Earlier this week, Peoria Journal Star beat reporter Dave Eminian teamed up with Rivermen head coach Jared bednar to grade each member of the 2010-11 Peoria Rivermen. Those grades follow, along with Bednar's take on each of his players, after the jump.
NOTE: Click on each player's name to read his profile at the American Hockey league website (theahl dot com).
LINK to article at Peoria Journal Star website.
PEORIA RIVERMEN 2010-11 REPORT CARD
Peoria Journal Star, Apr. 27, 2011
The Peoria Rivermen closed out April on a 4-1-1 run to surge into the AHL playoffs and finish third in the West Division under rookie coach Jared Bednar. Peoria spent significant time as the top team in the division and Western Conference before the loss of 10 players to call-ups by the Blues left them scrambling down the stretch to a 42-30-8 record. Journal Star hockey writer Dave Eminian handed out the grades for each Rivermen player, while Bednar supplied the comments.
PLAYER -- CONTRACT (UFA = Unrestricted Free Agent. RFA = Restricted Free Agent. S = signed contract for 2011-12) -- POSITION -- JOURNAL STAR GRADE
AKIM ALIU -- S -- RW -- B+
(NHL Atlanta contractee on loan)
"He was a welcome addition on the trade deadline. Gave us speed, size and ability to make plays (5g, 4a in 16 games with Peoria). We were able to use him in a shutdown role, too. Gave us a spark in the playoffs."
JAKE ALLEN -- S -- G -- A-
"Impressive rookie season. Set the bar high with 4 shutouts in his first 8 pro starts and delivered elite play early in the season. Went through growing pains after the All-Star break, but matured to carry the load down the stretch for us and into the playoffs."
DEAN ARSENE -- UFA -- D -- A
"He was the backbone of our team and without question our leader on and off the ice. His attention to detail, his work ethic and focus, was always evident. He brought intangibles and a winning pedigree that made us a top team. You can sum him up as a WARRIOR, and it needs to be in all caps."
BEN BISHOP -- RFA -- G -- B+
"Had his best season as a pro (17 wins, .914 saves rate). Matured as a player and proved to be a legit NHL prospect and earned his time with the Blues (3-4-0, 2.77, .900 in NHL)."
DARRYL BOYLE -- UFA -- D -- C+
"Wasn't always a regular in our defense lineup, but he always stayed ready and was prepared whenever we needed him."
IAN COLE -- S -- D -- B+
"Overcame a slow start to prove he could be an elite AHL player (4g, 3a in 7-game stretch before final call-up to St. Louis). Earned his first call-up and significant time with Blues."
ADAM CRACKNELL -- UFA -- C/RW -- B+
"Earned his first NHL call-up (24 games with Blues) and contributed there. Made a huge step toward becoming a consistent, productive player (tied for team lead with 2g in 4 playoff games). I thought he matured and became an all-around pro."
MARK CUNDARI -- S -- D/LW -- B-
"Young rookie came in and made the most of his opportunity (8 ppg). He produced offensively for us (30 points in 69 games) from the defense spot, played on the power play, and when we needed him to play forward, he did that, too."
STEFAN DELLA ROVERE -- S -- LW -- B
"Earned NHL call-ups as a rookie. The demands of a long pro season took a toll on him later in the season, and he had some injuries. But he was a good player down the stretch, and he relished the third-line shutdown role."
NICK DRAZENOVIC -- RFA -- LW -- B+
"Real hot start, then cooled off mid-season. But he caught fire after that when we needed to win games (7g in the last 8 games), earned his NHL debut and had a career-best season."
BRENNAN EVANS -- S -- D -- B
"One of the constants on our blueline and penalty-kill. Consistent and reliable in his role, he gave us leadership, experience, toughness and solid defensive zone play. He's the type of player every team needs."
JAKE GANNON -- S -- D -- B
"Earned call-up from the ECHL and established himself here quickly as a dependable every-day defenseman (led team defensemen with +8 rating). He became a permanent fixture for us and earned a contract (AHL) for 2011-12."
T.J. HENSICK -- RFA -- C -- A
"He worked on areas of his game and became a complete player. He was a game-changer for us. Gave the team a chance to win on a lot of nights."
PHIL McRAE -- S -- C -- B+
(Finished season in NHL)
"I liked his season. He adjusted nicely to the pro pace of the game, and worked and improved on his defensive game. He also produced as a top-six forward while he was here, and he was among the top rookies in the AHL. We missed him."
GRAHAM MINK -- UFA -- RW -- B+
"Fought injuries that hurt his production. But he was a driving force for us (6g, 5a in last 16 games) down the stretch, and his work ethic was through the roof."
DEREK NESBITT -- UFA -- LW -- B+
(2g, 14a in last 21 games after returning from broken nose)
"Pleasant surprise. We pulled him out of the ECHL and he scored from Day 1. He became an impact player for us (team co-leader with 10 ppg) and a huge part of our team. His career was rejuvenated in Peoria."
ANTHONY NIGRO -- S -- C -- B
(Missed 18 games with high-ankle sprain)
"Intelligent, very composed player in his rookie season. That ankle cost him two months. But he came back and got better and better and turned into an elite penalty-kill guy."
NIKITA NIKITIN -- RFA -- D -- B+
(Finished season in NHL)
"Established himself quickly here (14 points in 22 games) as an intelligent player with lots of NHL upside. He honed his skills and earned a call-up and stayed with the Blues."
NATHAN OYSTRICK -- UFA -- D -- A
"Our emotional leader. Big-game player who brought skill to our lineup and earned a trip to the All-Star Game (15g second-most among AHL defensemen; 12th overall with 45 points). He played big minutes for us, and earned some time with the Blues."
DEREK PELTIER -- UFA -- D -- B-
"His skating and puck-handling ability helped us. He found a way to contribute in multiple roles, working on the power play, penalty-kill and earning time on what was often a very deep blueline corps."
ANTHONY PELUSO -- S -- RW -- C+
(Team-high 14 fights)
"Improved in his role as a physical power forward and earned increased playing time (had 5g in 62 games, plus 1g in playoffs)."
CHRIS PORTER -- UFA -- LW -- A
(Finished season in NHL)
"Tough, dedicated guy, he earned his extended stay in the NHL with Blues. This was his best season as a pro, and we missed him here. He left a void."
RYAN REAVES -- RFA -- RW -- B+
(Finished season in NHL)
"Breakthrough season for him. Put together size and toughness and grew into role as very hard player to play against (12 AHL fights). Won a permanent call-up with the Blues. We missed his presence and his hard-checking and energy."
DAVE SCATCHARD -- UFA -- C -- B-
(Limited to 41 games by knee injury, concussion)
"He missed a lot of time because he was injured or called-up to Blues, so we didn’t really get to benefit from his leadership and experience (676 NHL career games). He was a calming influence when he was here."
TYLER SHATTOCK -- S -- LW -- B
"Went through that adjustment period as a first-year pro. Had a strong finish to the season — he had a tremendous, physical, shift in the third period of Game 4 in the playoffs against Houston, something we hope is the standard for him. Excelled in role on one of league’s elite penalty-kill units."
BRETT SONNE -- S -- C -- C+
"Slow start to his season (zero points first 18 games) and the lack of production presented a challenge to him. We told our team to forget the first 60 games and treat the final 20 as a new start. He embraced that and flourished and became a tremendous defensive specialist down the stretch and in playoffs. We put him out there in key situations and he delivered."
DAVE SPINA -- UFA -- RW -- B-
(Team-best +10 rating and 3 shg)
"Added much-needed speed to our lineup and played a versatile role. His job changed weekly, sometimes game-to-game, but he handled everything."