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What is Dominik Simon’s long-term upside?

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He has very quietly been one of the team’s most productive players this season.

NHL: Toronto Maple Leafs at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not exactly a secret that the 2018-19 Pittsburgh Penguins are an older team.

By average age, they are one of the oldest teams in the league.

All of their star players, while still great, are all on the other side of 30.

When it comes to their pace of play and style of play they have obviously slowed down a bit relative to the rest of the league. All of that, combined with their current salary cap structure, puts a ton of pressure on them to find contributions from some younger, cheaper players. And that’s where things get to be a bit of a mystery for this team because it’s really difficult to get a read on what, exactly, they have with the few young players on the roster.

The only skaters on the team under the age of 25 to get “regular” playing time this season have been Jake Guentzel, Dominik Simon and ... ahem ... Daniel Sprong. If we want to call it regular playing time for him.

The Sprong saga seems to be headed toward an inevitable conclusion in the sense that his days in Pittsburgh are numbered. Whatever hope the front office seems to have for him is obviously not shared by the coaching staff given that he has been buried on the fourth line when he is in the lineup, and is now not even getting that. But to be fair to the coaching staff, Sprong has not really impressed when he has played. At some point you have to do something.

Guentzel seems to have found a home alongside Sidney Crosby and has mostly excelled there. His performance drops when he is not next to Crosby, but he is still a legit NHL player with a good shot, a good mind, and the ability to score some goals when he is not skating next to number 87.

That leaves us with Simon.

He was one of the bright spots in the Penguins’ 4-0 win over Arizona on Saturday night, scoring a goal and adding an assist to help the team break out of its five-game losing streak.

Overall on the season his numbers are, to say the least, very good. With four goals and 10 total points in 15 games he is on 22-goal, 54-point pace over 82 games. You would sign up for that every single time from just about anyone, especially a former fifth-round draft pick still playing on an entry-level deal. Just for perspective, the Penguins only had four players top a 22 goal and 54 point pace a year ago. That is legit top-six NHL production, and he is doing it while getting just 12 minutes of ice-time per game.

On a per-minute basis he has been as productive as any forward on the team.

His 1.09 goals per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 are fifth among the team’s forwards.

His 2.16 assists per 60 minutes are second among forwards, behind only Evgeni Malkin

All of those assists are first assists (no second assists) and that 2.16 mark is first on the team, and by a pretty significant margin (Phil Kessel is second at 1.43 first assists per 60 minutes).

His 3.25 points per 60 minutes is third.

All of this is to say that Simon has made the most of his minutes and been extremely productive this season.

The obvious thing to point out here in response to all of this, of course, is the Crosby effect, as a significant portion of Simon’s ice-time this season has come on a line with the captain. And they have been great together.

Simon has spent nearly 80 minutes of 5-on-5 ice-time alongside Crosby, during which time his possession, scoring chance, and goal differential numbers are all incredible, with all of them coming in at better than 58 percent.

His numbers away from Crosby do drop a bit, but do they drop enough to be a huge concern?

Dominik Simon 5-on-5 with and without Sidney Crosby

Situation Corsi % Goals For % Scoring Chance %
Situation Corsi % Goals For % Scoring Chance %
With Sidney Crosby 58.2 80.1 58.9
Without Sidney Crosby 44.4 57.1 53.7

The shot attempt numbers obviously take a big hit, but he is still holding his head above water when it comes to goals and, perhaps more importantly, scoring chances ... which is good. And a notable improvement over a year ago where he saw an even bigger split (in all areas) with and without Crosby.

Digging even deeper into the numbers, only one of Simon’s assists this season came on a goal scored by Crosby, while Crosby has only assisted on one of Simon’s goals. Simon also has as many points (five) without Crosby being on the ice at all as he does with Crosby being on the ice.

So, overall, there is a lot of good here. He is producing in the opportunities he is getting. This seems to match up well with the eye test because even last year when he wasn’t always finishing he always seemed to be in the right spot. He always seemed to be in a position to create a chance. The frustrating part was he never seemed to convert on them, especially in the playoffs.

So what do we see as Simon’s long-term potential here? Did the Penguins stumble into a legitimate top-six winger with a late-round draft pick? Is this early start this season just an example of some small sample sizes at work and he is more likely to settle into a “middle-six” role? Or is this all just a product of playing next to a future Hall of Famer and capitalizing on the chances that come with it?

Poll

What is Dominik Simon’s future with the Pittsburgh Penguins?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    Top line player
    (45 votes)
  • 60%
    Very good middle-six player
    (441 votes)
  • 28%
    He will be as good as Crosby makes him for as long as he plays next to Crosby
    (206 votes)
  • 4%
    He does not have a long-term future with the Penguins
    (31 votes)
723 votes total Vote Now