The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins started off the season with a six game winning streak that lasted most of the first month of the 2013-14 season. The AHL Penguins ended October on a sour note with a shootout loss to the Binghamton Senators and a regulation home loss to the Norfolk Admirals, finishing the month with a 6-1-0-1 record. They'll look to bounce back and start off November with a win this weekend with a home-and-home series with the Hershey Bears.
Highland Park Hockey's player of the month for October is...
Brian Gibbons - Grade A+
October Stats: 8 games played (5G, 9A, +11, 13 PIM)
Gibbons was far and away the best player for the Pens this month, leading the team in goals, assists and plus/minus. Gibbons has been scoring in every situation as he's tied for the team lead with two power play goals and second on the team with one shorthanded goal. He uses his speed and shiftiness to create offensive chances much like he did last year. The real only difference, besides a more consistent showing in the first month, is the puck is going in the net after Gibbons touches it.
Grades for the rest of the AHL Penguins players after the jump.
Jeff Deslauriers - Grade A
October Stats: 6 games played (5-0-1, 2.47 GAA, .901 SV%, 0 SO)
With Tomas Vokoun's injury and Jeff Zatkoff's subsequent call up, the goaltending position was much questioned by the media and fans alike. After one month, Deslauriers has taken control of the AHL Penguins net and played well.
Peter Mannino - Grade B+
October Stats: 2 games played (1-1-0, 2.02 GAA, .926 SV%, 0 SO)
Mannino started the season on the injured list, and after missing the entire AHL preseason was sent to Wheeling for conditioning to rehab the injury and get in some games. With Eric Hartzell going down shortly after, Mannino's time in the ECHL was short, just a one game stint.
Eric Hartzell - Grade Incomplete
October Stats: (Hasn't appeared in any games in 2013-14 regular season)
Hartzell played well in the preseason for the AHL Penguins but unfortunately an injury shortly after the start of the regular season has sidelined the former Quinnipiac standout from making his regular season pro debut. Hartzell was assigned to the Wheeling Nailers (ECHL) today to get some playing time after just being cleared to practice fully earlier this week.
Peter Merth - Grade Incomplete
October Stats: No games played in October
The Penguins have yet to see the Merth Effect in 2013-14, as the stay at home defenseman has been held out of the team's main practice after not skating for a week or so in October. Merth is skating now, but with the AHL blue line healthy and playing well, he could be on his way to the Wheeling Nailers to get some playing time.
Reid McNeill - Grade B
October Stats: 4 games played (0G, 0A, +2, 11 PIM)
McNeill is a big stay-at-home type defenseman that has been the Pens' 6th/7th defenseman in the first month of the season. He got his first taste of the AHL last season in the playoffs and looks to build off that with more consistent play in 2013-14. He's been physical in the four games he's played, but hasn't made enough of a difference yet to solidify a regular spot on the third pairing.
Brendan Mikkelson - Grade A
October Stats: 8 games played (1G, 7A, +5, 13 PIM)
Mikkelson has played well in the first month of the season for the Penguins. He's the veteran presence on the young blue line and the oldest at just 26 years old. His lone goal of the month was the game winning overtime goal up in Manchester two weekends ago. Mikkelson has been a great mentor to his defensive partner Scott Harrington and is logging big minutes in all situations.
Philip Samuelsson - Grade A-
October Stats: 8 games played (0G, 2A, +3, 6 PIM)
Samuelsson was the most improved player on the AHL Penguins last season and has expanded his role even more in his third as a pro. Samuelsson has been on the team's top defensive pairing in October and has played a sound defensive game. The offensive numbers aren't that impressive but it's what he does in the defensive zone and on the penalty kill in particular that has helped the team get off to the start it has.
Scott Harrington - Grade B+
October Stats: 8 games played (1G, 2A, +4, 16 PIM)
Harrington got a taste of the pro game last May with the AHL Penguins in the 2013 Calder Cup Playoffs and the time was well spent as it has certainly smoothed his transitioning so far. Harrington is getting some special teams time on the second unoit of both the penalty kill and power play and has played alongside Mikkelson most of the month on the Pens' second pairing.
Brian Dumoulin - Grade B-
October Stats: 7 games played (0G, 2A, -3, 2 PIM)
Dumoulin missed the entire preseason and the AHL Pens season opener in Bridgeport due to an injury he suffered in Pittsburgh. Since returning, Dumoulin has not lived up to the standard he set in his rookie campaign, where he was slotted in on the top pairing for most of the season. Maybe he's not 100% after the injury yet, but Dumoulin looks to have a better go of things in November
Nick D'Agostino - Grade C+
October Stats: 6 games played (0G, 0A, Even, 2 PIM)
D'Agostino hasn't made too many glaring mistakes in his first month as a pro, but still needs some adjusting to the pro game which is expected. He has the offensive abilities to put up numbers but hasn't emerged as a threat offensively just yet. Like McNeill, D'Agostino finds himself as the 6th/7th defenseman right now and is looking for a regular spot on the third pairing this season.
Harrison Ruopp - Grade Incomplete
October Stats: No games played in October
Harrison Ruopp was injured in Pittsburgh's camp and hasn't played in any AHL games to this point. He has been skating after the AHL Penguins main practice lately, as he continues to get back into game shape and get 100% healthy.
Simon Despres - Grade B
October Stats: 7 games played (0G, 3A, +6, 9 PIM)
Since being re-assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Despres hasn't shown any ill effects from being sent to the minors as a result of a numbers game on the blue line in Pittsburgh. Despres has played in all situations in a top four role and continues to wait his turn for a chance to play with the NHL Penguins.
Harry Zolnierczyk - Grade A-
October Stats (AHL): 5 games played (4G, 0A, +3, 4 PIM
October Stats (NHL): 3 games played (0G, 0A, Even, 0 PIM
Zolnierczyk has been a top six forward for the AHL Penguins and has played well on the penalty kill and has been great on the forecheck at even strength. He's a guy who knows what he has to do night in and night out and through one month, has been an effective player at the AHL level.
Nick Drazenovic - Grade C+
October Stats: 8 games played (1G, 4A, -1, 4 PIM)
A slow start for Drazenovic, who is coming off career highs in assists (36) and points (53) last season with the AHL's Springfield Falcons. Drazenovic hasn't had regular linemates so far this season, as coach John Hynes has juggled the lines a bit as of late. Look for Drazenovic to get it going in November as I believe once he starts scoring it will come in bunches.
Zach Sill - Grade B+
October Stats: 8 games played (1G, 1A, -1, 16 PIM)
Sill has done a great job as a 4th line center grinding it out in the dirty areas of the ice, winning face-offs, killing penalties and protecting his teammates. Don't be surprised if Sill nets a goal every once in awhile, but he's not here for his offensive attributes.
Jayson Megna - Grade A
October Stats (AHL): 6 games played (3G, 2A, +8, 0 PIM)
October Stats (NHL): 2 games played (1G, 1A, +1, 0 PIM)
If Megna stayed in the AHL and continued to put up numbers, he could have been a player of the month pick as well. Megna's second season has started out nearly perfect. He's scored two shorthanded goals, created offense with his skating ability and pure speed and made his NHL debut earlier this month. Megna recorded his first point (an assist) and his first goal in his second NHL game on October 28th against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Tom Kuhnhackl - Grade B+
October Stats: 8 games played (4G, 0A, Even, 14 PIM0
After missing most of last season with a shoulder injury, Kuhnhackl looks to make an impact in what is still considered his rookie season. Consistency will come with more game experience, but there is no doubt that he can shoot the puck. He's scored four goals in his last five games. He certainly hopes the trend continues into November.
Mike Carman - Grade Incomplete
October Stats: 2 games played (0G, 3A, +2, 0 PIM)
Carman filled in when Tom Kostopoulos went down with a lower body injury on a weekend road trip and played well. Still on a professional tryout (PTO), Carman is looking to break the WBS lineup on a more regular basis in November.
Paul Thompson - Grade D
October Stats: 6 games played (0G, 1A, -1, 14 PIM)
Thompson found himself as a healthy scratch for two straight games after he played in the season opener against Bridgeport, unfamilar territory for the third year pro. Once back in the lineup, the puck luck hasn't been there for a guy who was relied upon to score big goals in crucial moments last season. It's only one month, so too early to get too worried about it, but certainly someone to keep an eye on in November.
Anton Zlobin - Grade Incomplete
October Stats: No games played in October
Zlobin had offseason shoulder surgery that prevented him from participating in any of the organizations summer camps and training camps, but look for the scoring forward to return to full health in the coming weeks and possibly make his AHL (and pro) debut in November.
Chris Conner - Grade A-
October Stats (AHL): 5 games played (3G, 1 A, +3, 2 PIM)
October Stats (NHL): 2 games played (0G, 0A, -1, 0 PIM)
At the AHL level, Conner is a speedy forward that can only be contained and a point-per-game player. He's shown several times that he can use his speed to create and adds another dimension to the AHL Penguins already quick forward core. Conner's NHL stint in October was short, but NHL Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma is really high on Conner so it wouldn't surprise me to see Conner in Pittsburgh again at some point.
Bobby Farnham - Grade C+
October Stats: 4 games played (0G, 0A, -2, 21 PIM)
Farnham certainly hasn't been quiet in October, stirring up trouble in Binghamton last weekend and accused of diving by AHL Senators head coach (). His speed, tenacity and never-quit demeanor is perfect for the AHL Penguins 4th line as long as Farnham doesn't hurt the team by taking unnecessary penalties.
Andrew Ebbett - Grade A
October Stats: 8 games played (2G, 5A, +1, 0 PIM)
Ebbett is one of the veterans up front for the AHL Penguins and he has not disappointed in the opening month of the season. Nearly a point-per-game player at the AHL level, Ebbett has played on the point of the team's top power play unit, while also seeing some time on the penalty kill. Look for Ebbett to continue to be a leader on and off the ice for the Penguins in November.
Dominik Uher - Grade B+
October Stats: 8 games played (2G, 2A, +2, 11 PIM)
After eight games, Uher is already halfway to matching his goals and points totals in his 53-game rookie campaign last year. With more ice time and an expanded role on the penalty kill, Uher has flourished into a gritty checking winger that can compliment the team's offensive weapons. It'll be interesting to see if Uher can continue at this pace in November.
Adam Payerl - Grade B
October Stats: 7 games played (2G, 1A, -1, 9 PIM)
Payerl worked hard in the off season and it has shown in the first month of the season as Payerl is even bigger and stronger with the puck in the corners and around the net than his was a year ago. If Payerl can play with a chip on his shoulder more consistently, he could be the power forward the Pens organization thought they had in Eric Tangradi.
Tom Kostopoulos - Grade A
October Stats: 5 games played (2G, 3A, +1, 4 PIM)
Kostopoulos has returned to the Penguins on an AHL contract and is the team's captain once again. The gritty veteran tallied a pair of power play deflection goals and has played a sound two-way game before a lower body injury caused him to miss the last three games. Kostopoulos is back practicing with the team and looks to start strong in November.
Pierre-Luc Letourneau Leblond - Grade B
October Stats: 8 games played (0G, 0A, -1, 40 PIM)
Leblond hasn't tallied any points in 2013-14 but his physical play and willingness to drop the gloves with any opposing player is a nice thing to have on the fourth line. PL3, as he's known to fans, hasn't done anything to hurt the team and is another veteran presence to help guide the younger players in the locker room.