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Minor Distractions - November Week 1

The first week of November is in the books and our minor league affiliates are starting to hit their stride.

Bruce Bennett

Yesterday was a rough day for the Pittsburgh Penguins organization, the morning started things off with a late 3rd period comeback for the Wheeling Nailers that ended in a shootout loss, then in the evening we saw the WBS Baby Pens battle back from an early deficit to take a lead in the 3rd only to allow the tying goal late in the 3rd and lose in the OT shootout. And of course the blowout against the Rangers... so the fans of the entire organization are in a somber mood today.

But it was just one day, and to paraphrase the great Badger Bob Johnson, "In every season there are 10 games you win no matter what and 10 games you lose no matter what, the rest are up for grabs." There is a lot of season left to be played, and one bad night aside there is a lot of positives to be taken away from the season as a whole.

WBS Baby Pens

The Baby Pens remain the most successful team in the AHL based on their Points Percentage, going 8-1-0-2 in 11 games played. They currently sit at 1st in the East Division, 2nd in the Eastern Conference, and 3rd in the AHL, although the two teams ahead of them have just a 1 point lead with more games played.

Jeff Deslauriers remains the starting goaltender, going 7-0-2 with a 2.38 GAA and .903 Sv% so far this season. Peter Mannino remains the backup, although he has only played twice during 3-game weekends.

Brendan Mikkelson remains the top scoring D, leading with 2 Goals, 7 Assists, and 9 Points. Simon Despres remains the highest Plus/Minus D at +6, and is now #2 in Points with 6 Assists. Mikkelson and his partner Scott Harrington have the most Shots amongst D with 19 each, and they also happen to be tied for the #2 Plus/Minus at +5 and PP Goals at 1. Mikkelson not only leads the team in PP Assists with 6 and is tied for the team lead with 1 SH Assist.

Brian Dumoulin is better than the stats suggest, his -1 Rating is the lowest amongst the D and he has a mere 3 Points, tied with Phillip Samuelsson for #4 amongst the D. However, his 15 Shots are #2 amongst the D and his lone PP Assist makes him #3 behind Mikkelson, and Harrington with 2. He would really benefit from the roster shuffling around, being reunited with either Samuelsson whom he skated with last year or Harrington whom he skated with in NHL Training Camp. His usual rotating partners Nick D`Agostino and Reid McNeill has the least Points and 1 and 0 and have as many shots combined than the next lowest D has on his own, Samuelsson and Despres tied at 11.

Brian Gibbons continues to lead the team in Assists at 10, Points at 15, and Plus/Minus at +11, as well as being tied for #2 at 5 Goals. Harry Zolnierczyk took the lead with 6 Goals. Tom Kuhnhackl is tied for #2 in Goals, as is Andrew Ebbett, who also is #2 in Points at 11. Ebbett also leads the team with 26 shots, followed by Kuhnhackl at 23. Nick Drazenovic is #2 in Assists with 8 and #3 in both Points at 9 and Shots at 22.

Gibbons and Kuhnhackl are tied with Tom Kostopoulos for the most PP Goals at 2, with Drazenovic, Dominik Uher, and Chris Conner each netting 1. Jayson Megna still maintains the lead with 2 SH Goals, while Gibbons and Ebbett each have 1 of their own. Drazenovic has 4 PP Assists, followed by Ebbett at 3, Kostopoulos at 2, and Conner, Gibbons, and Paul Thompson with 1 each. Megna, Ebbett, and Gibbons each have 1 SH Assist.

Thompson is probably the most disappointing player still, he was one of the top scorers the past 2 seasons and this year is struggling just to make it into the lineup. Adam Payerl is in a similar situation, with him fighting for a spot of the bottom of the lineup when everybody is healthy, although he tends to get a sweater more often than Thompson does. Zach Sill is quietly effective as a shutdown Center, and he is usually flanked by Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond, who just recently signed a 2 years deal with Pittsburgh and was placed on waivers this morning, and Bobby Farnham. Neither of those are known for their offensive skill, or even much in the way of D, but rather their ability to get under the opponents skin and/or punch them in the face.

Wheeling Nailers

The Nailers are not doing so well this season, going 2-3-0-1 to find themselves #2 in the Atlantic Division, #10 in the Eastern Conference, and #16 in the ECHL. Eric Hartzel finally made his pro debut, splitting starts with Montreal Canadiens prospect Mike Condon. Hartzell is 0-1-1 in his 2 games, he looked pretty bad his first game but much better in his 2nd even with the L, currently sitting at a 3.39 GAA and .891 Sv%.

There aren't a lot of standouts on D, Barry Goers, Nailers Alternate Captain who was in WBS for Training Camp this year, leads the D with 1 G and 1 A. Dustin Stevenson, on an AHL contract with WBS, leads the D with a +2 rating, and since he only recently rejoined the team his 1 Assist in half as many games as Goers ties him for the lead in Points per Game. And Mike Ratchuk, another player that was in WBS for Training Camp this year, leads the D with 11 shots.

Up front there is a 3-way tie for the lead with 5 Points: Jack MacLellan who was an invitee to Camp in WBS this year, Carter Rowney who spent the summer in Prospect Development Camp and the Rookie Tournament with Pittsburgh then signed an AHL deal with WBS after Training Camp, and Denver Manderson who signed an AHL deal this summer. MacLellan is also tied for the lead at 3 Goals with Cody Sylvester, another familiar name that spent the Summer in Pittsburgh and signed in WBS after Camp. Rowney and Sylvester are also tied for the team lead in Plus/Minus at +3.