WB/S Baby Pens First Quarter Report: Defense
Following is the first quarter breakdown of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton “Baby” Penguins players by position.
D #2 Nate Guenin – 6’2”, 210 lbs
Defensive D – 0 G, 0 A, 0 Pts 43 PIM in 23 GP
My Grade: A-
Guenin is a premier shut down AHL defensemen and shot blocker. So far this season he has played great shut down hockey despite having several different defensive partners over the first quarter of the season. Most of his playing time has been with Ben Lovejoy but when Lovejoy was in Pittsburgh, Guenin was paired with Chris Lee and they served as a pretty good shut down pairing as well. During his time in Pittsburgh, the team suffered many shots against and his presence was sorely missed.
Guenin does not have much offense to his game as evidenced by his 0 points on the season but he is not expected to produce much offense with a career high of 17 points in 07-08.
D #3 Lane Caffaro – 6’1”, 194 lbs
Defensive D – 0 G, 1 A, 1 Pts 14 PIM in 8 GP
My Grade: C+
Lane Caffaro is in his first full season of professional hockey and is proving that he belongs. He has bounced up and down between the ECHL and the AHL. He is a rookie that can fill in for any of the top 6 guys but more than likely is not ready for regular playing time in the AHL. He has some solid upside as a top 4-6 AHL defensemen and at best a 7th NHL D. He does not have much offensive upside as evidenced by his 2 points in 16 career games.
D #4 Jonathan D’Aversa – 6’2”, 200 lbs
Defensive D – 0 G, 1 A, 1 Pts 23 PIM in 14 GP
My Grade: B-
D’Aversa began his career with the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL and is in his second season with the Baby Penguins. D’Aversa has played with Wheeling and WBS this season and has also been a healthy scratch for several games. He is the team’s 7th defensemen when all are healthy in Pittsburgh and WBS. He at one point earlier in the season, was the number one defensemen in terms of experience while Guenin, Engelland, Lovejoy, and Chris Lee were all in Pittsburgh. He is a solid defensemen and has been exactly that for WBS. He is not great offensively and is not super defensively either but he can contribute effectively in all areas of the ice. He has been more physical this season and will need to continue to play more physical if he is to make the NHL at some point.
D #5 Deryk Engelland – 6’2”, 213 lbs
Defensive D – 0 G, 3 A, 3 Pts 33 PIM in 16 GP
My Grade: B+
Engelland began the season on the shortlist for the 7th defensemen spot for Pittsburgh. With the signing of Skoula, he was demoted to WBS and became a top 4 defensemen there. He was one of the first call ups to Pittsburgh when the injury bug decimated the Pittsburgh Penguins. He is an excellent AHL defensemen that excels in playing physical and shutting down the opposition. He played pretty well in Pittsburgh, showing off a pretty good breakout pass and picked up 2 assists in 9 NHL games. Engelland had originally been struggling before his promotion to Pittsburgh but he filled in pretty well in Pittsburgh and has been playing much better as of late.
D #6 Ben Lovejoy – 6’2”, 214 lbs
Balanced D – 3 G, 1 A, 4 Pts 18 PIM in 11 GP
My Grade: B
Lovejoy missed the start of the season due to a shoulder injury suffered in training camp and it took him a long time to get back into the swing of things. His hard slap shot from the point was missing some power causing his point production to be lower than expected as well. He began to put it together before his promotion to Pittsburgh and played very well during his time in the NHL. He has since been playing very well for the Baby Pens and despite not being a true PP QB, he has been filling that role for the Baby Pens so far this season.
D #7 Brian Strait – 6’1”, 200 lbs
Balanced D – 1 G, 6 A, 7 Pts 18 PIM in 24 GP
My Grade: A+
Strait had a rough start to his first professional training camp but turned it around to start his AHL season. He immediately jumped in and began playing regular minutes in the AHL and on the penalty kill. He and Robert Bortuzzo have been paired together and have played very well this season, which is surprising since they are both rookies. Strait has been a pleasant surprise in the scoring department, tying his total point production during his senior season at Boston University after only 23 games. He is currently second among defensemen in scoring, behind AHL veteran Chris Lee. Great start to his professional career.
D #8 Robert Bortuzzo – 6’4”, 212 lbs
Defensive D – 1 G, 3 A, 4 Pts 49 PIM in 22 GP
My Grade: A-
Bortuzzo is another very pleasant surprise for the Baby Penguins this season. He has been teamed up with Brian Strait and the pair have been a very good defensive unit with good breakout skills. Bortuzzo has been using his 6’4” size to punish smaller forwards all season and has also been shooting the puck quite frequently. He had put a lot of work into his shot over the past year and he is no longer afraid to use it. He has shown a willingness to drop the gloves so far this season, but he has a bad habit of fighting the toughest guy on the other team, despite not being a prototypical tough guy himself.
D #14 Chris Lee – 6’, 185 lbs
Balanced D – 2 G, 10 A, 12 Pts 14 PIM in 23 GP
My Grade: B
Lee, an AHL veteran, has been manning the point on the PP along with Lovejoy and has been capable in that position. He is solid defensively and played a very good shut down role with Nate Guenin while Engelland and Lovejoy were in Pittsburgh. He is off to a great start points wise and will likely pass his career high of 30 points. He possesses a hard slap shot from the point. He is a jack of all trades, but a master of none. A solid player to have on your team.
D #12 Alex Grant – 6’3”, 195 lbs
Offensive D – 1 G, 0 A, 1 Pts 5 PIM in 4 GP
My Grade: B-
Grant was called up to WBS during the rough stretch in Pittsburgh that sapped all of the defensive depth out of WBS. He did not have a very good camp due to his raw defensive play and was demoted to the ECHL. Grant, along with Haddad and Casey Pierro-Zabotel did not take the demotion very well and as a result, had a very poor start to their season. Grant picked his game up when given the chance and proved he could play at the AHL level. He was prone to turnovers in his own zone but was not afraid to unleash his heavy shot on the net and scored his first AHL goal. He should probably be playing in WBS to help out Lovejoy with the power play but he is being brought along very slowly by management. His play with Wheeling has also picked up since he was re-demoted. He also got into his first AHL fight while in WBS and won.
D #16 Mitch Ganzak – 6’, 205 lbs
Offensive D – 0 G, 0 A, 0 Pts in 1 GP
My Grade: C
Ganzak is an excellent ECHL defensemen, posting 40 points last season with Wheeling. He got the call up when Chris Lee was sent to Pittsburgh and did not play too badly. Good depth to have in case of injury.
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