Though newly traded center Riley Sheahan has only played eight games with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the impact he’s managed to make in that short stretch of time hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Keep in mind that five of the eight games Sheahan has played so far have been on a long, somewhat frustrating road trip through Canada, and he hasn’t had much time to settle his self in Pittsburgh just yet. Lifestyle growing pains aside though, the 25-year-old has really made a name for himself on the ice, even if that means not lighting up the scoresheet every night.
After finally seeing Sheahan play in person, I was extremely impressed with how he commands and quarterbacks play during his shifts. Additionally, his performance on the penalty kill has been great; almost as if he gives a sense of relief to those watching when he’s out there. It seemed like every shift he had, something went right, whether it was a great set up in the offensive zone, or a breakaway try like the one he had after a neutral zone turnover that rang off the crossbar against the Arizona Coyotes. Sheahan also boasts six blocks in his short tenure, which is more than noted guys who’ve played all year like Evgeni Malkin, Phil Kessel, and Conor Sheary. It shows a willingness he has to throw his body in front of pucks.
Sheahan is taking the second-most face-offs on the team at 51, sitting just 0.1% below Sidney Crosby’s team-leading 52% on the face-off win percentage chart. It’s comforting to know that your third-line center can be trusted to win draws when it counts.
He’s also been gifted with the opportunity to play with several big names on the team thanks to Coach Sullivan trying out different line combinations to get his team back on track, and according to Sheahan, it’s been a really great experience to play with such skilled guys.
During Tuesday night’s matchup with the Coyotes, he was paired with Carl Hagelin and Bryan Rust, and man was that line flying all over the ice. Every time I saw him step into the face-off circle to begin his shift, my eyes were automatically drawn to his play as he barked out smart orders to his teammates on the ensuing draw, making sure to see how well he’d fair that time around. I was never disappointed.
If Sheahan can continue to play as well as he has and start racking up assists and put pucks in the net, his upside will skyrocket even further, and he’ll make GM Rutherford look like a damn genius.
I know he’ll ultimately find his hot hand with the way he’s been working, and I’m excited to see the Penguins lift off when he does.