Minor Distractions - October Week 3

Vincent Pugliese

Its that time of the week again, we are back again to take a look at the Penguins minor league affiliates and how the players are progressing.

The Pittsburgh Penguins are off to a good start, going 7-2-0 and siting at 1st in the East, with back to back games coming up this weekend home vs the Islanders and away at the Maple Leats. Their AHL affiliate Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are an undefeated 6-0-0, sitting at 2nd in the AHL, but 2 games played less and merely 1 point behind the Manchester Monarchs, they play another set of back-to-backs this weekend away at Binghamton Senators and home vs Norfolk Admirals.Their ECHL affiliate Wheeling Nailers are only 2 games in, going 1-1-0, and they play again Saturday away at Toledo Walleye.

WBS Baby Pens

The Pens goaltending, while certainly not at the level that they were last year, has held up well with their pair of replacement goaltenders. Jeff Deslauriers has been holding down the fort, earning 5 Wins and with a slightly below average but still acceptable .908 Sv%. Peter Mannino played 1 game as his backup during the 3-day weekend and got the W and a .933 Sv%. Eric Hartzell remains sidelined with an injury.

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise so far is that Brian Gibbons has jumped out as the team's best player so far. He leads the team with 4 Goals, 11 Points, and a +9 Plus/Minus and plays on both the PP and PK, with 2 of his goals scored on the PP and 1 shorthanded. His most frequent partner, playing on the same line at even strength as well as being together on the PK, is Jayson Megna, who just recently got recalled by Pittsburgh. He is #2 on the team with 3 Goals and a +8 Plus/Minus, while also leading the way with 2 shorthanded goals. Their other usual linemate Chris Conner just recently got sent back from Pittsburgh, but with 3 Goals and 4 Points in 3 games he is second only to Gibbons in Points per Game. Presumably with Megna going up and both Conner and Harry Zolnierczyk returning, they will just wind up using them with Gibbons.

The team as a whole is playing well. The remainder of the Top 9, sometimes used in different combinations and sometimes billed as 1st line or 3rd line, primarily consisted of Tom Kuhnhackl - Andrew Ebbett - Adam Payerl and Dominik Uher - Nick Drazenovic - Tom Kostopoulos. Kostopoulos, however, is currently day-to-day, so if he remains out of the lineup then Paul Thompson and Mike Carman will likely be fighting over his spot. Thompson has struggled a bit this year, but he was one of the top scorers on the team the last two years, so it should just be a matter of time before he gets back into the groove. For now, however, Carman is off to a hot start. The 4th line then is Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond - Zach Sill and whichever of the players from a higher line, or possibly Bobby Farnham, happens to get bumped into the lineup that day.

On D the season started with Brian Dumoulin injured, so in his absence the top pair was Simon Despres - Phillip Samuelsson, and when he returned they simply slotted him into an opening on the 3rd pair. However, recently Despres got hurt and has been day-to-day, so Dumoulin rejoins his former partner Samuelsson as the top D pair and is back with the top PP unit as well. Despres and Dumoulin both have 2 Assists in 5 games, while Samuelsson has 1 Assist in 6 games. However, they are not really expected to be scoring too much, as they have been used primarily as a shutdown combo, so while it would be nice to see more points its not altogether troubling. Despres currently has the highest +6 Plus/Minus amongst the D, although previously it was Samuelsson who led the way, but a rough showing this weekend knocked him down to a +3.

The highest scoring D is Brendan Mikkelson, 1 Goal and 7 Assists in 6 games, quite impressive. His usual partner is Scott Harrington, who is the 2nd highest scoring D with 1 Goal and 2 Assists, and he gets to play on both the PP and the PK. The 3rd pair had been 1 of Nick D`Agostino or Reid McNeill paired with Dumoulin, but now that Despres is out and Dumoulin moved back to the top they have been paired together.

Wheeling Nailers

The Nailers have been working with Canadiens goaltender prospect Mike Condon in net, but with no relief from WBS were forced to use a veteran tryout Alex Westlund as a backup. However, yesterday it was announced that Westlund was released and that the Canadiens had reassigned Peter Delmas to Wheeling. That is great news for the Nailers, as he was a fan favorite and fairly successful backup in Wheeling for the past 3 years. Condon played both games, a W and and L, but still has an impressive .926 Sv%.

Its only been 2 games, so they don't have a lot of points for top scorers. But so far they are Christiaan Minella with 2 Goals, Zack Torquato with 1 Goal and 1 Assist, and Carter Rowney with 2 Assists. Rowney also happens to lead the team with a +2 Plus/Minus. Minella and Rowney are on AHL deals with the WBS Pens, while Minella and Torquato are both in their 3rd year with the Nailers. But other than them, its still early in the season and there haven't been much in the way of standouts so far.

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