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2014-15 Pensburgh Recap: Bryan Rust

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The Notre Dame grad had a surprising rookie season. Let's recap it here

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Age: just turned 23 (May 14, 1992)

Contract Status: $652,500 base cap hit which could be as high as $900,000 with bonuses, RFA after the 2015-16 season

2014-15 Stats

GP

TOI/GP

Goals

Assists

Points

14 (45)

12:01

1 (13)

1 (14)

2 (27)

Corsi For %

Corsi Rel %

Goals For %

Zone Start %

PDO

51.6%

1.56

38.5%

34.2% off vs. 23.9% def

96.4


(Note: AHL boxcar stats are in parenthesis)


Penguins 2014-15 Forwards

rustfwd15

Most frequent forward linemates

Linemates

Goals For%

Corsi For%

Total 5v5 time (154:13 for Rust)

Evgeni Malkin

33.3%

55.2%

55:09

Sidney Crosby

40.0%

51.9%

54:57

Chris Kunitz

25.0%

49.4%

47:08

Rookie surprise

Rust had an interesting year that doesn't really make sense on the surface. He was highly sheltered with good zone starts, but had difficult competition- which comes with the territory of playing a ton with the 2 big boys. Rust's NHL stint was December 22nd - January 13 at a time when the Penguins had some injuries up front and as you can tell above, he was plugged into a supporting, part-time scoring line role. Despite the great linemates, Rust only averaged 12 minutes a game in the NHL and often was sat for stretches when the situation required.

Rust did very well in the Corsi battle, yet got killed in Goals For %. His PDO was also among the lowest on the team for forwards. He probably had some bad luck to have such great linemates and opportunities and end up with such little to show for it.

Rust, a Notre Dame graduate, made his jump to the pros this season and not a lot was really expected of him. By the end of the season, he was one of Wilkes-Barre's bright spots and had played more NHL games (14) than anticipated. Not a bad debut year.

The Good

Rust scored a goal in his second NHL game on December 15th against Tampa. He followed that with a 6 shot on goal game against Colorado. Overall, he ended the NHL portion of his season with 34 shots on goal in 14 games, an impressive 2.42 per game number for a player getting limited minutes. His production wasn't huge, and by the end of his time in the NHL it was clear he needed more time in the AHL, but he got a chance to play in the top league, with the best of teammates in Crosby and Malkin, and he performed well at times. Lots of shots, a good motor and some youth- which is just what the team has been looking for. Rust's play in the AHL was very encouraging too, where he blossomed into one of the top forwards on the team.

The Bad

For all the shots he took at the NHL level, Rust was reminiscent of times of a fellow right right-handed, right-wing, smallish player in Tyler Kennedy, who never met a shot he didn't like, even if there were bodies in the way or it ended up right in the goalie's chest. Rust got some quality time with 87 and 71 and only generated 2 points and got killed in Goals For. It might not all be on him, but he had a golden chance to step up to the plate and hit a homer, and he only flied out. It's difficult to be too critical, since he was an injury fill in anyways, but the issue for Rust already looks like that of what his niche will be. Is he skilled enough to produce points in the NHL? Is he big/competent enough to play a more physical bottom six role? Rust had a good season, but questions abound about his future.

GIF of the Year

rustgoal

Evgeni Nabokov and Brian Boyle make mistakes and Andrew Ebbett smartly serves up Rust his first (and to date only) NHL goal. Nabokov would only play 3 more games for the rest of his career, before retiring mid-season after Tampa got rid of him.

Preseason expectations

Really, none at the NHL level. Rust didn't really stand out and camp, and wasn't in the mix, but he made his way to the NHL after a good start to his AHL season. And with the NHL experience and positive finish to the AHL year, it would have to be said that Rust has inserted himself directly in the conversation for who could make the jump to the NHL next year, with other candidates like Scott Wilson, Kasperi Kapanen and Oskar Sundqvist.

Verdict

Where do you see Rust's niche next season? Do you think he can beat guys like Wilson and Bobby Farnham for an NHL job next season? Or should the Pens look to a veteran UFA option like Patrick Eaves or Patrick Dwyer to play a 4th line role next season?

***

Feel free to vote in the poll below to grade Rusts season on a scale from 1 to 10. Vote based on your expectations for him coming into the season -- i.e. 1 being "he was incredibly disappointing and I want him out now", 10 being "he was outstanding even beyond my craziest expectations".