Yesterday's AHL All-Star Game featured reigning MVP Corey Locke and defenseman Mark Borowiecki, fresh from making his NHL debut on the West Coast. I did not watch the game. There was something about another sixty minutes of a bunch of hungover athletes playing hockmockery that I found to be a little repellant. Also, this one did not feature Daniel Alfredsson.
Weekends in the AHL are typically a pretty serious grind. Most of the time, it's three games in three days. So, it was pretty fitting that Locke and Borowiecki were taking part in the skills competition the afternoon after a crazy 7-4 win over Wilkes/Barre-Scranton. The win saw the B-Sens score 6 on...21 shots. It was also their third win in a row, rounding off a 6-4 month, Binghamton's first plus- .500 month of the season. Patrick Wiercioch also returned-- terrific. On that note, ingest my take at the halfway point of the season (approximation) for players in this system.
Owing to the excitement inspired by a championship season and the enthusiasm around a rebuilding system, Sens fans were more interested than usual in the play of their farm club. Things did not get off on track. Kurt Kleinendorst's club took to the ice and were losers of their first six games. November started with another seven dropped games. Moreover, of eleven games in November, they won twice. December was one under .500, and January helped to further turn the tide. Apart from the obvious jump in the standings, Binghamton's season is showing signs of growth. Three or four years down the road, this season will not be remembered by its winning or losing record, but what players it helped to produce.
Andre Petersson did not look out of place for long. A small transition period gave way to an explosive offensive threat for the B-Sens. For a player with a small frame, Petersson has the right tools-- excellent footspeed, creativity on attack and a real cannon of a shot. There's a laundry list of players who have found success in the AHL, but have barely garnered a sip of coffee at the NHL level. Petersson has been scoring at a torrid pace, and he'll need to keep it up- depth down the right wing in this system is a little thin, even with Mark Stone and Stefan Noesen down the pipeline.
Cannone came into this season fairly difficult to project, an undrafted college free agent signee from late last season. He was on an absolute roll to begin the year, and has cooled off a little since, but still provides a noticeable offensive contribution. Good hockey players like Pat Cannone face an uphill battle in this system- as a centreman, he needs to outperform younger talent to see ice time in the NHL.
A couple of moons ago, I was watching a Binghamton game, and noticed one player seemed to stand above the rest with aggressive drives to the net, smooth hands and speed- Dave Dziurzynski. I pointed out this little observation to the B-Sens' (very good) beat reporter Joy Lindsay on Twitter. I no longer have the text of her answer verbatim, but it was something along the lines of- when he's on his game, Dziurzynski can play with anyone. And he can. He has shifts where he is the best player on the ice, but too many where he isn't. He has terrific talent, but would definitely benefit from some better numbers. DD is an RFA at season's end.
- There will be some important choices for Tim Murray, Coach KK and the management team in Binghamton. There are twelve free agents, with five of them unrestricted. Chief among that group are: Mike McKenna, Mark Parrish (the team's 34-year-old captain) and Corey Locke.
- Eric Gryba is a big, good, physical player. He has been one of Binghamton's better players through 46 games.
- Mark Borowiecki has also been a steadying presence. Still, these are two physical shut-down types of players. Bingo could use more offensive threats from the blueline. It will be interesting to watch the interrupted, but thankfully back on track development of Patrick Wiercioch.
- Speaking of physical players: Cory Cowick.
- Stephane Da Costa settled in at the AHL level and has thus far exhibited his solid vision of the ice and a pretty wicked shot, too. Point per game.
- Other players I neglected to include here because I've already spoken at length about them in the past- Mike Hoffman, Rob Klinkhammer, Mike McKenna, Robin Lehner, and so forth.
- When The 6th Sens broke down an interview Eugene Melnyk did on the Fan 590 last week, it included a little dig at the playing time Mika Zibanejad has received while playing in the SEL. Corey Pronman pointed out the same thing on Twitter a few weeks ago. Whether or not Bryan Murray was promised more and what this means for the future of the relationship between the two clubs, I'm sure we can still look to see an improved player this coming summer.
- Had the good pleasure of meeting Jeff Marek this weekend at an establishment in Ottawa. He had just come from the 67's/Sting game and made a comment about how Shane Prince looked like the best player on the ice. Yes, Nail Yakupov was out there, but it's pretty clear Prince played a better game on Friday night.
- Nikita Filatov, who is playing hockey, has four points through twelve games in Russia. Interesting how he is not included in the Senators' weekly prospect update.
- Mark Stone scores lots of points.