December Grades - WBS Penguins

Thursday, January 2, 2014

After three months of the American Hockey League (AHL) season, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (WBS) find themselves one point out of first place in the East Division with a record of 18-9-1-3.

In December, the team was hit particularly hard with injuries and call ups, yet in 10 December games they still managed to go 5-4-0-1 and picked up 11 out of a possible 20 points. Playing at home certainly didn't hurt, as the Pens played seven out of 10 at home including a season-high six game home stand during the holidays.

The Pens are starting to get healthy at the NHL level, which has seen defensemen Philip Samuelsson and Brian Dumoulin as well as forward Harry Zolnierczyk returned to the AHL Pens. With all the guys up and down between the NHL and AHL level, it was very tough to decide who to nominate as Highland Park Hockey's player of the month for December.

December's player of the month is...

Nick Drazenovic – Grade A

AHL Stats: 20GP, 5G-11A, +4, 8 PIM
November Stats: 8GP, 3G-3A, +2, 2 PIM
Drazenovic returned from injury to face his former team, the Springfield Falcons, and has been one of the team's best offensive players at a time when offense was at a premium. Centering the top line, Drazenovic has been a nice addition to the power play in December. He has been the team's most dangerous offensive weapon this month.

Grades for the rest of the guys on the team after the jump.


Jeff Deslauriers – Grade A-

AHL Stats: 22GP, 13-7-2, 2.20 GAA, .907 SV%, 1 SO
December Stats: 5GP, 3-2-0, 1.47 GAA, .942 SV%, 1 SO

Deslauriers ended November with three straight losses, but bounced back with a solid December, posting his first shutout of the season, a 30-save performance in his first start of the month up in St. John's. The goaltending duo of Deslauriers and Eric Hartzell, per head coach John Hynes is "a very competitive situation." Deslauriers will need to continue to play well if he wants to stay as the team's number one goaltender.

Eric Hartzell – Grade B

AHL Stats: 8GP, 4-2-1, 2.20 GAA, .914 SV%, 2 SO
November Stats: 6GP, 2-2-1, 2.66 GAA, .891 SV% 1 SO

Hartzell had a tough start and finish to December. He was torched for five goals in first start of the month at St. John's, and pulled in last night's New year's Eve game against Syracuse after allowing two goals on three shots in the first 13:03. Consistency is an issue, but bumps in the road are expected for a rookie goaltender. Hartzell picked up his second shutout of the season in December and he looks to take over the starting role heading into the second half of the season.

Brendan Mikkelson – Grade B+

AHL Stats: 30GP, 3G-16A, +7, 35 PIM
November Stats: 10GP, 1G-4A, -1, 8 PIM

Mikkelson has been the veteran presence on the blue line for the Pens all season. He logs important minutes on the power play and penalty kill and with the string of injuries and call ups has seen even more ice time lately.

Scott Harrington – Grade C+

AHL Stats: 31GP, 2G-8A, +1, 33 PIM
November Stats: 10GP, 0G-2A, -4, 6 PIM

Harrington's role was increased when Samuelsson and Dumoulin were called up to Pittsburgh and was on the top pairing for most of the second half of the month. Playing against opposing teams top offensive players made Harrington look more like a rookie as he was victimized and his plus/minus took a hit, but he's still a solid defender with offensive upside. 

Philip Samuelsson – Grade B+

AHL Stats: 29GP, 0G-8A, +7, 40 PIM
NHL Stats: 5GP, 0G-0A, -1, 0 PIM
December Stats: 8GP, 0G-3A, -1, 9 PIM

Samuelsson earned his first NHL recall and appeared in his first game with Pittsburgh December 16th against Toronto. While with the AHL Pens, Samuelsson has been a solid shutdown defenseman on the top pairing, logging big minutes on the penalty kill and matching up against opposing teams best offensive weapons.

Nick D’Agostino – Grade C+

AHL Stats: 23GP, 1G-5A, -2, 11 PIM
November Stats: 9GP, 1G-2A, -1, 0 PIM

D'Agostino saw more ice time in December and played well, scoring his first pro goal on the power play in a 1-0 win over Utica on December 14th. With healthy bodies cycling back into Wilkes-Barre now that Pittsburgh is getting healthy, D'Agostino will need to continue to play at the top of his game if he wants to stay in the AHL Pens lineup.

Harrison Ruopp - Grade B

AHL Stats: 8GP, 0G-0A, -1, 9 PIM
December Stats: 8GP, 0G-0A, -1, 9 PIM

After starting the season on the injured list and getting in some game action with the Wheeling Nailers (ECHL), Ruopp made his WBS debut on December 7th. He didn't get on the score sheet in his first month of AHL duty, but I'd be surprised if he went one game without delivering hits to opposing forwards. Ruopp is a very physical defenseman who isn't afraid to mix it up and drop the gloves. He's tough to play against.

Barry Goers - Grade B

AHL Stats: 5GP, 0G-3A, Even, 0 PIM
December: 5GP, 0G-3A, Even, 0 PIM

The Penguins added Goers to a PTO from Wheeling amidst the call ups to the blue line and he has come in and played well. The offensive minded Goers has seen some time on the 2nd power play unit and has impressed, tallying three assists in his first five games with the Pens. With guys coming back, his time in Wilkes-Barre could be nearing its end unless someone else is re-assigned to Wheeling.

Reid McNeill – Grade C+

AHL Stats: 8GP, 0G-0A, +2, 18 PIM
December Stats: 5GP, 0G-0A, -1, 6 PIM

McNeill has had some trouble staying healthy, as he was sidelined with another injury that caused him to miss two weeks in December. When in the lineup, McNeill has been a stay-at-home type defenseman who plays physical and tries to be sound defensively.

Dustin Stevenson – Grade Incomplete

AHL Stats: 7GP, 0G-0A, -1, 7 PIM
December Stats: 3GP, 0G-0A, Even, 5 PIM

Stevenson has been back and forth between the AHL and ECHL this season, getting in some games when Samuelsson and Dumoulin were recalled by Pittsburgh.

Brian Dumoulin – Grade Incomplete

AHL Stats: 23GP, 1G-5A, -1, 19 PIM
NHL Stats: 6GP, 0G-1A, +1, 4 PIM 
December Stats: 3GP, 0G-0A, -1, 2 PIM

Dumoulin earned his first NHL recall amidst the injuries and suspensions on the blue line in Pittsburgh, appearing in his first NHL game on December 16th against Toronto where he posted his first NHL point (an assist).

Peter Merth - Grade Incomplete

AHL Stats: 2GP, 0G-0A, +1, 7 PIM
December Stats: 1GP, 0G-0A, Even, 7 PIM

Merth appeared in his first hockey game of the season on November 30th and played in just one game in December before going back on the injury list. The good news is he has resumed skating and was in a red no-contact jersey. The bad news is there are eight other healthy defensemen on the active roster right now. Some time in Wheeling isn't a bad option for Merth so he can get in some game action after being out of the lineup since December 7th.


Brian Gibbons – Grade B

AHL Stats: 23GP, 9G-18A, +9, 41 PIM 
NHL Stats: 8GP, 1G-1A, +1, 2 PIM
December Stats: 5GP, 2G-1A, -3, 12 PIM

Currently on recall in Pittsburgh, Brian Gibbons was a point-per-game player at the AHL level and his speed makes him a game changer. As forwards in Pittsburgh start to get healthy he might find himself back in the AHL,  but for now the speedy Gibbons practices in Pittsburgh's bottom six.

Harry Zolnierczyk – Grade B+

AHL Stats: 18GP, 10G-6A, +7, 39 PIM
NHL Stats: 9GP, 1G-0A, -1, 6 PIM
December Stats: 4GP, 1G-3A, +1, 12 PIM

Zolnierczyk was in Pittsburgh in the second half of the month before returning to the AHL Pens in time for the New Year's Eve game against Syracuse, where he tallied a pair of assists while playing on the team's top line. While in the NHL, he scored his first goal of the season in a 4-3 win over Calgary December 21st.

Tom Kostopoulos - Grade B+

AHL Stats: 28GP, 12G-9A, +5, 35 PIM
December Stats: 10GP, 4G-0A, -1, 12 PIM

The team captain leads the team with 12 goals on the season. Most of his production comes in front of the net on deflections from the point or rebound opporrtunities.

Dominik Uher – Grade C+

AHL Stats: 19GP, 3G-7A, -1, 30 PIM
December Stats: 5GP, 0G-1A, -3, 0 PIM

Uher missed most of December after taking a puck to the face on Thanksgiving Eve. He returned to the lineup December 20th wearing a full cage and is starting to get back into the groove despite still wearing the cage at the end of the month.

Tom Kuhnhackl – Grade C

AHL Stats: 29GP, 6G-1A, -4, 16 PIM
November Stats: 9GP, 1G-1A, -3, 0 PIM

After scoring four goals in his first eight games, Kuhnhackl has just three points (2G-1A) in his last 21 games. When he's not producing offense he often goes unnoticed. Many thought that Kuhnhackl would snap out of offensive woes when the team lost several forwards to Pittsburgh. That has not happened. What happens to Kuhnhackl when the organization gets healthy up front remains to be seen.

Mike Carman – Grade C+

AHL Stats: 23GP, 3G-4A, Even, 14 PIM
December Stats: 10GP, 1G-1A, Even, 10 PIM

With the center position decimated by injuries and call ups, Carman has moved up the depth chart to the second line center. The defensive minded forward has been solid on the penalty kill and is a two-way forward that plays sound defensive hockey.

Bobby Farnham – Grade B

AHL Stats: 24GP, 2G-3A, +2, 65 PIM
December Stats: 9GP, 1G-1A, Even, 18 PIM

In the last month, Farnham has become more than just a pest that gets under his opponent's skin. The speedy, hard-nosed forward has played well and coach Hynes has rewarded his play with more ice time amidst injuries and call ups this month, even giving Farnham some time on the power play.

Pierre-Luc Letourneau Leblond – Grade C+

AHL Stats: 25GP, 1G-1A, -1, 120 PIM
December Stats: 10GP, 0G-0A, -1, 35 PIM

Leblond returned to action Friday night after missing several games with an upper body injury. The team’s enforcer has protected his teammates and been a solid option on the 4th line this season. He even ended the month by adding a goal, his first of the season, last night to jump start a third period comeback to help the Pens earn a point in Hershey.

Forward Paul Thompson – Grade B

AHL Stats: 24GP, 3G-1A, -8, 33 PIM
December Stats: 10GP, 3G-0A, -2, 11 PIM

Thompson has been much improved in December. His compete level is where it should be, and he's playing hard around the net and in the corners in the offensive zone.

Cody Sylvester – Grade C+

AHL Stats: 15GP, 2G-0A, -1, 18 PIM
December Stats: 10GP, 1G-0A, -1, 16 PIM

Sylvester has played in the bottom six and has done a good job when called upon to kill penalties or provide a spark for his team. He added an empty net goal in their most recent game.

Denver Manderson – Grade C+

AHL Stats: 14GP, 0G-2A, Even, 2 PIM 
December Stats: 9GP, 0G-1A, Even, 2 PIM

Manderson is another guy called up from the AHL Penguins affiliate in Wheeling (ECHL). A former line mate of Beau Bennett’s at Penticon (BCHL), Manderson has centered the 3rd line for the AHL Penguins.

Anton Zlobin – Grade B 

AHL Stats: 11GP, 1G-3A, +3, 4 PIM
December Stats: 10GP, 1G-3A, +3, 4 PIM

Zlobin is looking more and more comfortable at the AHL level with each passing game. He scored his first goal as a member of the WBS Penguins on Tuesday night and has been a top six forward the past few weeks.

C.J. Severyn - Grade C

AHL Stats: 4GP, 0G-0A, -3, 4 PIM
December Stats: 4GP, 0G-0A,-3, 4 PIM

Severyn was added to a PTO by the Penguins and filled in on the 4th line during the month. Currently out of the lineup with an upper body injury after taking a big hit from Worcester captain Rob Davison.

Zack Torquato - Grade B-

AHL Stats: 4GP, 1G-0A, Even, 0 PIM
ECHL Stats: 25GP, 9G-22A, +8, 18 PIM
December Stats: 4GP, 1G-0A, Even, 0 PIM

Torquato was leading the Wheeling Nailers in scoring and was in the top three in the ECHL in offensive production before being recalled by the Pens. In his first game, he scored his first goal as a Penguin, just his second goal at the AHL level. Torquato is an offensive minded forward that has seen time on the second power play unit in December.

Carter Rowney - Grade Incomplete

AHL Stats: 3GP, 0G-0A, Even, 0 PIM
December Stats: 1GP, 0G-0A, -1, 0 PIM

Rowney is the latest of call up forward from Wheeling who appeared in one game in the beginning of the month being returned to the ECHL. He's back with the AHL Pens now looking to crack the lineup.

Adam Payerl – Grade Incomplete

AHL Stats: 19GP, 2G-4A, +3, 26 PIM
December Stats: No games played

Payerl injured himself November 30th and is out long term with an upper body injury. The original timetable was 3-4 months.


Alex Zarkov said...

Nice overview, Tony.

Unfortunately the AHL Live service is too expensive for me and the radio broadcast is blacked-out for whatever reason, so I'm not really able to follow the WBS Pens as closely as I'd like. Most of the info about what's going on with the team I get from JB and you, so thanks for doing it!

On the grades - I agree with nearly all of them except for Kostopoulos and Kuehnhackl. I think the Captain deserves at least an A- and the German youngster not more than a D.

And only one small note - for Farnham and PLLL it says November stats instead of December, so probably these are not updated.

Thanks again for the great blog. Keep it up!


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