February was a busy month for the forwards seeing that many of the regular WBS Penguins forwards were called up to Pittsburgh. Goals were harder to come by as the Pens' 35 goals in 12 games (2.92 per game) during February was down a bit from what they averaged on the season coming in to last month (3.40 per game).
With the recent news about Nick Johnson and Eric Tangradi, some of the ECHL call-ups to WBS will stick around and need to continue to step up their play.
As for my forward of the month award, there were a lot of choices. Many guys played in NHL for parts or most of the month, but one guy who didn’t excelled and really replaced Dustin Jeffrey’s role (except penalty killing) quite well last month.
My Forward of the Month: Ben Street = Grade: A
Season Stats - 16 games: 9G, 3A, +5, 4 PIM
February Stats - 12 games: 9G, 3A, +6, 2 PIM
Ben Street has just been incredible since joining WBS. He's a smaller forward but he's quick, athletic and can make plays in the offensive zone. Street was in the top of the ECHL's scoring leaderboard at the time he was recalled. Hopefully he can continue to dominate at the AHL level like he did while in Wheeling.
After the jump, the rest of the WBS forwards and a reminder for their games Friday night in Toronto and Sunday evening in Hershey.
Brett Sterling - Grade: A
Season Stats - 48 games: 20G, 21A, +12, 68 PIM
February Stats - NHL/AHL 13 games: 6G, 5A, +2, 22 PIM
I usually won't include a WBS players NHL stats when doing the report but with the strange amount of callups and Sterling's impressive month in both leagues I figured I would show that. He split his time in both leagues, 7 games in the NHL and the other 6 in WBS. In the NHL he scored a point in his first five games and was sent down after going scoreless his last two games. He ended the month where he started: in the AHL. His two goal performance with the game winner on Sunday was an end to a great month for Sterling. "The Ticket" will need to be the goal scorer the WBS Pens can continue to rely on until June.
Keven Veilleux - Grade: A-
Season Stats: 8G, 12A, +9, 92 PIM
February Stats - 12 games: 2G, 6A, +8, 30 PIM
Since missing two weeks after he took a questionable knee on knee hit back at the start of the new year, Veilleux is developing into the power forward role quite well. Given the opportunity to play a top 6 role in WBS, his increased ice time and power play time is reflected by increase in offensive production. He needs to stay healthy to be effective the rest of the season.
Ryan Craig - Grade: B+
Season Stats - 52 games: 14G, 21A, +6, 67 PIM
February Stats - 7 games: 2G, 4A, Even, 11 PIM
Ryan Craig began and ended the month in the AHL and played in 6 NHL games in the middle of the month. Was more effective in the AHL with 6 points in 7 games. With Jeffrey up to Pittsburgh, Craig will need to lead by example as the center position in WBS took a big hit.
Zach Sill - Grade: B+
Season Stats - 60 games: 6G, 11A, +9, 62 PIM
February Stats - 12 games: 4G, 1A, +4, 13 PIM
Sill went from a fourth line center to a second line center with a lot of guys in Pittsburgh last month. He scored four of his six goals on the season with the increased ice time and continued to be a staple of the WBS penalty kill. He netted a shorthanded goal early that started the rout of Hershey and is the only WBS player left who has played in every game this season.
Chris Collins - Grade: B
Season Stats - games: 10G, 16A, +18, 33 PIM
February Stats - 12 games: 1G, 5A, +6, 4 PIM
Collins is another guy who was finding himself in the bottom six before this month. He played well but didn't provide any more offensively than usual. Does great work on the PK and is another quick small forward that can fore-check and back-check efficiently every night.
Geoff Walker - Grade: B-
Season Stats - games: 5G, 11A, +8, 89 PIM
February Stats - 10 games: 0G, 3A, +4, 18 PIM
Without Johnson and Tangradi for the playoffs, Geoff Walker went from a borderline fourth winger to a near lock to make the lineup, barring any kind of move the Pens could make before Monday. He won't score a ton of goals but is a grinder that tries to be physical and is a solid two-way forward. Not a strong month for Walker but a gash on his leg forced him out of a game early and caused him to miss the next two. Needs to keep working hard to make his case for the playoffs.
Bryan Lerg - Grade: C+
Season Stats - 46 games: 9G, 9A, +10, 13 PIM
February Stats - 9 games: 1G, 1A, +1, 2 PIM
Bryan Lerg scored his only goal of the month in the 4-1 loss to Binghamton and his only assist in the 7-1 blowout game. I was expecting him to take over the WBS Pens when a lot of forwards were called up but since missing the first week of the month with an injury, he hasn't been effective since. He's not hurting his team's chances to win and has played well this season but everyone needs to step up their game down the stretch and Lerg should probably be near the top of that list.
Joey Haddad - Grade: C+
Season Stats - 16 games: 1G, 3A, -1, 15 PIM
February Stats - 11 games: 0G, 2A, -2, 6 PIM
Haddad, one of many ECHL call-ups this past month, played well in a limited bottom six role but when he was promoted to a top six role when the call-ups were at their height, he didn't do anything overly impressive to catch your eye. He's got the potential to do great things in the AHL ranks but I think he will have to wait until next year to get over the hump and get to regular AHL duty.
David Marshall - Grade: C
Season Stats - 29 games: 4G, 2A, -4, 23 PIM
February Stats - 8 games: 1G, 1A, -2, 2 PIM
Marshall has spent this season on three different AHL teams besides his time in the ECHL. His eight games in February are his only in a WBS uniform. He scored both his points for the month in the blowout game and had a bad turnover that almost cost the Pens a win (they won in overtime). All in all not too bad of a month for a guy trying to get into the league. Probably won't stick around now that forwards are being sent down.
Jesse Boulerice - Grade: C
Season Stats - 47 games: 4G, 5A, -9, 102 PIM
February Stats - 10 games: 0G, 0A, -5, 4 PIM
Boulerice hasn't been on the score sheet since late December which may not surprise you too much but he hasn't been fighting lately either (see January 29th vs. Lessard). His role is much like Eric Godard's in Pittsburgh and while Boulerice fills that nicely there are many willing combatants on the WBS Pens who will stick up for their teammates: Sill, Walker, Craig, Schnell. Not trying to be hard on Boulerice because he does skate better than most players of his kind and works hard, etc. but he needs to at least prove he won't be on the ice when goals are scored if he isn't producing any offense himself.
The rest of the forwards below received a grade of incomplete because they didn't play many games in February either because they were in the NHL or ECHL for most of the month and were the call-ups when the injuries were getting to be ridiculous.
Nick Johnson - Had 5 points in the first 4 games of the month in the AHL. Then had a goal and two assists in 4 games in the NHL before getting a concussion in a fight.
Tim Wallace - Played in 7 NHL games, only four WBS games. Looked better in the AHL.
Joe Vitale - Hard work paid off for Vitale. Played in 9 NHL games and got a lot of NHL-firsts (goal, assist, fight)
Andrew Orpik -Only played in 4 AHL games. Actually got to see him play in WBS and he looked decent with the few shifts he received as a 4th line guy. Had two assists while he was up there. Brooks would be proud!
Ryan Schnell - Tough guy who WBS first saw when Jesse Boulerice was serving his 10 game suspension. Scored his 1st AHL goal in the 7-1 rout of Hershey. Unfortunately for Schnell, he was sent back to the ECHL but he could still be back for the stretch run.
Tyler Murovich - Pittsburgh native who saw 2 AHL games when the call-ups were up to seven.