Forward Josh Jooris was acquired in a last-minute trade deadline addition by Jim Rutherford whenever most thought the GM would shop for a depth defenseman. He now has a perfect opportunity to take advantage of an emergency call up and earn a spot over injured Carter Rowney as the Penguins travel to Long Island to take on the Metro’s basement-dwelling Islanders.
Jooris wasn’t a household name anyone expected to see brought into Pittsburgh, especially when Ian Cole, an excellent d-man, was shipped off to Ottawa (and later, Columbus) in a massive trade for Derick Brassard and the defensive corps was thinned out. Question marks surrounded Rutherford’s plan to use the 27-year-old center/winger hybrid when the team was bleeding a bit on the blue line.
Minutes after the trade was made, Jooris was assigned to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, making Rutherford’s choice even more of a head scratcher. Why would he opt to bring in an AHL-calibre winger over a depth defenseman when the Penguins are a team literally littered with forward talent and lacking on the defensive side of things? It’s not as if Jooris brings a big element to the team. He’s basically just expected to take up space on the roster when he’s entered into the Pittsburgh lineup.
However, in his first call up after the tilt with the Flyers knocked out wingers Bryan Rust and Dominik Simon, Jooris slotted in at center onto the fourth line and actually played pretty well. His versatility keeps him in demand and can easily be taken advantage of by both Clark Donatelli and Mike Sullivan; it’s probably the direct reason for why he’ll receive the most call ups over other WBS guys.
“Center is my natural position, so that is a benefit for me,” Jooris told The Athletic. “Being versatile is something I can use. If Pittsburgh needs guys, whether it’s a center or wing, it’s nice to be able to play both positions and be comfortable.”
He has seen minutes as both a center and a winger in both the AHL and NHL so far.
Jooris’s first game with the Penguins was against the Leafs in Toronto. He was thrown together with Rowney and Tom Kuhnhackl, which was enough evidence to prove the fourth line wouldn’t be generating that much offensive production. Unsurprisingly, they didn’t, but what they did do was play their role perfectly — Jooris especially. The fourth line wasn’t on the ice for a single goal against in a 5-2 loss and still managed to put together a few good offensive sequences. Ultimately, it was an acceptable game for them. The world didn’t end.
His second game was against Dallas where he found himself on the fourth line once again. Jooris’s biggest upside is the fact that he might easily be a better bottom-pairing offensive option and be a decent upgrade from Rowney. If he can start killing penalties in the same manner the Penguins enjoy from Rowney, there’s no reason he shouldn’t earn a spot over him.
The eye test has been successful, so now let’s delve into Jooris’s fancy stats. Immediately, your eyes dart in the direction of his big role in shot contributions. At the 83 percentile, Jooris absolutely destroys Rowney in that category. He also has the advantage in every other category other than primary assists (just barely), which can be easy to stomach considering he’s throwing pucks on net at a high rate.
Jooris also owns an updated 56.3 Corsi For percentage and a dominant 72.7 Fenwick For percentage. For comparison sake, Rowney is at an abysmal 37 CF% and 37.6 FF%...unfortunately that’s not a typo. Rowney has left much to be desired all season. It’s past time for a permanent change, and Jooris might be the answer.
There’s nothing to lose in scratching Rowney and using Jooris at this point once a couple injuries right themselves, so why not try it out while we wait for Zach Aston-Reese to return?