GP, 0-0-0, even — Played one game then was shipped to Wheeling of the ECHL, where he is flourishing. This is a better use of his talents than wasting away as a healthy scratch every night.

Danny Kristo: 2 GP, 0-0-0, -2 — Came over in the AHL trade for Reid McNeill and in two games, hasn’t found the scoresheet. In fact, he was a healthy scratch Saturday against Bridgeport. That’s not exactly a resounding sign of confidence for a player who came lauded for his 20+ goals scored in the past three seasons.

Stuart Percy: 5 GP, 0-2-2, +1 — Percy’s biggest knock is that he can’t stay healthy. I said that when he was acquired on Day 1 of NHL Free Agency and his five games played through 19 team games proves that theory.

Derrick Pouliot: 3 GP, 0-0-0, -1 — Played three games in late November on an NHL conditioning stint. No points and a -1. He’s all yours, Pittsburgh.

Comment if you think I got something wrong.

Fourth Quarter Grades

The Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins made it to the Calder Cup Playoffs for the thirteenth consecutive season, longest in the AHL. Their goaltenders have won the Hap Holmes Award for lowest goals against (2.14) for the regular season. As a team, an A+, but it’s time to hand out some individual grades!

You should know how this works by now. Any skater that played in a game in the Penguins Fourth Quarter gets a grade. The threshold is 5 or more games to earn a grade. I refer a lot to numbers which can be found on this chart. As soon as you click through the jump, we can get started….

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Third Quarter Grades

Third Quarter Grades are in. This has been a weird season because there hasn’t yet been a situation where I have been able to get a clean 19 game look. So here is a 17 game snapshot of every player who skated for the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins since January 17.

You will see me refer to “GF%” from time to time here in the Grades. So if you are wondering what that is it’s based off of this chart and is valid though games played through March 2.

Jump though please and let me know what you think in the comments…

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Second Quarter Grades

When I did the First Quarter Grades back in November, I had to add in an extra game for 20. My intent was to lop off a game for the Second Quarter, but I figured to add in Saturday’s loss in Syracuse because I wasn’t debuting the grades until midweek the following week anyhow. Technically the Penguins were at halfway after Friday’s shutout loss vs. Norfolk. I am hoping that this corrects in the Third Quarter.

Like last quarter, you will find that I refer to something called, “GF%”  which is the percentage of time any particular player is on the ice when a goal is scored. The higher the number, the better. It is based off of this chart, through games from January 11 back. It includes the entire season, not just the second quarter.

Anyway, you should know by now how this works, any player that played in 5 or more games in the quarter get a grade.

Jump though if you didn’t link in from elsewhere, remember that these stats apply for the second quarter only. (except for GF%)

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