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2016-17 Pensburgh Recap: Chad Ruhwedel

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The Pens defensemen set a career high in NHL games played and recently signed a two-year contract after a solid 2016-17

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Ottawa Senators at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

2016-17 Stats and career progression from hockeydb.com

Preseason Expectations:

Practically nothing, by way of having an NHL impact, anyways. Ruhwedel was a middle cut in training camp (9 defensemen remained at the time) so at that point Chad Ruhwedel wasn’t all that distinguished from the Oleksy’s and Gaunce’s and Erixon’s of the roster and seemingly behind names like Derrick Pouliot and David Warsofky on the organizational depth chart, since both did play in Pittsburgh the previous season as well.

Fancy Stats

Boxcars:

Regular season: 34 games played: 2 goals, 8 assists, 10 points, +9, 8 PIMs, 17:20 Time On Ice per game

Playoffs: 6gp, 0g+0a = 0p, -3, 4 PIMs, 14:06 TOI/game

5v5 Points/60: 0.83 (5th among top 9 minutes playing defensemen on the team)

Corsi For %: 48.4% (8th among top 9 defensemen)

Goals For %: 59.0% (3rd/9)

PDO: 102.8 (1st/9)

5v5 Shots/60: 4.83 (6th/9)

Ruhwedel's Season, Game-by-Game (via HockeyViz, explained here):

Ruhwedel's 5v5 Teammates and Competition (via HockeyViz, explained here):

Ruhwedel's With-or-Without You (via HockeyViz, explained here):

Ruhwedel’s Goals Against Replacement (GAR) Components (chart by @ChartingHockey, data by @DTMAboutHeart, explained here, Tableau here):

HERO Chart

Analysis

Season story:

After spending the first two months of the season in Wilkes-Barre, Ruhwedel made his NHL season debut (and debut in a Penguins sweater) on December 20th. He’d play in five games in December, all wins, scoring a goal (his first career in the NHL) vs NJD in his second game as a Pen.

Ruhwedel would be sent back to the AHL again for two weeks before another re-call for six more games from 1/16-1/26. At that point he would become the 7th defenseman for a brief stint until he drew back into the lineup on 2/17. Our February Ups and Downs gave him a dash with commentary of:

Played 5 games in Feb, a healthy scratch for the rest. Scored an important goal in the Stadium Series, floating a point-shot past a clueless goalie. No other points on the month. Soon should be relegated to the bench with the trade additions made, one would think.

2017 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series - Philadelphia Flyers v Pittsburgh Penguins Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

March got a similar dash and writeup in the Ups and Downs:

Played 15 games on the month, also seeming to deal with an injury of late but still played 18 minutes a night. Decent enough stats (0g+4a), who knew Ruhwedel would be an important NHL player this deep into the season but as a right-handed shot who can be steady he is. Seems to be a depth player once health returns, however.

That projection came to pass, as Ruhwedel was a healthy scratch for the first 10 games of the playoffs, but he did get a chance to play in a Game 6 loss to Washington and the Game 7 win vs. the Capitals due to Trevor Daley too banged up to play.

Ruhwedel would stay in the lineup for all of the first four games in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Senators before Bobby Ryan very rudely (but not illegally in the eyes of the refs) left Ruhwedel bloodied and concussed with two high hits in succession.

That ended up ending Ruhwedel’s season, but he got to celebrate the Stanley Cup win and also signed a two-year, one-way contract, giving him a step up and some security for his career.

Key stat: Though Ruhwedel had played parts of of 4 other NHL seasons, he only had 33 career games coming into this season. He topped that in 2016-17 alone with 34 games, but it also illustrates just how little experience he had. Add in some really high PDO (goalies making a .939% save with Ruhwedel on the ice at 5v5 led all Pens defensemen) and was this the most charmed and fortunate a season Ruhwedel could have had? Can he replicate that?

Verdict

Certainly a career-making year for Ruhwedel who moved from organizational depth player all the way up to trusted #7 defenseman...And of course, when you play for the Penguins, the #7 defenseman played 37 games in the second half of the season and got an opportunity to play significant games in the playoffs as well. Rewarded with a two-year contract, Chad earned what he received and that’s the opportunity to continue to be an NHL option for Pittsburgh moving forward.

Question for the comments

What should Ruhwedel’s role be for next season? And at Age 26/27 did he just finally “figure out” or get the right opportunity in the NHL or do you expect his play to regress from last year? Where is his truest level of play; AHL or bottom-pairing NHL defenseman?