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12-05-2012, 09:39 PM
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B-Sens First-Quarter Grades

Hello, friends. This year’s Binghamton Senators are deserving of the highest grades ever issued, as they have put on display one of the greatest first-quarter performances in Binghamton hockey history. They are currently riding an eight-game winning streak and the mood around the team is predictably jovial. First-year head coach Luke Richardson merits a great deal of credit in establishing an atmosphere imbued with passion, respect and discipline, with teamwork being a focal point. The players take to heart every word uttered by Richardson, making him the ideal coach in this particular environment. The following evaluations reflect my opinion only.

#2 Eric Gryba, A-. The same knock against him still exists – not taking full advantage of his size – but he is handling the puck and making decisions in his own end better than he has in a while. He was troubled by an injury earlier, but has returned to complete health and is showing signs of the form he exhibited in his rookie season.

#3 Fredrik Claesson, A-. As always, grades for a 19-year old player in the American Hockey League, especially a European, are largely irrelevant. Not much can be discerned from a player’s performance at this age; it should be viewed as simply an experimental season. A player could have a wonderful season at this stage or a poor one and it may not be indicative of future success or failure. NHLers Steve Mason and Joe Thornton are converse examples of how a career can suddenly take a different path. That being said, the young, Swedish defenseman has adjusted swimmingly to an entirely new culture and style of play. He has embraced the physical aspect of the game, no doubt influenced by the tutelage of Richardson, as most of the blueline corps has done likewise. Perhaps most impressive is the fact that he has not once looked intimidated, though Richardson and assistant coach Steve Stirling are careful not to expose him too much.

#5 Mark Borowiecki, A. Some have expressed concern regarding his high penalty minute total, but that number has come mostly as a result of fighting majors, which themselves have been borne of a desire to come to the aid of teammates. He is the ultimate team player and competitor. One of the strongest and most menacing players in the league, he will probably be in the NHL when that league resumes and may never return to the AHL. He will be an immense fan favorite in Ottawa for years to come.

#6 Chris Wideman, I. He gets an incomplete grade, having appeared in only six contests thus far. In that brief time, he has shown some nice offensive instincts, but has been in over his head defensively. There was some speculation that Claesson made the team ahead of him simply because of his nationality, but that could not be further from the truth. Wideman has more to work on in Elmira before taking on a larger role with Binghamton.

#10 Jean-Gabriel Pageau, B+. He is another 19 year-old who should not be judged harshly. He was slow to warm to the league, but has stepped up his play considerably. He could be well on his way toward making a name for himself, but there is a long way to go for him. For a player of his small stature and young age, he has proven to be quite feisty and adept at handling his own. Don’t expect big offensive production from him yet – he is the only regular forward on the team without a goal – but the tools are there for future success in that department.

#12 Pat Cannone, B+. He is what he is, which is a solid defensive player who can occasionally contribute at the other end of the ice. His prospects for the NHL are slim, but he is a serviceable player at this level and a pretty good “glue guy” to have a on a club.

#15 Cole Schneider, A-. He has displayed some rather surprising offensive talent, but his bread and butter will be working the corners and cycling the puck for more talented line-mates. He appears to have found a home after being shuffled in and out of the lineup in the early going. He is the type of player that would be comfortable being inserted on any forward unit.

#16 Mark Stone, A. He possesses exceptionally good hockey sense, which will undoubtedly be his ticket to the next level. His skating will always be a flaw, but he is the rare player who will be more successful in the NHL than in the AHL. He has the ability to make a play when seemingly none exists. As the smartest player on the team, his future looks bright if he continues to work hard.

#17 Patrick Wiercioch, A. He has finally taken the advice to prepare better in the off-season to heart and has reaped the rewards. Every single facet of his game has improved greatly. If a career in the NHL was in question before, that may no longer be the case. In his prior two seasons, he showed an absolute disregard for shooting the puck, likely caused by his lack of upper-body strength. This season, he fires the puck from anywhere, revealing an accurate shot previously hidden. In his own zone, his added muscle has also enabled him to ward off defenders with one hand while playing the puck with the other, a skill most defensemen utilize but one that he could not in the past.

#18 Shane Prince, A. Of all the players on this team that are at that ripe age of 19, he has been the most impressive. A fantastic hockey player, if he does continue on this path, he will be a surefire NHLer despite his diminutive stature. He is dripping with abilities that cannot be taught and is only getting better as the season progresses. Skating, stickhandling, awareness, shooting, passing, toughness – he is the complete package. He has the potential to be a draft day steal at #61.

#19 Hugh Jessiman, C+. He needs to decide what kind of player he wants to be, but it may be too late at this point in his career. He could produce offensively if he drove to the net more. He could be a bit of an enforcer if he dropped the gloves more. He could be a shift disturber if he became more involved. He has the ability to be any of these things, but he is stuck in a sort of “no-man’s land” and can’t seem to get out.

#20 Andre Petersson, C-. He has under-performed the most of any player on the team. Last year, he was good on a bad team. This year, he has been just okay on a good team. Talent is not the question. Persistence and drive are the sticking points when discussing his game. He is on the small side, but is shifty and slippery enough to overcome that – if he really wants to. The rest of the season could be pivotal to his development.

#21 Derek Grant, A. It’s amazing what a little confidence can do for a guy. He has evolved into an unlikely go-to scorer on the team in the first part of the season. His short-handed prowess has been remarkable. He is much more energized than last season and his first step is tremendously improved.

#22 David Dziurzynski, A-. He had a wonderful start to the campaign and has tailed off a bit recently, but is still contributing to the team in various ways. He continues to be one of the hardest hitters on the team. A career in the NHL is probably a long shot, but it could happen if he develops a bit of an offensive bent to his game.

#23 Corey Cowick, B+. He has made great strides from last season, but is still prone to standing still and being a spectator at times. It would be nice to see him be a more imposing force, as he has the size and speed to be a great presence on the forecheck.

#24 Stephane Da Costa, I. He has major-league skill with a sometimes minor-league effort level. He’s only played six games, so it would be unfair to analyze his performance. He struggled early with a variety of physical ailments, but recently had a hat trick (which was really a four-goal game). Offensive outbursts are welcome, but all the organization is looking for from him is consistency, which he has failed to achieve up to this point.

#27 Mike Hoffman, A. He has everything needed to be successful – he is the best skater and puck-handler on the team and plays a surprisingly physical style – except he lacks hockey IQ. He would have been in the NHL last season if he possessed better instincts. He might yet still make it in the NHL, but his hockey sense may forever be a question mark.

#29 Tyler Eckford, A-. The only thing hurting his grade is a few defensive lapses; otherwise, he has been one of the most pleasant surprises on the team. He has a blistering shot from the point that is both heavy and accurate. He is also very smart about keeping it low when necessary and taking a little off of it if the situation calls for it. He and Andre Benoit make for great power play quarterbacks.

#30 Ben Bishop, B+. Aside from one or two games in which he would say he was less than stellar, his play has been just fine. For now, the team is blessed to have an abundance of quality netminding, with the top two being great positional goaltenders. He has benefited from solid team defense, but has also been there for the rare breakdown.

#33 Jakob Silfverberg, A. He has surpassed all expectations. He has fully embraced the North American style and everything that comes along with it. His comportment has been better than anyone could have possibly imagined. As for his on-ice exploits, there isn’t much to criticize. He has a lethal wrist shot, a powerful stride, he knows where everyone is on the ice, he kills penalties and he has even become more involved along the walls. A long life in the NHL is inevitable.

#40 Robin Lehner, A. Even though the reasons for team success are plentiful, he is the most valuable player of the first quarter. When a player of his ability comes in with the right attitude and focus, success is a given. He may have to spend the rest of the season in Binghamton regardless of the outcome of the lockout, but it’s fair to say he may now be ready for at least a backup role in Ottawa. The only aspect of his game that could use some work involves his playing of the puck; it remains the only time he appears unsure of himself on the ice.

#61 Andre Benoit, A. If he were just a little bigger and a little quicker, he would be the incarnation of a young Wade Redden. It would be an injustice if he never got another shot at the highest level. He is the perfect captain and easily one of the most critical elements of this hockey club. It would not be a stretch to refer to him as one of the best defensemen in the league.

#93 Mika Zibanejad, B+. He has received a degree of criticism during his first exposure to the league, but most of it is unfair. He has had a few ups and downs already, but he will be just fine. The reasons for his being highly regarded are clearly evident. He is a big, strong kid who is a very good skater and playmaker. Expectations of him may be a bit pronounced, but he could be a good player for a long time. The only true negative evaluation of him as yet may be his conditioning. He was clearly not ready for long weekends and seems to get fatigued late in games.

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