The first quarter of the 2018-’19 campaign is complete with 19 games in the books as the Binghamton Devils have an 8-8-3-0 record, good for 19 points while tied for fourth place with Belleville in the North Division. At home, the team is 5-4-1-0 and on the road 3-4-2-0.
With new head coach Mark Dennehy at the realm, the players have made their adjustments to the man behind the bench and are making strides in this first report of a four-part series covering the BDevils this season. Newly appointed are Captain Kevin Rooney with the assistants handed out to Brian Strait and Eric Tangradi.
Defenseman Yagor Yakovlev along with forward’s Brett Seney, Joey Anderson have all started out the season for Binghamton but are currently up in New Jersey. So those three are omitted from this project as it wasn’t a game or two, but rather an extended amount of time.
Time to turn the tables as I often give my views and opinions on players throughout the season with re-caps, specials, player profiles, etc. and wanted to seek out other passionate fans to share their wealth of knowledge. The individuals divvied up their choices of players to follow the entire 2018-’19 season as I pick up the remnant’s to bring additional coverage from Binghamton, NY.
There are ten members of ‘The Panel’ including myself, and in no particular order they are the following; @AliciaS20, @KeithAHopkins, @enker1700, @RogieVachon30, @crazybazookajoe, @EmilyRose474, @ChrisWasselDFS, @DuncanMRF, @swislosky and @Ski931.
Voting by the committee and player evaluations were based on the following five factors; Adaptability, Potential, Consistency, Production, and Vision.
Grades are calculated as a group and divided by the sum of its members. Season statistics will be shown collectively for each player for an ongoing comparison throughout the season. Individual voting is also shown by each member in evaluations.
A+....96% - 100%
A......93% - 95.99%
A-.....90% - 92.99%
B+....87% - 89.99%
B......83% - 86.99%
B-.....80% - 82.99%
C+....77% - 79.99%
C......73% - 76.99%
C-.....70% - 72.99%
D+....67% - 69.99%
D......65.99% - 66.99%
Defense - 77.7 / C+
The defense allowed an average of 30.21 shots per game putting them in 17th place while giving up 3.53 goals (67 total) on average for a ranking tied at 23rd with Cleveland. The PK is 31st (last) place at 75.3%.
#2 Eric Gryba - 80.8 / B-
(7 gms, 0g 1a) Of all players to return to where his career began, Eric Gryba arriving in Binghamton was a really nice surprise. The well-liked defenseman is showing average play so far, though. Eric needs to step up and become the new leader alongside Ramage on the floundering blueline. The time he has spent in the AHL and NHL beyond the B-Sens of old should be more than enough to anchor the defense. Not where he should be. @crazybazookajoe (83)
#3 *Tariq Hammond - 73.2 / C
(8 gms, 0g, 0a) Tariq came straight out of college and got beat out by more highly-touted defensemen. In 8 games, he hasn’t amounted to anything wowing or noteworthy. So maybe he’s an AHL or ECHL gem in the making, but right now he’s nothing special. @crazybazookajoe (72)
#5 *Colby Sissons - 78.5 / C+
(9 gms, 0g, 2a) Sissons has had a slow but promising start to his professional career. After a very productive final year in the WHL (71 points in 72 GP), the points have not come early for Sissons. Instead, he’s demonstrated good patience and poise with the higher tempo of the professional game. His game will take some time to adjust, and we have already seen Sissons get beat by more savvy pros, leading to breakaways or 2 on 1s. I think the positives have far outweighed the negatives, and he will continue to learn and grow as he earns more opportunities. He has the potential to run a professional power play in the same style as Will Butcher, so look out for him to get more opportunities throughout the year as his stock grows and as others fall to injury. @DuncanMRF (80)
#6 Colton White - 82.1 / B-
(17 gms, 2g 3a) Mildly impressed so far in the 1st Quarter as this has been a pleasant surprise compared to this time last season out of the 2nd year defenseman. Perhaps playing in the lower levels has panned out but whatever the remedy is, his style is encouraging with smart reads, and little details with the puck on a potential offensive tick. Look forward in what to come from the blueliner in the 2nd Quarter. @Ski931 (84)
#7 Brian Strait - 69.5 / D+
(10 gms, 0g 0a) Jeez what is to say really. Guy played solid and pairing minutes for 10 games and got concussed. He may finish this year with 0G and 0A in 10 games. He is as advertised, a stay at home defensemen with little offensive desire or speed. Hope he heals up and joins the team later in the year. @KeithAHopkins (73)
#8 Josh Jacobs - 85.7 / B
(18 gms, 1g 3a) In my opinion, he is the BDevils best d-man and NJ’s best defensive prospect. He is the definition of steady could be a huge asset down the stretch as he continues to be rolled out against the opposition’s best line. I love this kid and hope he continues to develop. @enker1700 (90)
#32 Michael Kapla - 68.1 / D+
(19 gms, 0g 7a) After getting the BingDevils’ Rookie of the Year award last season, I had high hopes and expectations for Kapla for this season. Overall, his 1st quarter has been underwhelming defensively as he continues to struggle on basic defensive plays like holding the point. That being said, Kapla is having a strong offensive season with a team leading 7 assists. He needs to focus on his defensive play moving into the 2nd quarter. @AliciaS20 (70)
#55 John Ramage - 84.1 / B
(19 gms, 2g 3a) He was our big veteran d-man signing and has been as advertised. Steady, not spectacular (from an offensive stand point), but has more than done his job as the anchor of this pretty young defensive core, especially considering that Gryba has been up in NJ for most of the early part of the season. I have no doubt that he will continue to be the calming steadying influence that he was brought into be. @enker1700 (88)
Offense - 79.3 / C+
BDevils’ PP is 30th in the 1st Quarter at 11%, while the offense scored at an average of 2.68 per game (51) and are in a tie with Laval at 26th. Shots placed the club in the 23rd slot at an average of 28.32 per outing.
#9 *Michael McLeod - 84.8 / B
(18 gms, 3g 5a) NJ fans were unimpressed with McLeod in camp and were starting to call him a bust. And in the first few AHL games, The Panel seemed to agree. Dennehy benched him for about two games and Mike suddenly turned a BIG new leaf. Not only is he finding his scoring touch, but has an excellent attitude and hustle. It’s turning heads on ice and off. Don’t give up on him yet. @crazybazookajoe (85)
#10 *Ryan Schmelzer - 80.3 / B-
(12 gms, 2g 3a) On an AHL contract that has proven it’s weight in gold so far, as not only recently centered the top line, but produced on the scoresheet. Quick on his feet, and reads plays well with good ice vision. A possible playmaker in the works for the rookie forward with more experience on the horizon. Definitely one to watch in moving forward. @Ski931 (86)
#13 Brandon Baddock - 75.2 / C
(12 gms, 1g 1a) He is what he is. Baddock drops the gloves occasionally still and plays decently on the bottom six. There is little upside as the forward still hits the net at a low volume. Just hitting the net more often with that slightly above average shot might help. Baddock averages a point every five games or so. At 23 years old, the forward just needs to keep working on being a serviceable AHL player. @ChrisWasselDFS (70)
#17 John Quenneville - 89 / B+
(12 gms, 4g 6a) Everyone wants to know when he will make that big break which keeps him on the big club. He saw a bit of an early look with New Jersey but was sent down due to a lack of offense. Working on that in the AHL, Quenneville is producing at just about a point a game pace. His shot volume is right near three a game – one of the best marks on the team. Showing that he can stay healthy and improve offensively and defensively is essential to his continued top six development in Binghamton. @ChrisWasselDFS (79)
#18 Blake Speers - 75.4 / C
(15 gms, 1g 0a) I thought he had tremendous upside, with speed and a scoring touch, something NJ has been looking for since the end of the Lou era. But the organization has him penned as a fourth line checking/PKer. I can’t tell if he hasn’t fully embraced the role, or is not doing it satisfactorily to the coach’s liking. With players like Coleman & Rooney ahead of him, just one point in Q1, and a few games as a healthy scratch, the writing is on the wall. I believe he will be dealt at some point this season. @RogieVachon30 (68)
#19 Blake Pietila - 71.5 / C-
(18 gms, 5g 5a) Hard, gritty, quality forward and yet appears complacent at times. That’s not a good combination for a recipe if moving to the next level is on his agenda. I prefer more aggression and better puck decisions under crunch time in the 2nd Quarter. Can be a valuable asset with his ability, but ultimately that’s up to him if he desires to do so. @Ski931 (72)
#21 Kevin Rooney - 83.2 / B
(13 gms, 0g 3a) This quarter Rooney has been splitting time between Binghamton and NJ. NJ has noted Rooney’s size and excellent penalty kill in his call ups. I continue to notice his hard-work and leadership on the ice. Unfortunately, Rooney has yet to score a goal this season and he will need to start creating offensively going into the 2nd quarter. @AliciaS20 (85)
#22 *Yegor Sharangovich - 79.6 / C+
(15 gms, 2g 3a) Sharangovich came into this season as someone I really wanted to watch. The recent 5th round pick (2018) has had a slower start to the year as he adjusts to North American ice. His start has been encouraging and speaks to the tools for which he was drafted - power, control, and play in-close. He has the potential to really improve as he makes better use of his body and power. He’s a power-forward, and succeeds when he plays in-close to the net, but can make better use of his shot and vision in all situations. As players are called up due to injury or promotion, Sharangovich will have plenty of opportunities to show that he has what it takes to flourish on North American ice. @DuncanMRF (82)
#25 Nick Lappin - 83.3 / B
(19 gms, 9g 2a) He started the season on fire with 5 goals in five games including two on Opening Night but since then he has fallen. He’s averaging 3 shots per game however, his down fall is that he’s has to be more physical and he has to back check alot better. @swislosky (82)
#26 Eric Tangradi - 81.5 / B-
(9 gms, 2g 5a) Was brought over to be the veteran presence and scoring forward that he has been in the past and other than an apparent injury, he has not disappointed. Looking for him to return sooner rather than later and be that solid veteran he was brought over to be. @enker1700 (82)
#27 *Marian Studenic - 86.2 / B
(18 gms, 7g 5a) The most pleasant surprise this season. The rookie has shown great speed, scoring touch, and a willingness to drive to the net. All this while tackling the biggest challenge, the English language, off the ice. He seems responsible defensively, and only gets himself in trouble when he dangles too much in the offensive zone. 7 goals (only 1 PPG) is second on the team, and a respectable +4. Good along the boards for young guy. Needs to play with a play-making type center (McLeod, Seney when he returns). The question will be can he handle the grind as the season moves on as many of the younger players haven’t played more than 40 games in a season. @RogieVachon30 (91)
#28 Brandon Gignac - 77.3 / C+
(15 gms, 2g 4a) Poor kid is the victim of a numbers game. He really is. Between benching and 3rd/4th-ing it with all the depth, Brandon’s not getting the proper amount of ice time to develop. This kid is lightning fast and a good handle on the puck. The only things holding him back are his size and needing polish on his passing. Often out-muscled in the zone despite rocketing into it. What’s most impressive is that you’d never think Brandon tore his ACL, last season. An injury that would normally cripple or end a hockey career. @crazybazookajoe (77)
#39 Kurtis Gabriel - 73.1 / C
(11 gms, 1g 2a) Was intrigued by this off season signing as we needed someone to replace Ben Thomson. Gabriel doesn’t appear to be it. Actually I do not quite know what his role is on the team. Total bottom 6 AHL guy but his role is everywhere. Guy even got an NHL call-up for grit I assume. @KeithAHopkins (73)
#42 Nathan Bastian - 73.1 / C
(18 gms, 4g 1a) I don’t see him scoring alot as he’s more out there for being physical and living up to that with 12 hits so far this season. His back checking is better than last year and he’s using his 6’4” frame to good use. Bastian can mix it up if he has to as well. @swislosky (74)
Emily’s Goalie Clinic
A new feature that is exclusive with Emily Rose, as she will follow the goaltending situation throughout the Devils’ season. In the past, Emily has chosen players between the pipes, as this appears to be an easy transition. Also, she has been an STH since the early days of BSens in the 2000s.
Goalies - 82.7 / B-
In terms of goaltending this year, the team seems to be in a better spot than last season. Seeing a rotation of 5 different goaltenders (Blackwood, Appleby, Wedgewood, Lack, Johnson) over the course of a season due to trades, conditioning, and general shuffling, consistency in the form of goaltenders this year could provide a steady foundation to build from. That is, if those goalies can play consistently themselves.
#29 Mackenzie Blackwood - 85.2 / B
(8 gms, 3-3-1-0, 2.36 GAA 0.924 SV%) In comparison to last year, the young goalie has come a long way. Quick movements from side to side and a calm composure have lead to some success so far. His age and relative inexperience are both his biggest downfall and greatest strength. With continued opportunities to play and develop at this competitive level, he will only become a stronger, better goalie. @EmilyRose474 (86)
#31 Eddie Lack - 80.3 / B-
(5 gms, 2-2-1-0, 3.91 GAA 0.872 SV%) The large netminder has been a welcome addition to our roster since opening night. Though his numbers haven’t been the best, he seems to be finding a groove the further into each game he gets. Lack’s size and quick movements will need to continue to make up for a weak defense and inconsistent offense. With the experience he brings to the goalie tandem and his willingness to play in the AHL, he will be a great mentor and source of knowledge for Blackwood and Johnson, as the two young goalies look to rise through the ranks of the Devils’ organization. @EmilyRose474 (82)
Coach’s Corner with Dave
The same can be said in this additional new feature with Dave Rogan as a Binghamton hockey fan for over 40 years. Dave brings valuable experience and passion as a member that has shared the same 70’s era (Broome Dusters) like myself, where it all began.
Coaching Staff - 82.6 / B-
Mark Dennehy & Sergei Brylin, Ryan Parent
Mark Dennehy’s tell it like it is attitude (in a strong New England accent) is a breath of fresh air to the Binghamton fanbase. His collegiate background (i.e. dealing with young players) was a big component of his hiring. He is very detail oriented, and communicates/relates to the players well. An example of this, and how the players listen/trust him happened recently in a game against league leading Charlotte.
Midway through the second down 3-1, and giving a rather lackluster effort, coach called timeout. From my seat across from the bench, I could see his face grow crimson red while delivering the tongue lashing. The club responded by tying the game in that period, and winning it in the third. This tells me they believe in the coach, and are listening. Strategy-wise, the biggest problem the team faced in Q1 was special teams.
The team is 30th on the PP, and last on the PK. The coaches are implementing NJ’s style of both with so far, but with limited success. I can point to two things that are hindering the PP. First, we don’t have any solid faceoff winning centers, so we normally start our PPs with 1:50 left behind our own net. This leads to my second point, the dreaded “drop pass” entry (Editors note: You will NEVER convince me this is an effective PP entry style).
It is very difficult in our undersized neutral zone to generate the speed and space required for this to be effective. Teams recognize this and another player usually camps out in the neutral zone instead of on his blue line/in his defensive zone. By the time the third entry try works, there is only 30-45 seconds left on the PP to get anything done.
Dennehy has shown some flexibility, as I don’t recall them trying this entry on our last weekend home stand. On the PK, they are also utilizing NJ’s playbook, playing very passive and trying to force the puck to the point and to clog the shooting lanes. However, many teams at this level run their PPs from low to high, and this seems to confuse the PKers, as in they don’t know who to cover. Stick positions seem a bit lax as well, as teams seem to whip the puck around effortlessly.
I have the utmost respect for Sergei Brylin (he handles the PK) from his playing days, but I find the lack of change a bit disturbing. Ryan Parent joined the coaching staff right before the season began. He has been on the bench most games, and has been the eye in the sky for others. I am not certain of his exact role, but will have more info next quarter.
From a personal standpoint, I am happy with the record (8-8-3) and progress of the team at the quarter pole given the call-ups (Seney, Anderson) and injuries to the veteran players (Tangradi, Strait). @RogieVachon30 (84)
Thanks for reading and please leave your thoughts in the section below!
* = Rookie status