Grading the AHL Penguins - 2014 Postseason

Saturday, June 7, 2014
Photo credit: @TaylorHaase87
The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins went 9-8 in the 2014 Calder Cup Playoffs, defeating the Binghamton Senators in the first round (3-1) and the Providence Bruins in round two (4-3) before falling to the St. John's IceCaps in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals. It's the second year in a row that the AHL Pens have made it to the conference finals. The franchise has qualified for the Calder Cup Playoffs 12 straight seasons in their 15th year as an AHL team.

Special Teams 

Power play - Grade D

The man advantage was the Pens' Achilles heel in the postseason and can almost be solely explained for their third round exit as the WBS power play went 0-for-32 against the St. John's IceCaps.

PP - 10/86 = 11.2%
8L - 0/36
9W - 10/50

Penalty Kill - Grade C+

As you can see from the numbers below, the PK was not really a difference in their wins vs. their losses.

PK - 58/76 = 76.3%
8L - 28/37
9W - 30/39

Highland Park Hockey's Player of the Postseason

Usually it's a player of the month as I've been doing a monthly report on the Penguins prospects, but since the postseason technically stretched across April, May and into the first week of June I had to change the format a little bit. No surprises here as the "Player of the Postseason" is....

Conor Sheary - Grade A
Playoff Stats: 15GP, 6G-5A, +4, 0 PIM

Sheary was far and away the most pleasant surprise for the Penguins this postseason. Coming out of the University of Massachusetts as an undrafted free agent, the Pens signed him to an ATO for the playoff run and an AHL deal for the 2014-15 season. The small speedy forward has a knack for competing and doesn't give up on the play.

A report on every Penguins prospect who appeared in the postseason after the jump.


Peter Mannino - Grade B+
Playoff Stats: 9-8, 2.69, .900 SV%, 0 SO

Mannino made some big saves throughout the postseason, most notably in Game Five of their 2nd round series against Providence to give the Pens the win and a 3-2 series lead. The save percentage numbers appear a little low, but when you take into account that the Penguins style of play doesn't allow many shots and the team blocks a lot of shots it makes more sense.

Matt Murray - Grade Incomplete
Playoff Stats: 0-0, 0.00 GAA, 1.000 SV%, 0 SO

Murray backed up Peter Mannino in all 17 playoff games, and he appeared in one game after Mannino was pulled from action. Murray stopped all eight shots he faced in 20 minutes of action in the third period of Game Three's 5-0 loss to St. John's. Murray has potential to be a good goaltender and as a 20 year old, has a chance to play in the AHL with the Penguins next season in 2014-15.


Brian Dumoulin - Grade A
Playoff Stats: 17GP, 3G-9A, +5, 22 PIM

Dumoulin overcame a pair of injuries in the regular season - one in the beginning of year and a sprained ankle mid-season - and played his best hockey of the season down the stretch and throughout the playoffs. With Matt Niskanen, Brooks Orpik and Deryk Engelland up for new contracts, Dumoulin could very well have played his last days in a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins uniform. That Jordan Staal trade isn't looking so bad now, is it? (Staal was traded to Carolina for Dumoulin, a 1st round pick that netted Derrick Pouliot and Brandon Sutter).

Simon Despres - Grade B+
Playoff Stats: 17GP, 2G-7A, +5, 32 PIM

Despres played well for the most part in the postseason. He scored a double overtime again in this year's Calder Cup Playoffs (he had a 2OT goal against St. John's in 2012 Playoffs) and logged big minutes on the top pairing for the Penguins. It's apparent he's too good to be playing in the AHL. He excels in late game situations, and yes there's still the occasional turnover or bad pinch, but it's not often you find a big defenseman who skates well, move the puck well and be able to be used in all facets of the game. Maybe the Pens trade him this offseason, but they'd be foolish to not re-sign him this summer and go from there.

Brendan Mikkelson - Grade C
Playoff Stats: 17GP, 1G-5A, -1, 22 PIM

Mikkelson was often victimized in the postseason and for a guy who led the power play in the regular season, he certainly didn't help out on the man advantage that went 0-for-32 in the Conference Finals. Perhaps the grading curve is a little harder on Mikkelson because he's a veteran who made it to the Calder Cup Finals last year, but the offensive defenseman wasn't a difference maker in this year's playoffs. Mikkelson has gone on record at exit interviews saying he'd be crazy not to come back if the right scenario arises, but with all the prospects on defense I'd be surprised if that "right scenario" isn't Mikkelson finding employment elsewhere.

Reid McNeill - Grade B+
Playoff Stats: 10GP, 1G-2A, +2, 14 PIM

Before getting injured and missing the last seven games of the Pens' postseason run, McNeill was arguably the team's best defensive defenseman. He was on the WBS top shutdown pairing with Simon Despres in the first two rounds and logged big minutes on the top PK unit as well. McNeill is big, physical and tough to play against. He has a bright future ahead of himself next season and should see an expanded role in the AHL in 2014-15.

Barry Goers - Grade B-
Playoff Stats: 16GP, 0G-2A, -1, 2 PIM

Goers was a solid third pairing defenseman for the Penguins in the postseason and a right handed shot that the Pens didn't have on their blue line this year without him. He's smaller and undersized, but skate and move the puck well. He saw some time on the power play, but overall didn't do anything that hurt his teams chances on a nightly basis, which is all you can ask for out of a 6th defenseman.

Scott Harrington - Grade B
Playoff Stats: 16GP, 0G-1A, -2, 12 PIM

Despite an average postseason showing from Harrington, I still believe he will be in the NHL sooner rather than later. Harrington was a steady two-way defenseman during the regular season and paired with the veteran Mikkelson and seemed to progress into a reliable blue liner throughout the season. Harrington isn't overly physical, but he's one of the most well-rounded defensive prospects the Penguins have right now next to Brian Dumoulin.

Philip Samuelsson - Grade B
Playoff Stats: 8GP, 0G-1A, -2, 8 PIM

Samuelsson missed seven weeks with a knee injury, but was able to return late in the Pens second round series vs. Providence in Game Six. There was an obvious rust factor for Samuelsson, having been on the shelf down the stretch, but he wasn't too out of place and his addition to the lineup came at a good time as Reid McNeill got injured in that game.

Harrison Ruopp - Grade Incomplete
Playoff Stats: 1GP, 0G-0A, -1, 2 PIM

Ruopp got into one AHL playoff game this postseason. His style is very similar to that of Reid McNeill in that he's a physical stay at home kind of defenseman who isn't afraid to take the body. He spent some time in Wheeling this season, but will look to be regular in the AHL next season. His right handed shot from the point is something the Penguins don't have right now with Dumoulin, Harrington, Samuelsson, McNeill and Nick D'Agostino all being lefties.


Chuck Kobasew - Grade A
Playoff Stats: 14GP, 8G-6A, +9, 40 PIM

Kobasew was a goal-scoring machine while at the AHL level, tallying goals in just about every game he played in a WBS uniform. He made the guys around him, like Anton Zlobin and Conor Sheary, better players. An unrestricted free agent, I believe Chuck Kobasew will look for an NHL opportunity elsewhere.

Conor Sheary - Grade A
Playoff Stats: 15GP, 6G-5A, +4, 0 PIM

Sheary was far and away the most pleasant surprise for the Penguins this postseason. Coming out of the University of Massachusetts as an undrafted free agent, the Pens signed him to an ATO for the playoff run and an AHL deal for the 2014-15 season. The small speedy forward has a knack for competing and doesn't give up on the play.

Anton Zlobin - B+
Playoff Stats: 15 GP, 6G-4A, +3, 4 PIM

Zlobin was another pleasant playoff surprise for the Penguins. He was also a clutch goal scorer, with a team-leading three game winning goals in the postseason. He still needs to polish his skills and round out his game, but you could see Zlobin in the NHL down the road with some more AHL seasoning.

Tom Kostopoulos - Grade B
Playoff Stats: 17GP, 4G-6A, Even, 20 PIM

The team captain continued to lead his troops into battle this postseason and played the same gritty, in your face hockey that Penguins fans have grown accustomed to seeing him play. The captain has also re-signed with the AHL Pens for one more season, likely his last before he hangs up the skates. TK is hungry for the cup, and is coming back for one last chance at a championship.

Harry Zolnierczyk - Grade B-
Playoff Stats: 17GP, 3G-7A, -1, 10 PIM

The speedy, feisty Zolnierczyk continued to give opposing defenses trouble in the postseason, using bursts of speed to create offense. He ended up on the energy line with Zach Sill and Bobby Farnham by the time the Conference Finals rolled around but his game is well-suited for the Pens style of play.

Andrew Ebbett - Grade A
Playoff Stats: 6GP, 2G-6A, +4, 14 PIM

Ebbett formed quite the duo with Kobasew down the stretch and in the first round of the playoffs, but unfortunately an upper body injury kept Ebbett out of the following 11 games. Ebbett, along with Kostopoulos, lead a solid group of returning forwards into the 2014-15 season for the AHL Penguins.

Spencer Machacek - Grade C+
Playoff Stats: 13GP, 1G-4A, -5, 18 PIM

Machacek had an up and down postseason for the Pens, starting the playoffs as the team's veteran scratch before injuries to Ebbett and Drazenovic opened up a spot in the lineup for him. The veteran forward was happy to leave Springfield and come to the Pens in a trade mid-season because he was often a veteran scratch while with the Falcons. Unfortunately for him, the same fate awaited him in Wilkes-Barre with the addition of Kobasew at the trade deadline.

Nick Drazenovic - Grade B-
Playoff Stats: 9GP, 1G-3A, Even, 2 PIM

Drazenovic was another prominent forward on the WBS roster battling injury throughout the postseason. When healthy, he was looked upon to be a difference maker on the ice and logged top-six minutes as well as time on the top power play unit. Unfortunately his injury didn't allow him to finish the year in the lineup.

Brian Gibbons - Grade C+
Playoff Stats: 10GP, 1G-2A, +2, 18 PIM

Gibbons scored arguably the goal of the year in Game Seven against Providence, but outside of that you'd have to consider it a disappointing postseason for the forward who spent half the season on Sidney Crosby's wing. It's possible that Gibbons was battling an injury or was simply burnt out after Pittsburgh's playoff run but he just wasn't a difference maker in the AHL like you would expect him to be.

Jayson Megna - Grade C+
Playoff Stats: 13GP, 1G-2A, -2, 4 PIM

An equally disappointing postseason as Gibbons for Megna, who also had a big Game Seven (1G-1A) but fizzled out otherwise. The bar was raised higher for Megna after an impressive sophomore season, but he didn't exceed expectations.

Zach Sill - Grade B
Playoff Stats: 17GP, 1G-2A, -2, 18 PIM

Sill is your prototypical fourth line center who is good in the face-off circle, physical and relentless on the forecheck. He logged important minutes in the AHL playoffs on not only the penalty kill but important face-offs late in games or to start the power play. If re-signed, he could be Pittsburgh's 4C in 2014-15.

Mike Carman - Grade B
Playoff Stats: 7GP, 1G-1A, +2, 4 PIM

Carman had some trouble getting into the lineup with how well the younger guys were playing when they got into action, but Carman didn't look out of place when he was on the ice. Very comparable to a guy like Sill, who is defensively responsible and good on the penalty kill.

Adam Payerl - Grade B-
Playoff Stats: 13GP, 1G-1A, +1, 10 PIM

Payerl is another guy I'm very high on and if you've seen him play you'd understand why. The big power forward is next to impossible to knock off the puck and he excels in the corners and in and around the net. The organization was also high on him coming into camp last summer. I think you'll see him battling for a 4th line spot in Pittsburgh in training camp this fall.

Carter Rowney - Grade C+
Playoff Stats: 7GP, 0G-2A, -4, 2 PIM

Rowney's playoff numbers weren't that good, but I don't think they were indicative of his play. The two-way forward was usually assigned the task of playing against opposing team' top offensive players in the limited games he saw in the postseason.

Dominik Uher - Grade C+
Playoff Stats: 12GP, 1G-0A, -1, 4 PIM

The feisty Czech forward did a lot of the dirty work in the postseason for the Penguins and might've gone unnoticed to the casual fan. Uher took a beating early on in the Conference Finals and was unable to return to action.

Bobby Farnham - Grade B-

Another heart-and-soul type energy guy, Farnham is much improved from last season and is a regular 4th line shift kind of player now, agitating opposing players and hustling every second he's on the ice.

Grade Incomplete Forwards

Josh Archibald: 2GP, 1G-0A, -1, 0 PIM

Bryan Rust: 1GP, 0G-0A, Even, 0 PIM

Pierre-Luc Leblond: 2GP, 0G-0A, Even, 12 PIM

Tom Kuhnhackl: 2GP, 0G-0A, Even, 2 PIM


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