#AHL Monthly #WBSPens Prospect Report - February Grades

Monday, March 3, 2014
Machacek has brought his goal-scoring touch to the Penguins this month after being acquired from the Springfield Falcons in the beginning of February. Photo credit: @ItsJacki

*Editor's Note: Much like the WBS January Grades, for the sake of confusion and taking one game off of every players season totals, the March 1st come-from-behind win over Albany is included in every players season statistics when mentioned in this article.

After five months (and one day*) of the 2013-14 regular season, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins (AHL) have played 57 games. With a record of 30-20-3-4, they've dipped to third place in the East Division and entering the first full week of March they lead division-rival Hershey by two points for the eight and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Penguins aren't in a bad spot with 19 games left, but they need to get headed in the right direction heading towards the postseason if they want to make a serious run at the Calder Cup.

With the trade deadline fast approaching (Wednesday March 5th, at 3 p.m. ET), I have a feeling the AHL Penguins roster will look a little different before their next game Friday night in Utica. Sometimes a change of scenery trade (take a look at Spencer Machacek, for instance) pays off. There's always a chance that Pittsburgh could involve minor league players to close out a deal or even swap prospects.

The beauty of the trading deadline is attempting to expect the unexpected, decipher between rumors, and watch the trades unfold on Wednesday afternoon. I'll have more on leading up to Wednesday's deadline as well as an update on how AHL teams stand after the dust settles.

Highland Park Hockey's Player of the Month

Every month, I compile a look at how every player on the team performed and offer insights to what each player has done over the course of the month.  I choose one player who has performed well in the last month and feature him on the main page and "tag" him as HP Hockey's Player of the Month.

February's player of the month is...

Spencer Machacek - Grade A

AHL Stats: 43GP, 15G-12A, +6, 39 PIM
February Stats: 11GP, 7G-2A, +2, 15 PIM

Since coming over in a trade for Paul Thompson, Machacek has been consistently one of the best forwards on the ice night in and night out. The Pens brought him in because they needed a goal scoring punch in their top six. So far, a great move by the organization as that is exactly what Machacek has brought to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

Previous winners with links to each month's prospect report below:

January (2014) - Eric Hartzell
December (2013) - Nick Drazenovic
November (2013) - Tom Kostopoulos
October (2013) -Brian Gibbons

A look at everyone who participated in AHL games in February after the jump.


Jeff Deslauriers - Grade C

AHL Stats: 38GP, 18-15-3, 2.59 GAA, .894 SV%, 1 SO
February Stats: 9GP, 2-4-1, 3.43 GAA, .863 SV%, 0 SO

With Hartzell in Wheeling now, Deslauriers becomes the de facto number one goaltender at least for now. His numbers have dipped and he hasn't been as strong as he started the season, but the Pens lack of offensive production brings these stats to light.

Eric Hartzell - Grade C

AHL Stats: 24GP, 10-7-1, 2.30 GAA, .908 SV%, 3 SO
February Stats: 6GP, 1-3-0, 4.45 GAA, .838 SV%, 0 SO

After AHL Goaltender of the Month honors in January, Hartzell showed some inconsistencies in his game in February, being pulled in four of his last six starts and prompting the Penguins to re-assign him to their ECHL affiliate in Wheeling before last weekend's games.

Peter Mannino - Grade Incomplete

AHL Stats: 5GP, 2-1-0, 2.60 GAA, .902 SV%, 0 SO
ECHL Stats: 6GP, 3-3-0, 2.29 GAA, .926 SV%, 0 SO

The Pens brought up Mannino last week, replacing the re-assigned Hartzell, to back up Deslauriers, but after Deslauriers was pulled midway through Friday night's game, Mannino got the start in net on Saturday, beating Albany 2-1. 


Brendan Mikkelson - Grade C+

AHL Stats: 56GP, 6G-24A, +4, 51 PIM
February Stats: 12GP, 3G-2A, -7, 8 PIM

Not a bad month for Mikkelson, considering his plus/minus stat was decimated by shorthanded goals against. He's been paired with rookie Scott Harrington much of the season and is the team's leading scorer among defensemen.

Simon Despres - Grade B

AHL Stats: 34GP, 6G-16A, +18, 37 PIM
February Stats: 9GP, 0G-6A, -2, 10 PIM

During the team's six-game win-less streak, Despres numbers dropped a bit like everyone's did. He's taken a minor penalty in four of his last five AHL games, but with the injuries to Paul Martin and Kris Letang will likely finish the regular season in Pittsburgh.

Philip Samuelsson - Grade B

AHL Stats: 55GP, 3G-18A, +18, 60 PIM
February Stats: 12GP, 0G-3A, +2, 8 PIM

Samuelsson is the team's best shutdown defenseman and has been on the team's top pairing while in the AHL.  Not going to get too much in the offensive zone from Ulf's kid, but he logs big minutes on the PK and in late-game situations and is often matched against opponent's top offensive weapons.

Scott Harrington - Grade C+

AHL Stats: 57GP, 3G-14A, +3, 45 PIM
February Stats: 12 GP, 0G-1A, -3, 2 PIM

Harrington has been the most steady and consistent of the Pens rookie defensemen playing in the AHL this season. I definitely see him developing into a solid two-way defenseman in the near future. He often goes unnoticed, which is a good thing more times than not for a blue liner.

Nick D'Agostino - Grade C

AHL Stats: 33GP, 1G-7A, -3, 13 PIM
February Stats: 8GP, 0G-1A, -2, 2 PIM

D'Agostino has gotten a chance to break into the WBS lineup with the injury to Brian Dumoulin and the recall of Simon Despres, but has struggled on the third pairing as of late going a -4 in his last three games. The Cornell product, along with Harrison Ruopp, look to be competing for the 6th defenseman spot in the lineup when Dumoulin returns from injury.

Reid McNeill - Grade B-

AHL Stats: 38GP, 1G-3A, +4, 73 PIM
February Stats: 12GP, 0G-1A, +2, 26 PIM

McNeill has been bumped onto the top shutdown pairing with Samuelsson now that Despres is in Pittsburgh, a role very familiar to the physical, big-hitting defenseman who likes to line up opposing forwards with nasty hip-checks. I've been really impressed by McNeill since he's been healthy, and obviously the coaching staff likes what they see too as he has logged top pairing minutes along with solid time on the PK and starts in the defensive zone.

Harrison Ruopp - Grade Incomplete

AHL Stats: 16GP, 0G-0A, -2, 32 PIM
February Stats: 5GP, 0G-0A, -2, 14 PIM

Ruopp kind of reminds me of the Reid McNeill of last season in that he's a very physical stay-at-home defenseman that doesn't look overly confident when the puck is on his stick. He'll have a chance playing on the third pairing to secure a more permanent role on the team heading down the stretch.

Barry Goers - Grade Incomplete

AHL Stats: 9GP, 1G-4A, -1, 4 PIM
February Stats: 2GP, 0G-0A, -2, 2 PIM

Goers was added to another PTO at the end of the month after appearing in the first game of the month as well. The offensive-minded defenseman hasn't seen much ice time in the AHL, relegated to third pairing duties and occasional time on the 2nd power play unit when he's not sitting as the 7th defenseman as a healthy scratch.

Brian Dumoulin - Grade Incomplete

AHL Stats: 37 games played, 3G-9A, -5, 19 PIM
February Stats: 0 games played (lower body injury re: 1/31)

Dumoulin has missed the entire month of February with what is believed to be a sprained ankle suffered in the Pens' last game of January. He should be returning to the ice this week.


Tom Kostopoulos - Grade B+

AHL Stats: 54GP, 20G-19A, +3, 49 PIM
February Stats: 12 GP, 4G-6A, -6, 4 PIM

Kostopoulos leads the team in goals and points and played well despite the team's struggles in the middle of the month. His minus six rating might look concerning, but the shorthanded goals against while the captain was on the ice for a power play have skewed the stat for all the power play guys (i.e. Mikkelson).

Nick Drazenovic - Grade B+

AHL Stats: 46GP, 11G-23A, +1, 20 PIM
February Stats: 12GP, 3G-8A, -5, 6 PIM

Centering the top line in the middle between Zolnierczyk and Kostopoulos, Drazenovic has made some plays and since returning from a lingering injury, has been nearly a point-per-game player at the AHL level.

Harry Zolnierczyk - Grade B

AHL Stats: 46GP, 17G-13A, +6, 61 PIM
February Stats: 10GP, 3G-2A, -1, 12 PIM

Zolnierczyk has been a top-six forward for the AHL Penguins this season, logging some time both shorthanded and on the power play. The veteran forward will need to continue to play well to help his team reach the playoffs.

Andrew Ebbett - Grade A-

AHL Stats: 29GP, 9G-14A, +5, 26 PIM
February Stats: 11GP, 3G-5A, +1, 10 PIM

Along with Drazenovic, Ebbett provides a good 1-2 punch up the middle. Since returning from Pittsburgh after recovering from a broken ankle, Ebbett has been the top line center on a line with Machacek and Dominik Uher. Ebbett has logged minutes in all situations and is a great player at the AHL level on a consistent basis.

Dominik Uher - Grade B-

AHL Stats: 50GP, 5G-13A, +2, 38 PIM
February Stats: 12GP, 0G-5A, +1, 6 PIM

Uher has gone 17 games without a goal now, but the feisty Czech winger has been in the AHL Pens top six almost exclusively the last month. He's already more than doubled his offensive production from his 53-game rookie season last year, and I have a feeling once he gets one that the goals will start to come in bunches for the second year pro.

Mike Carman - Grade B+

AHL Stats: 48GP, 6G-8A, +4, 24 PIM
February Stats: 11GP, 2G-1A, +1, 2 PIM

Carman has been a valuable bottom-six center who wins important face-offs, kills penalties and occasionally chips in offensively. He might be the most underrated player on the team this season.

Jayson Megna - Grade B-

AHL Stats: 19GP, 9G-4A, +13, 4 PIM
February Stats: 8GP, 2G-1A, +1, 2 PIM

Megna was sent down during the Olympic break to get in some games after recovering from a lower body injury he suffered while in Pittsburgh. He hasn't set the world on fire since returning to the AHL, which might be expected coming off a lengthy absence, but Megna continues to play a solid two-way game from the third line right wing position and uses his speed and strong skating to overpower AHL defensemen.

Tom Kuhnhackl - Grade D

AHL Stats: 48GP, 8G-2A, -4, 22 PIM
February Stats: 7GP, 0G-0A, -2, 2 PIM

Kuhnhackl has just one assist in his 15 games, which is just not cutting it for the German-born offensively minded forward. With less than 20 games left in the season, Kuhnhackl will need to pick things up if he wants a role on this team heading into the postseason besides being a healthy scratch come late April.

Anton Zlobin - Grade C

AHL Stats: 30GP, 5G-5A, +10, 14 PIM
February Stats: 6GP, 0G-2A, -1, 2 PIM

After a decent start in his first taste of AHL action, Zlobin has cooled off considerably and has been often scratched in the last few weeks. He, along with Kuhnhackl, were sent to Wheeling for one game this past weekend before re-joining the team in Atlantic City.

Bobby Farnham - Grade B

AHL Stats: 46GP, 5G-5A, -1, 119 PIM 
February Stats: 11GP, 3G, 2A, -2, 27 PIM

Farnham matched his offensive totals from the entire season in the month of February and has really been playing well on the 4th line, creating turnovers on the forecheck and cycling the puck down low and creating offense. The WBS fan favorite is still a pest on the ice and draws a lot of attention from the opposing team and the referees, but as long as he continues to play like he has in February he is only helping his team.

Adam Payerl - Grade C

AHL Stats: 27GP, 2G-4A, -1, 28 PIM
February Stats: 8GP, 0G-0A, -3, 2 PIM

After missing all of December and January with a hand injury, Payerl returned to the WBS lineup on Valentines Day against the Binghamton Senators. He still looks to be getting back into the groove of things, but the power forward is a big body in the bottom six that is good in the corners and around the net.

Pierre-Luc Leblond - Grade C+

AHL Stats: 49GP, 1G-4A, -4, 206 PIM
February Stats: 10GP, 0G-2A, -2, 48 PIM

Leblond has played well on the 4th line as the teams enforcer and sticks to his role.

Zach Sill - Grade Incomplete

AHL Stats: 16GP, 3G-3A, +5, 25 PIM
February Stats: 0 games played (upper body injury re: 1/25)

Sill returned to the AHL Penguins at the end of January and in his second game back with WBS, his forearm was cut by the skate of an opposing team's defenseman. Sill is still a ways away from playing again this season.

Denver Manderson - Grade Incomplete

AHL Stats: 28GP, 1G-6A, -1, 4 PIM
February Stats: 4GP, 0G-0A, -5, 0 PIM

Manderson has been a bottom six forward with the AHL Pens this season and plays a solid two-way game with speed and good skating to go along with some time on the penalty kill.

Brian Gibbons - Grade Incomplete

AHL Stats: 28GP, 11G-19A, +9, 43 PIM
February Stats: 5GP: 2G-1A, Even, 2 PIM

Gibbons was sent down to the AHL during the Olympic Break to get some playing time before being recalled back to Pittsburgh to play on Sidney Crosby's right wing. If the Penguins don't make a move to add a forward at the trade deadline, it's possible that Gibbons could remain in the NHL the rest of the season.

Zack Torquato - Grade Incomplete

AHL Stats: 18GP, 2G-5A, +1, 22 PIM
February Stats: 3GP, 0G-0A, -2, 12 PIM

As the Penguins organization started to get healthy in February, it spelled the end of the road for Torquato in a WBS uniform for the time being.

Carter Rowney - Grade Incomplete

AHL Stats: 16GP, 1G-2A, -2, 2 PIM
February Stats: 4GP, 1G-1A, -1, 2 PIM

Rowney played well in his limited stay with the AHL Penguins, and was re-assigned upon the organization getting healthy up front.


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