2nd of 6 part Series: Forwards Grades/Evaluations
Wednesday: Defenseman Grades/Evaluations
*Grades are based on a players production, expecations and their role on the team*
1. Craig Adams (62GP-0G-8A-8Pts -7): Grade C
Analysis: The veteran forward is in the first year of a two deal worth $550,000 per season. A strong suit for Adams this season has been his physical play, collecting 150 hits in 62 games played. Adams has also moved into more of a leadership role in his first full season with the team.
However, at times this season Adams has looked like a player who was on waivers last season. Adams play in his own end has been inconsistent, recording a minus-7 plus/minus rating through 62 games and is under 50% in the faceoff circle (207W-278L-485Total-42.7%)
2. Chris Bourque (20GP-0G-3A-3Pts -4) Grade D-
Analysis: Claimed off waivers by Pittsburgh before the regular season opener, Bourque was undersized and overmatched at the NHL level. Bourque appeared in 20 games for Pittsburgh and was eventually re-claimed by the Washington Capitals in early December and sent to their farm team.
3. Luca Caputi (4GP-1G-1A-2Pts -1) Grade C
Analysis: The 21 year old forward spent a short stint with the Penguins in January, appearing in four games. Caputi who is regarded as one of Pittsburgh’s top three prospects, still has some devleoping to do. Most notably a need to bulk up as Caputi struggled to win battles in the corners. Although there are some concerns if Caputi will be a top-6 forward at the nhl level, Caputi has improved his skating and has shown significant improvement in his 2nd professional season.
Caputi has 19 goals and 40 points in 49 games for Wilkes Barre/Scranton this season.
4. Chris Conner (8GP-2G-1A-3Pts -1): Grade C
Analysis: Due to the vast amount of injuries the Penguins have had this season, winger Chris Conner has spent a few stints in Pittsburgh this season. The smallish yet shifty forward has shown some offensive skills, scoring two goals against the Rangers on Jan.25, while playing alongside Sidney Crosby.
5. Matt Cooke (60GP-12G-12A-24Pts +12): Grade B+
Analysis: In the final year of his contract Matt Cooke is having a career year, on pace for a 16 goal season. An excellent penalty killer and a great fit on Pittsburgh’s third line, Cooke is a player who plays his role to perfection. Cooke is second on the team with a plus/minus rating of +12 and is 4th on the team with 143 hits.
6. Sidney Crosby (61GP-42G-36A-78Pts +9): Grade A
Analysis: Nearly every year Sidney Crosby has improved an area of his game and this season it’s his goal scoring ability. Crosby heads into the Olympic Break, tied for the league lead in goals with 42.
His movement towards being a dynamic goal scorer began in last year’s playoff run as Crosby worked extremely hard this past off-season in improving his goal scoring ability.
Crosby has also developed into one of the games top players in the face-off circle (56.7%) and is making his mark as the NHL’s most complete player in the game, if not the best.
7. Pascal Dupuis (61GP-13G-12A-25pts + 1) Grade B-
Analysis: Versatile forward whose best fit is in a 3rd/4th line role but due to the Penguins lack of top-6 forwards, Dupuis has played a second line role admirably, already surpassing his goal total of 12 from last season. Dupuis has also been a key member of a penalty kill unit that ranks among the top 10 in the NHL.
8. Ruslan Fedotenko (61GP-8G-14A-22 -16) Grade F
Analysis: A complete disappointment this season, Fedotenko has 8 goals on the season and a team worst plus/minus rating of minus-16.
After coming off a strong playoff run, expectations rose as personnel members felt a 20+ goal season was possible as did Fedotenko’s agent Allan Walsh, who saw a prime opportunity to return on a one year contract in Dan Bylsma’s system and cash in this off-season. That plan has not worked out. Fedotenko was demoted to the 4th line in Sunday’s game and would have been a healthy scratch, Pittsburgh had more than 12 healthy forwards.
9. Eric Godard (42GP-0G-2A-2Pts +1-64PIM) Grade C
Analysis: Plays his role well and is well liked in the locker room. Currently on injured reserve with a torn groin muscle. Won’t have much of a role on the team for the rest of the season, if he returns from injury.
10. Bill Guerin (61GP-17G-21A-38Pts +2) Grade B+
Analysis: The highest Penguins scoring winger with 17 goals and ranks 4th on the team in points behind the Penguins “Big Three”. Guerin has been taking some unwarranted criticism from fans but he has already performed above expectations. Another thing to ponder, there’s not too many wingers with a $2 million cap hit that have put up the production that Guerin has. Case in point; Bill Guerin (17 goals, $2 million cap hit), Ruslan Fedotenko (8 goals, $1.8 million cap hit)
11. Nick Johnson (6GP-1G-1A-2Pts -2) Grade C
Analysis: Has good size and showed the ability of playing at the NHL level. Johnson spent four games on a line with Evgeni Malkin, recording a goal and an assist in a total of 6 games with the Penguins this season. Johnson was consistent winning battles in the corners, and showed good hands around the net. The concern for Johnson at the NHL level is his speed.
12. Tyler Kennedy (46GP-9G-10A-19Pts + 8): Grade B-
Analysis: Appeared primed for a 20+ goal season before injuries have caused the young forward to miss 16 games this season.
Kennedy is an energy player who has yet to reach his offensive potential. He is fourth on the team with a plus/minus rating of +8.
13. Chris Kunitz (34GP-8G-14A-22Pts +3) Grade C+
Analysis: Injuries have limited Kunitz to 34 games this season. Lack of goal scoring remains a concern but Kunitz does a lot of the little things that the organization values, including captain Sidney Crosby who enjoys playing with him. For now Kunitz gets a C+ due to limited action.
14. Mark Letestu (10GP-1G-0A-1Pts -2): Grade C+
Analysis: A two-way player who has the speed to play Dan Bylsma’s system and is responsible in his own end. Letestu has given Pittsburgh the ability to play Jordan Staal with Evgeni Malkin on the second line.
In 10 games this season, Letestu has been strong in the face-off circle, (41W-33L-74Total-55.4%)
15. Evgeni Malkin (55GP-21G-44A-65 -2): Grade B-
Analysis: Among the top 5 players in the game, the Penguins expect more from Malkin. Currently ranked 13th in points, an interesting development has been the fact that Malkin’s goal scoring production continues to take a plunge under head coach Dan Bylsma as he has become more of a playmaker under Bylsma but the real concern has been the undisciplined penalties by the art ross trophy winner.
16. Jordan Staal (62GP-16G-23A-39Pts +16): Grade A-
In year four has taken his game to another level and behind Crosby, is the Penguins most complete forward. A team best plus-16 rating and is showing the ability to become a regular top-6 forward alongside Evgeni Malkin.
Some nights Staal has been a force at both ends of the ice and has shown improvement in the face-off circle (465W-517L-982Total-47.4%)
17. Michael Rupp (62GP-11G-4A-15Pts +3-75PIM): Grade C+
Analysis: Michael Rupp has exceeded all expectations scoring 11 goals this season but that’s not the reason Pittsburgh signed him. He was signed to a two year contract to provide toughness up and down the lineup (not as an enforcer) and Rupp has lacked consistency in the toughness department. Needs to be more of a intimidating force on a nightly basis. He’s a valuable asset when he plays the type of game he played against the Islanders Wednesday night. Rupp is second on the team with 157 hits.
18. Max Talbot (28GP-1G-4A-5Pts -2) Grade D
Analysis: It has been a nightmare season and one injury after another for the Penguins Stanley Cup final hero. Talbot missed the first two months of the season after having off-season shoulder surgery and has not been the same player since. Some believe he came back early and other injuries have now plagued him, including a groin injury has kept him out of 10 of the Penguins last 11 games. It may be a lost season for Talbot.
Notes: No grades were given to Tim Wallace and Dustin Jeffrey who each appeared in one game.