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…
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
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
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+
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.