Doing mid-season grades that are a mixed bag seems like a downer following a great win on Tuesday night, but I wrote most of this yesterday with part 1, so I will push forward.
Yesterday, I covered the most recent top 9 when everyone was healthy. The regular lines were Versteeg/EStaal/Lindholm, Nestrasil/JStaal/Nordstrom and Skinner/Rask/DiGiuseppe. Today I will cover the remaining forwards. Except for recall Brock McGinn most of the other players would either be classified as fourth-liners or depth forwards with the potential to win a spot on a higher line and provide depth scoring. Nestrasil, Nordstrom and more recently DiGiuseppe seized the open forward slots when some of the players graded today just did not bring enough offensively or otherwise.
Graded as potential depth forwards who were a preseason option to help fill out the top 9 and provide depth scoring
Nathan Gerbe: C+
Gerbe is as consistent as they come in terms of bringing energy and intensity every night, but in 2015-16 he had not found chemistry or a home on any of the top 3 lines. His 2 goals and 1 assist in 20 games before his injury just do not bring enough in terms of depth scoring even for a fourth-liner let alone for a player who saw time on higher lines early in the season.
Riley Nash: B-
Nash has generally played decent 2-way hockey and has also played a role on the currently surging penalty kill. As with Gerbe, the negative on Nash has been his inability to provide much in terms of scoring (1 goal and 5 assists in 33 games) and did not stick in his trials in the top 9. I like Nash as a fourth line/depth forward because of his skating and defensive play, but ideally he would bring more offensively.
Chris Terry: C
Signed to a 1-way deal before the season, he was more or less committed to a roster spot after taking a step forward in 2014-15. The optimistic hope was that he would take another step forward offensively. He has not seen a ton of ice time, but even still his 4 goals and 0 assists in 37 games just is not enough.
Graded more as niche fourth line role players
Brad Malone: B+
When you consider Malone’s niche role as a modern day enforcer (or whatever it is called in this kinder, gentler NHL), I think he has done his job. His scoring totals at 2 goals and 3 assists are modest, but he has been a noticeable physical presence on a regular basis with some big hits and dropping the gloves when needed. He has also carved out a new role on the penalty kill which is playing well. The question with him going forward is how much, if at all, of players like Malone are needed in today’s NHL and if not how he stacks up against other less physically imposing depth forwards.
Jay McClement: B
His grade has taken a step up or the past month or so because of his lead regular role on the penalty kill which has rounded into form. His borderline NHL speed/mobility and light scoring are low even for a fourth line forward which pulls his grade down a bit.
The rookie still developing and learning on the job
Brock McGinn: C+
I think it is too early to make any kind of final judgement on McGinn. He has shown flashes of being able to score some at the NHL level, and he brings a consistent brand of gritty play. But I continue to question whether he has enough speed/skating ability and size to translate his style of play to the NHL. After bursting on the scene with a big first game, he soon found himself part of a fourth line that struggled to keep the puck out of their own net when it was on the ice.
The last part or possibly 2 if I split them will be the goalies and defensemen.