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Scoring goals has been a problem for the Hamilton Bulldogs this season as they sit dead last in the AHL in that category. Despite that, there are a few players who have managed to be regular contributors to the scoresheet but unfortunately, like the defence and goaltenders, many more have failed to live up to expectations. Our midseason grades conclude with a closer look at the forwards.
Stats are as of games played through January 21st. Players must have played in at least 25% of team games (10/40) to be graded. Bolded stats are team highs.
Alexander Avtsin - C-: Avtsin actually has one of the better points-per-game ratios (0.4) on the team but despite that, he has been a healthy scratch for over 60% of the season (he missed some time due to the birth of his first child) and has even been benched while others on tryouts are playing. Concerns with his effort level in games have been raised once again.
Season Stats: 10 GP, 2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points, -2 rating, 15 SOG, 2 PIMS, 0/1 in shootouts
Michael Blunden - B-: The only player who went through early waivers to start the season with the team, Blunden has been one of the teams' more consistent players. His physical presence in the top six has been a welcome addition (since he spent most of last year in Montreal) but his production has been below expectations; his point-per-game ratio is the lowest in his AHL career. He needs to shoulder more of the scoring load in the second half.
Season Stats: 36 GP, 7 goals, 7 assists, 14 points, +1 rating, 66 SOG, 64 PIMS
Michael Bournival - C: On the defensive side, Bournival has played reasonably well and is slowly but steadily improving. However, he was counted on to be a bigger part of Hamilton's offensive attack (frequently playing in the top six) but has struggled mightily in that department so far. In fact, he's mired in a slump where he has collected points in just one of his last thirteen games. He may be further away from being NHL ready than we first suspected.
Season Stats: 36 GP, 3 goals, 10 assists, 13 points, -4 rating, 69 SOG, 16 PIMS, 2/5 in shootouts
Stefan Chaput - B-: In all honesty, I don't think he has played all that well. However, he gave the team a boost when he was called up and his versatility to play centre and the wing has come in handy on several occasions already. Of all of the tryouts and callups from the ECHL, he has had the most positive impact by far and has exceeded expectations.
Season Stats: 24 GP, 2 goals, 8 assists, 10 points, -8 rating, 30 SOG, 17 PIMS, 0/2 in shootouts
Gabriel Dumont - A: My biggest concern with Dumont coming into this season was whether or not he could be more than a tertiary scorer for the Bulldogs. Although he has been streaky at times, he has become one of the teams' better offensive threats while still playing aggressively and with a physical edge. He's doing exactly what he needs to in order to be considered for a fourth line energy role in Montreal.
Season Stats: 38 GP, 12 goals, 11 assists, 23 points, +4 rating, 83 SOG, 48 PIMS, 1/3 in shootouts
Olivier Fortier - D+: Even though the Habs didn't qualify him (he signed later as an AHL free agent), I thought that he still had another level in him and that he could be a regular contributor for Hamilton. That hasn't been the case this season as even with the injuries, he has played a very limited role (when he has played at all). He hasn't been a liability defensively but when that's the best you can say about a fourth year player, that's not good.
Season Stats: 16 GP, 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points, -2 rating, 25 SOG, 6 PIMS
Brendan Gallagher - A: Of the many rookies to debut this season, he is the only one who was able to hit the ground running. Prior to his recall to Montreal, he was a fixture on the top line and on the powerplay while his energy and tenacity remain from his junior days. He earned a nomination to the All-Star Game next week (although his spot was later given to Dumont given that Gallagher is currently in the NHL).
Season Stats: 36 GP, 10 goals, 10 assists, 20 points, even rating, 117 SOG, 61 PIMS, 1/3 in shootouts
Blake Geoffrion - B: Although he wasn't playing as well as did with the team last year (1.25 PPG with Hamilton in 2011-12), he was still off to a strong start before having his season ended at the Bell Centre against Syracuse. At the time of the injury, he had changed positions to centre and was doing extremely well at the faceoff dot. Presuming he's healthy enough to return next season, don't write him off just yet.
Season Stats: 10 GP, 4 goals, 2 assists, 6 points, -2 rating, 29 SOG, 9 PIMS, 0/2 in shootouts
Kyle Hagel - D: For those of you who don't follow the team much, Hagel was signed in large part due to the fact he's a Hamilton native. He was expected to play fourth line fringe minutes and fight and he has done pretty much that, although his line has been overused. I do like that he hasn't taken many minor penalties; he's not hurting the team in that regard, something the tough guy he replaced, Zack FitzGerald, did a lot last year.
Season Stats: 33 GP, 0 goals, 3 assists, 3 points, -7 rating, 38 SOG, 91 PIMS
Patrick Holland - C+: Offensively speaking he has disappointed (although his goals have been timely, all were either game-winning or game-tying) but he has been 'Mr. Versatility' for the team. He has played all three forward positions, often plays the point on the powerplay, and has even dropped back to play defence at times when the team is trailing late. The ability to change positions that often is a nice one to have.
Season Stats: 38 GP, 5 goals, 6 assists, 11 points, -10 rating, 60 SOG, 2 PIMS, 0/3 in shootouts
Louis Leblanc - C-: An early season injury has completely derailed any positive momentum Leblanc had after spending a good chunk of last season in Montreal. Defensively he has been decent but he has no confidence at all with the puck and hasn't for a while now. I'm hoping the coaching change (Sylvain Lefebvre will now run the forwards replacing the fired Ron Wilson) gets him going again as this team needs him to be a go-to scorer.
Season Stats: 26 GP, 4 goals, 2 assists, 6 points, -4 rating, 62 SOG, 17 PIMS, 0/1 in shootouts
Joonas Nattinen - C: For the season straight season, he was on the outside looking in early on (and for the second straight year, I have no idea why) but once he got into the lineup he began to work his way up the depth chart and re-earn the trust of the coaching staff. Unfortunately a shoulder injury has likely ended his year.
Season Stats: 24 GP, 5 goals, 4 assists, 9 points, +6 rating, 32 SOG, 8 PIMS
Aaron Palushaj - C-: For the Bulldogs to have any sort of success this year, he needed to be a top scorer. He hasn't done that although his offence hasn't completely disappeared either which is why this grade isn't lower. What has been particularly concerning is the inconsistent effort and his tendency to be invisible for large stretches. When he does make it back to Hamilton (he currently is on the Habs' IR but should be back soon as long as he clears waivers), he has to be considerably better to avoid becoming an afterthought.
Season Stats: 21 GP, 7 goals, 3 assists, 10 points, -9 rating, 64 SOG, 18 PIMS
Steve Quailer - D+: I know he's a rookie but as an older player (23), I expected his transition to the pro game to go better than it has so far. Quailer has bounced up and down the depth chart while providing little production (he is in a slump at the moment, just one point in his last eighteen contests). Unfortunately his physical game has been lacking as well.
Season Stats: 39 GP, 4 goals, 4 assists, 8 points, -4 rating, 52 SOG, 23 PIMS
Zack Stortini - D-: I was surprised when they signed him (they already had Hagel as the designated goon) and even more surprised that he has routinely been outplayed by his fellow tough guy. Especially early on, Stortini took numerous unnecessary penalties (he has been better lately) while the little offensive ability he had seems to have completely disappeared. Heck, he has struggled in several of his fights as well. As the team gets healthy, he should be getting acquainted with the press box.
Season Stats: 38 GP, 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points, -10 rating, 24 SOG, 137 PIMS
- Bulldogs Midseason Grades: Defence and Goaltenders posted by B. La Rose