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WBS Penguins December Grades Part 1

Monday, January 2, 2012
Is Brad Thiessen still the #1 goalie right now?
The month of December saw many defensemen get injured or called up. Currently out of the lineup with injuries are Robert Bortuzzo, Boris Valabik, Joey Mormina, and Carl Sneep. Alexandre Picard and Simon Despres have recently been returned from Pittsburgh. Add that to Brian Strait - only 9 AHL games this season - and what was supposed to be the AHL defensive core hasn't even played one game together as a unit this season.

The depth of the defense has been tested and guys like Alex Grant, Philip Samuelsson and Cody Wild who were probably penciled in for ECHL duty at the beginning of the season have been regular AHL defenders so far this season. The Penguins even needed to dip into the ECHL when the injuries mounted, adding Dan Henningson (Chicago Express) and Peter Merth (Wheeling) for a few games.

But the biggest question mark I have defensively is goaltending, which was very inconsistent in December to say the least. Who would have thought at the beginning of the season that there would be any debate at all with who the number one goalie on this team is. But after the last month, the competition between Brad Thiessen and Scott Munroe has certainly picked up and I believe Munroe has earned the starts he has been getting.

Grades for the defensemen and goalies after the jump.

Goaltenders

Brad Thiessen
Season Stats: 22 games played, (11-8-2), 2.71 GAA, .889 SV%, 2 SO
December Stats: 5 games played (2-3), 3.56 GAA, .844 SV%, 0 SO

A tough month for last year's AHL Goalie of the Year. Sure the injuries and call ups to the defensive core probably had something to do with the decline in stats this month but the Penguins need a better performance from their #1 goalie.

Grade: C

Scott Munroe
Season Stats: 15 games played, (7-3-2), 2.44 GAA, .909 SV%, 3 SO
December Stats: 7 games played, (5-1), 2.39 GAA, .915 SV%, 1 SO

Munroe is arguably the go-to guy in net right now, winning five of his last six starts.  I think the Penguins should ride the hot hand into 2012.

Grade: B+

Defensemen

Alex Grant
Season Stats: 19 games played, 0G, 9A, +9, 23 PIM
December Stats: 11 games played, 0G, 8A, +5, 21 PIM

Grant really came out of nowhere this month and stepped up big time while most of the regulars were out of the WBS lineup. A great month for Grant, and you can see the confidence he has started to build playing regular minutes and getting extended looks on the power play.

Grade: A

Carl Sneep
Season Stats: 30 games played, 0G, 9A, +5, 19 PIM
December Stats: 9 games played, 0G, 2A, Even, 4 PIM

Carl Sneep had an up and down kind of month. He made his NHL debut this month and after his return from Pittsburgh hasn't really produced much offensively. Grant has the same stat line as Sneep with 11 less games played.

Grade: B-

Philip Samuelsson
Season Stats: 30 games played, 1G, 6A, +7, 14 PIM
December Stats: 11 games played, 0G, 2A, -1, 6 PIM

Samuelsson also had an increased role on the WBS blue line this month, and the rookie continues to grow. Sure he still makes mistakes but it's part of the process. I think he's above the learning curve.

Grade: B-

Dan Henningson
Season Stats: 5 games played, 0G, 1A, +2, 2 PIM
December Stats: 5 games played, 0G, 1A, +2, 2 PIM

Hennginson was loaned to the WBS Penguins from the ECHL's Chicago Express when the Pens were in dire need of a healthy defenseman. He wasn't flashy by any means but I thought he filled in quite well in the middle of December, given the situation.

Grade: B

Peter Merth
Season Stats: 6 games played, 0G, 1A, +4, 13 PIM
December Stats: 6 games played, 0G, 1A, +4, 13 PIM

Merth was another ECHL callup (from Wheeling) who stepped up his game and has played pretty well as the 6th defenseman for the WBS Penguins this past month. Not offensively gifted but a physical stay at home type that is getting his first look at the AHL level.

Grade: B

Cody Wild 
Season Stats: 23 games played, 0G, 2A, +4, 14 PIM
December Stats: 11 games played, 0G, 1A, +2, 8 PIM

Wild continues to work on his game and the effort is paying off. He seems a little more confident in his decisions with the puck and I really like his attitude at practices, games, etc. Would like to see more from him but his days in WBS may be limited with healthy bodies returning from Pittsburgh

Grade: C+

Alexandre Picard
Season Stats: 15 games played, 1G, 7A, +9, 12 PIM
December Stats: 3 games played, 0G, 3A, Even, 0 PIM

Picard spent most of the month in Pittsburgh, playing only the first two games of the month as well as the last game of the month. Hopefully the injury bug in Pittsburgh will calm down and Picard will get more playing time in WBS.

Grade: Incomplete

Brian Strait
Season Stats: 9 games played, 1G, 4A, +6, 4 PIM
December Stats: 4 games played, 0G, 1A, Even, 4 PIM

A call up to Pittsburgh and an elbow injury have kept Strait's time in the WBS lineup brief so far this season but with Strait and the rest of the organization getting healthy, it's only a matter of time before Strait is paired back up with Robert Bortuzzo.

Grade: Incomplete

Joey Mormina
Season Stats: 25 games played, 3G, 1A, -4, 39 PIM
December Stats: 3 games played, 1G, 0A, -2, 4 PIM

Mormina hasn't played since December 7th when he took a high dirty hit from Binghamton's Corey Cowick as the final seconds ticked off in a Penguins victory. Mormina hasn't even begun skating yet the last time I checked. Hope the big guy can get healthy and get back into the swing of things

Grade: Incomplete

Boris Valabik
Season Stats: 3 games played, 0G, 0A, -4, 7 PIM
December Stats: 3 games played, 0G, 0A, -4, 7 PIM

Valabik made his WBS debut in December but it was short lived as he got smacked in the hand with an errant stick in just his third game of the season. Bad luck with injuries so far for big Boris.

Grade: Incomplete

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