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The Hamilton Bulldogs have hit the quarter pole on the 2013-14 campaign. 
Although there have been some ups and downs in the early going, the team finds
themselves in a tight battle for top spot in the North Division and unlike last
season, they are actually competitive on a regular basis.  This week, we
will be revealing our first quarter grades for the Bulldogs, today we begin with
the forwards.

Players must have played in at least five games to receive a grade. 
Stats are as of games played through November 23rd.

Sven Andrighetto: A: In past years, incoming rookie forwards have been
eased into the lineup and not handed prime minutes.  Due to a variety of
reasons, this wasn’t the case with the Habs’ 2013 3rd rounder but Andrighetto
has handled the tough minutes with ease, emerging as one of Hamilton’s top
offensive players.  Not a bad start for a player who was passed up in the
previous two drafts.

Stats: 15 GP, 7 goals, 4 assists, 11 points, +4 rating, 8 PIMS, 39 SOG

Michael Blunden: B+: He was terrible in his stint with the big club
but with Hamilton, Blunden has surprisingly emerged as a legitimate top six
forward, a role he struggled with as recently as last season.  He also has
provided the Bulldogs with some terrific work on the penalty kill.

Stats: 12 GP, 5 goals, 4 assists, 9 points, +6 rating, 25 PIMS, 26 SOG

Justin Courtnall: C+: When it was announced that the Bulldogs had
signed him in the offseason, it wasn’t expected that he’d be part of the regular
lineup.  Instead, he is just one of three players to have played every game
this year.  He has taken on the role of enforcer (despite two others being
brought in who have played that role regularly) and as of late has been able to
contribute beyond a fourth line role.

Stats: 19 GP, 2 goals, 1 assist, 3 points, even rating, 40 PIMS, 32 SOG

Ben Duffy: C-: It was hoped that last years’ top point getter in the
QMJHL would be able to provide at least some secondary offence for a team that
struggled mightily to score last season.  That hasn’t happened yet. 
Duffy’s role and ice time has steadily dropped and he now has found himself in
the press box on a regular basis.  If this keeps up for much longer, a trip
to Wheeling for playing time may be in the cards.

Stats: 12 GP, 0 goals, 2 assists, 2 points, -1 rating, 0 PIMS, 7 SOG

Gabriel Dumont: C-: Now into his fourth season as a regular, Dumont
was expected to be a go-to guy for the Bulldogs.  In that role, he has
failed, scoring just once in the first quarter of the year.  What has
helped him at least is his typical gritty style of play which has kept him in a
top six role despite his offensive struggles.  A lot more is needed from

Stats: 17 GP, 1 goal, 6 assists, 7 points, -3 rating, 27 PIMS, 39 SOG

Stefan Fournier: D+: It has not been the best of transitions into pro
hockey for Fournier so far.  Staying healthy has been a struggle while he
has looked out of place at times on Hamilton’s fourth line.  Like Duffy, a
trip to the ECHL may soon be in the cards and quite frankly, it may be the best
thing for Fournier to get his offensive game back on track.

Stats: 9 GP, 0 goals, 1 assist, 1 point, even rating, 22 PIMS, 13 SOG

Patrick Holland: C+: It has been a quiet start to the year for the
second year winger.  Holland has been an important penalty killer when he
has been in the lineup (which, due to an early recall and injuries, hasn’t been
that often) but he’s experiencing a bit of a sophomore slump in the offensive
end.  Given that he is counted on to be one of their scorers, he will need
to pick up that part of his game.

Stats: 8 GP, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, +1 rating, 0 PIMS, 10 SOG

Louis Leblanc: B+: On the one hand, the fact he is among Hamilton’s
top forwards shouldn’t mean much given that he’s an NHL first rounder in his
third pro season.  On the other hand, it’s somewhat noteworthy given his
significant struggles from last year.  Leblanc has been a bit streaky but
overall has improved a lot from 2012-13 and is making a case to be the first
callup when the next injury arises.

Stats: 16 GP, 6 goals, 6 assists, 12 points, +1 rating, 20 PIMS, 42 SOG

Maxime Macenauer: C: Even though his name was familiar to many when he
signed in Hamilton due to his NHL stint in Anaheim, he isn’t the same player he
was just a few years ago.  He was brought in to provide some extra depth
and experience and that’s about all he has done.  His 25 game tryout will
be up in a couple of weeks and I’d imagine he has earned another 25 game stint.

Stats: 17 GP, 1 goal, 3 assists, 4 points, -2 rating, 6 PIMS, 23 SOG

Joonas Nattinen: C+: It’s a make or break year for Nattinen and the
first quarter of the season did little to move the needle in either direction as
to whether he should be re-signed or released in the summer.  He has played
in every game but has failed to advance past the third line (and he was only
there briefly).  I think he has another level in him but time is running
out for him to show it.

Stats: 19 GP, 2 goals, 3 assists, 5 points, even rating, 4 PIMS, 17 SOG

Erik Nystrom: C: As one of the younger players in the AHL this year,
Nystrom acquitted himself relatively well although he was prone to a couple of
bouts of invisibility.  He was starting to play more of an important role
in recent games which made it surprising that he bolted for the KHL (though less
surprising than fellow countryman Magnus Nygren’s sudden departure).  The
Habs still hold his rights into June, a solid end of the year with Zagreb could
earn him a deal.

Stats: 17 GP, 1 goal, 4 assists, 5 points, even rating, 4 PIMS, 26 SOG

Steve Quailer: C: After struggling to get into the lineup early,
Quailer has played better over the past couple of weeks.  I still don’t
think it’s anywhere near enough to earn a contract beyond this year but at least
it’s a step in the right direction nonetheless.

Stats: 10 GP, 1 goal, 3 assists, 4 points, +4 rating, 11 PIMS, 8 SOG

Martin St. Pierre: A-: The veteran was brought in to be the go-to guy
on offence and with him sitting atop the team in points, he has done his job in
that regard.  He has, however, had moments of defensive disinterest which
keeps him away from getting the top grade this time around.

Stats: 16 GP, 3 goals, 11 assists, 14 points, -2 rating, 16 PIMS, 24 SOG

Nick Tarnasky: B-: On the positive side, he has provided more of a
scoring punch than expected.  On the negative side, as the forward being
brought in to be the teams’ tough guy, having just four fights (one of which
came in practice and not a game) is a bit of a disappointment.  Tarnasky
has played just about every role so far this year on every line, his versatility
has also been a nice plus.  That versatility hasn’t helped in the +/-
department though as he sits dead last in the league in that category.

Stats: 19 GP, 7 goals, 1 assist, 8 points, -12 rating, 27 PIMS, 31 SOG

Christian Thomas: B-: His early injury felt even worse to many fans
since Danny Kristo (traded for Thomas) is off to a fine start with the Rangers’
AHL affiliate.  Since returning, Thomas has been better each game and is
starting to round into form.  I foresee good things from him over the
coming weeks.

Stats: 5 GP, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, -2 rating, 6 PIMS, 23 SOG

N/A grades: Akim Aliu (released), Stephen MacAulay (not enough GP)