The Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins continued their great play from October into November going 9-4, which improves their 1st place record in the AHL to 17-4-0.

November was all Dustin Jeffrey for Wilkes-Barre. The 22 year old forward took his great play in October and turned it up 3 notches in November. The excellent two way player scored 7 goals, 9 assists for 16 points in 13 games (11 points in his last 8 games in November).

Jeffrey also scored 2 shorthanded goals to lead the AHL in that category with 4 shorthanded goals (as of Dec. 7).

The AHL Penguins, like the NHL Penguins, are on a serious roll and at the time of this posting both the AHL and NHL Penguins were in first place in their respective leagues.

Jason Iacona of Chirps from Center Ice and Eric Politowski from the WBS version of the Pensblog offer their opinions on their 3 stars for November.

Also, check out Jason’s WBS 1st Quarter Grades!

Your 3 Stars for November

Jason:

  • 1. Dustin Jeffrey: Went 7-9-16 in month of November. I gave him an A+ in my first quarter grades at my blog. Is NHL ready, and by that I mean he has no business playing in the AHL anymore, having nothing left to prove at this level. Every day he is here in WBS is a bonus for us. By far our best player on the team, no one else even comes close at this point.

  • 2. Brad Thiessen: Went 6-2 with a 2.13 GAA and a 0.922 SV% for November. Is 1a to Curry’s 1b at this point only due to numbers and the fact that he has played more games. Shutout the Worcester Sharks in Worcester, this coming on the heels of a 5-1 drubbing by the Binghamton Senators the night before at home. Kept us in the Nov. 21 Binghamton game which was a 2-1 win for us. If playoffs started today, would likely be named starting goaltender.
  • 3. Jesse Boulerice: Could probably go chalk and just say Brett Sterling or Eric Tangradi, but I am going to mix it up on you Zach and say Jesse Boulerice. At a time during the Rochester game Nov. 27, Boulerice and Tangradi were tied in goals with three. Goal scoring is not Jesse’s game and yet he is 2-2-4 in the month of November and 3-3-6 overall. It goes to how dangerously deep this team is when you have fourth line muckers like Boulerice and Zach Sill scoring goals for you. They basically won the aforementioned November 21 game v. Binghamton for us, both netting goals in that contest. In fact, consideration should be given to the entire WBS fourth line of Chris Collins – Zach Sill – Jesse Boulerice for three star honors.

Eric:

  • 1. Dustin Jeffrey: The Penguins really need to call this kid up. The former 6th round pick of the Pens is only 22 years old and is the best player in the American Hockey League. He’s the top scorer in the league, and maintains the longest point-scoring streak as well. With bottom-6 guys like Matt Cooke and Max Talbot in Pittsburgh’s top-6, Jeffrey should be on call-up watch and hopefully is on Bylsma’s radar.

  • 2. Brett Sterling: “The Ticket” has been producing offensively, just as he was expected to when he was signed as a free-agent this summer. An elite AHL-level scorer, Sterling totaled 11 points in 6 games in November. He’ll be second in line as a forward call-up, right behind Jeffrey.
  • 3. Robert Bortuzzo: Should be the next call-up at defense. Penguins third round pick from a few years ago is continuing to develop into a nice physical defenseman. He along with Brian Strait match-up against the other team’s top lines as a shutdown pairing and they both have +10 ratings to show for it. Aside from dropping the gloves and sticking up for teammates, he has shown a little offensive flare in his game too.

Zach:

  • 1. Dustin Jeffrey: Jeffrey has been unbelievable and is truly too good for the AHL now. He is seen by many in Pittsburgh as the forgotten man behind Eric Tangradi but he has proven much more at the AHL level than Tangradi and has improved on every weakness in his game.

  • 2. Robert Bortuzzo: Bortuzzo has been great this season and has stepped up his offensive game. His defensive game has stayed rock solid and he has gotten more physical and has fought more this season. He has one less PIM than goon Jesse Boulerice and could take Engelland’s role as early as next season.
  • 3. Brad Thiessen: Thiessen was nearly as strong in November as his incredible October but lost goalie of the month to Jake Allen of Peoria. But as Jason said on his blog, Allen doesn’t have to face the scoring threats that reside in the East like Zack Boychuk, Dustin Jeffrey, Andrew Gordon, Jerome Samson, Max Pacioretty, and Corey Locke.

Offense:
The offense has been consistent and deadly for Wilkes-Barre – mainly running through Dustin Jeffrey both at even strength and on the power play but other players are having decent seasons as well.

Brett Sterling had 6G and 5A in November after a poor October in which he tallied 3 points before getting hurt. Having a healthy Brett Sterling has helped ease the pain of losing Chris Conner to Pittsburgh (possibly for good).

Tim Wallace scored 11 points in 13 games and finished every check he could get away with (and then some). He could fill a 4th line role in Pittsburgh next season as well.

Eric Tangradi has not had a great year on the scoresheet but his contributions to the power play and the forecheck should not go unnoticed. Many of the power play goals for WBS can be directly contributed to Tangradi eclipsing the goalies vision. Jeffrey recently had a goal where the goalie never even attempted to make a save because he had no idea who had the puck let alone where the shot was going.

Defense:
The defense has been outstanding up and down the lineup, save Steve Wagner.

After an excellent start to his season filling in for Andrew Hutchinson, Wagner’s play has spiraled downhill and is in danger of being scratched for Carl Sneep or Joey Mormina.

Bortuzzo and Brian Strait have been excellent as usual sporting a +11 and +10 ratings respectively.

The team defense is excellent, as it is in Pittsburgh.

Wilkes-Barre Scranton boasts a ridiculous +25 goal differential and have the lowest goals against in the AHL.

Goaltending
Both Brad Thiessen and John Curry are playing excellent hockey.

Each player gives the team a chance to win every night and the team cannot go wrong with either player.

Thiessen has the slight edge on Curry however and would be the starting goalie if the playoffs started today.

Conclusion
Wilkes-Barre Scranton leads the AHL in many categories and they are the only 20 win team in the AHL as of Dec. 7. They should continue the strong play and wrest divisional control away from perennial power house Hershey.

However, can the team sustain its high level of play after losing Dustin Jeffrey to Pittsburgh which seems inevitable in the near future?

AHL Star Tracker

  • 1st star = 3 points
  • 2nd star = 2 points
  • 3rd star = 1 point
Name Points
Brad Thiessen 11
John Curry 9
Dustin Jeffrey 9
Joe Vitale 3
Robert Bortuzzo 3
Steve Wagner 2
Nick Johnson 2
Brett Sterling 2
Jesse Boulerice 1