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2016-17 Pensburgh Recap: Jake Guentzel

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What more can you say about the rookie who led the league in playoff goals? Well, a lot. Time to Jake ‘n Bake, baby!

Washington Capitals v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Four Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images

2016-17 Stats and career progression

Preseason Expectations:

After tearing up the AHL playoffs in 2016, Jake Guentzel was certainly a prospect to watch. Some antsy fans wanted him in the NHL post haste, and fuel to that fire was only added after a very successful pre-season where Guentzel impressed in practice and also in exhibition games. He, along with Carter Rowney, were the final cuts from camp but pretty much everyone who followed the Penguins knew it would be a matter of when and not if we would see Guentzel make his NHL debut in his first full professional season.

The Fanciest of Stats

Boxcars:

Regular season: 40 games played: 16 goals, 17 assists, 33 points, +7, 10 PIMs, 15:53 Time On Ice per game

Playoffs: 25gp, 13g+8a = 21p, +1, 10 PIMs, 19:44 TOI/game

5v5 Points/60: 2.88 (2nd among top 14 minutes playing forwards on the team)

Corsi For %: 50.9% (7h among top 14 forwards)

Goals For %: 56.9% (7th/14)

PDO: 102.3 (5th/14)

5v5 Shots/60: 7.58 (9th/14)

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

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

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

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

Analysis

Season story

Gunetzel got his first call up for the 11/21 game against the Rangers, and what a debut it was: 2 goals, including the first one on his first shot and shift. If the former 3rd round pick was under the radar around the league, he certainly wasn’t any longer. After 5 games in the NHL he was sent back down further development in the AHL when the shine wore off. On 1/16/17, Guentzel was called back up to stay for the 2nd half of the season, and as you can see above, played top-6 winger for the Penguins either with Evgeni Malkin and then down the stretch with Sidney Crosby.

January saw Guentzel slowly find his way but also start to earn the trust of the coaches. From the January Ups and Downs:

Guentzel got 7 games in January and while he didn't blow anyone way his scoring (just 1g+2a) but perhaps more importantly he's done enough with his play to stay in the lineup at least for the time being.

February earned an up arrow for Guentzel:

A star-making month for Guentzel, appearing in all 12 games, being very productive (3g+5a) and playing close to 17 minutes a night, Guentzel is now a staple of the team and finds himself on the Crosby line currently.

March was even better, until an illegal check to the head knocked Guentzel out with a concussion. Luckily, he was able to return on 3/31 and only miss a few games.

Guentzel became a legitimate 1st line forward in March, scoring 11 points (5g+6a) in 12 games. Missed 4 games with a concussion but returned on 3/31 and looked good scoring a goal.

Then came the playoffs, where all Guentzel did was lead the team and league in goals with 13. That stat is wonderful, but there were bumps along the way, like a drop in play late in the Ottawa series that saw a flirtation with a healthy scratch. However, Guentzel was able to bounce back quickly and scored 4 goals in the first three games of the Stanley Cup Final.

Interesting stat: Counting playoffs, Guentzel 28 games against Metropolitan Division opponents. Stat-line? 17 goals, 12 assists for 29 points. Considering 43% of that sample is in the playoffs and rivals and their fans definitely learned who Jake Guentzel was this year.

Verdict

A top prospect already, Guentzel made a fairly seamless and smooth transition to become an extremely productive top-6 winger. For years the search for a “winger for Sid” or two has gone on. Finally they found one here, and on an entry-level contract for two more seasons as well. Guentzel showed that he can think the game on Crosby’s level and also beat the goalie with his shot, a willingness to drive the net and also extreme patience and vision. (How many young players would pause an extra beat in Game 7 after a Crosby pass to wait for Bryan Rust to enter the screen here? And then have the skill to saucer a perfect pass over the falling defenseman?)

Question for the comments

Not really sure how much there is to question here, but where do you see Guentzel next year? Any cause to bounce between Sid and Geno or simply a plug-and-play guy for Crosby? Also with a full NHL regular season, where do you project Guentzel’s stats to be next year? 30th place among forwards got 62 points, so it would seem the Pens are on their way to a 4th name among the scoring leaders to join Crosby, Malkin and Phil Kessel, but what ceiling does Guentzel have?