Name: Bryan Rust
Position: Right wing
Age: 25 (26 on 5/11/2018)
2017/2018 Stats: 69GP/13G/25A/38P
Following the 2015-2016 season when he became a mainstay on the Penguins roster during their Stanley Cup run, Rust signed a two year deal with the team carrying an AAV of $640K against the salary cap. Over the course of the next two seasons, Rust helped the Pens win a second Stanley Cup while carving out a position for himself on the team.
In his three seasons as an NHL regular, Rust has never been a huge scorer as evidenced by his stats above. His Points/60 and Goals/60 are low among his fellow NHL regulars on the Penguins roster. Where he does succeed however is creating scoring chances when he’s on the ice. Rust’s Corsi For % leads the entire team and his Scoring Chances For % and High Danger Corsi are both near the top as well.
Another place Rust succeeds when looking at his underlying statistics is the Goals Against/60 number. He ranks 15th among regular NHL forward on the Penguins but this is a case where being lower on the list is actually a good thing. In this case, Rust is second best on the roster, trailing only Zach-Aston Reese who played considerably less minutes.
We mentioned above that Bryan Rust has carved himself out a position for himself since becoming a regular in the Penguins lineup. It just so happens, that position is on one of the top two lines playing with either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin. Skating alongside two of the best players of their generation will do wonders for you numbers, but you also have show some skill to be put there in the first place and maintain your spot there as well.
Looking at his numbers with the forward he spend the most time with and it is a sight to behold. Rust’s CF% is well above 50% with both Crosby and Malkin as well as the wingers he is usually paired with. You would like his Goals For/60 to be a little higher with a guy like Crosby but Rust has never been one to fill the net. His best numebrs actually come one the second line with Malkin in the middle and Carl Hagelin playing the left side.
Playing on the top two lines also means Rust sees a lot of time with the top four defenseman and his strong numbers carry over. His numbers when sharing the ice with Justin Schultz are the most impressive but its the smallest sample size.
All around, taking a closer look at Rust’s underlying numbers paints the picture of a guy that, while he may not give you a ton of goals, is going to help his teammates produce when he’s one the ice alongside them.
Bryan Rust is in no way a sniper and that is made clear by his shot chart. He plays more of a grinding style and gets a ton of looks in front of goal. Rust is also a useful penalty killer and sees significant time playing in that situation.
Monthly Splits and Other Stats
Overall, it was a pretty steady season for Rust in the scoring department. He only had four goals through the first three months but he did have 18 points in that same time span meaning he was creating some offense even if he wasn’t the one scoring the goals.
Rust missed most of January with an injury but he bounced back nicely after he returned to the lineup, scoring seven of his 13 goals in the months of February and March. Not shown in the graphic above are the playoff totals where Rust contributed three goals across twelve games.
We all know how many back-to-backs the Penguins played this year and Bryan Rust was one the lack of rest did not seem to effect. He scored 26 of his 38 points on either no rest or just one day off between contests.
Rust’s scoring was balanced throughout the season, totaling 19 points both before and after the All-Star Break but he actually scored at a better pace post-ASG, playing in 11 less games than before the break.
Praise and Quotes
“He’s the most versatile player on the Penguins roster by a mile, spending time on all four lines, right and left wing and both special teams units at various points in the season.” —Jason Mackey
“His transition from offense to defense and defense to offense is exceptional because of his speed. He puts pressure on the other team’s defense and he uses his speed on the penalty kill.” —Mike Sullivan
“It’s comforting when you have versatility. He’s one of those guys that gives it to us.” —Mike Sullivan
“What I love about Rusty’s game is that he just plays the same way. He uses his speed regardless of what line he’s on. He’s a good puck pursuit guy. He increases our team speed when he’s in the lineup. I just think he’s hard to play against.” —Mike Sullivan
“He’s a very comforting guy to be on the ice with because you know he’ll always be where he’s supposed to be, and you know he’ll always make the right play.” —Ian Cole
From Bryan Rust, one of seven #Pens who had never lost a Stanley Cup playoff series until tonight: "We may not have had our best game, but I think we were working hard. We were wanting to do the right things. I think everyone in here cared enough."— Matt Gajtka (@MattGajtka) May 8, 2018
Bryan Rust. For crying out loud. His ninth goal in (almost) 16 career elimination games. Stuffs it past Neuvirth.— Jason Mackey (@JMackeyPG) April 21, 2018
Penguins’ Bryan Rust with the first goal of the playoffs pic.twitter.com/skBROG9Chy— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 11, 2018
You know the playoffs are officially here because Bryan Rust just scored a goal— Dimitri Filipovic (@DimFilipovic) April 11, 2018
Even Strength: B+
Rust’s underlying stats speak for themselves and he is rewarded for his play. When he’s on the ice he can help drive possession alongside Crosby and Malkin on the top two lines. Since coming to the NHL, Rust has clearly carved out a spot for himself in the Penguins lineup and he has earned the trust of the coaching staff. His grade takes a hit on the basis that he doesn’t score at the rate of your everyday top-6 guy.
Special Teams: B
He plays a significant role on the Penguins penalty kill and will occasionally find time on the second power play unit if needed. This was not the best season for the Penguins penalty kill but having a guy like Rust who can go out and do that job on a nightly basis is valuable. His speed can be a major weapon here if the opportunity presents itself.
Fancy Stats: A
It’s clear as day when you look over his underlying numbers that the Penguins benefit when Bryan Rust is on the ice. He plays top-6 minutes and drives possession for guys like Crosby and Malkin. You can’t really ask for more from a guy making well under one million against the salary cap.
Since becoming a regular in the Penguins lineup, Rust has yet to break the 70 games played mark for a single season. He was well on pace this year before he was sidelined for most of January with an injury. He bounced back well when he returned but he plays a valuable role for the Penguins so the more time he misses the greater the consequence for the rest of the team. Better health could also help the scoring numbers as well.
Rust scored the first goal of the the 2018 Stanley Cup playoffs but that was about it. In 12 games, Rust tallied only three goals and zero assists. At one point in the Washington series he was seeing less ice-time than Dominik Simon. While it’s tough say what the issue may have been, Rust did not live up to the big game expectations set for him after 2016 and 2017.
Overall 2017/2018 Grade: B
Bryan Rust is perhaps the most versatile player on the Penguins roster at the moment. He plays top line minutes alongside Sidney Crosby and Evengi Malkin but he can also fill in on the bottom-6 and be just as effective. His underlying numbers show he drives possession when he is on the ice, especially with high end skill players like Crosby and Malkin. He also kills penalties and his speed makes him a menace for opposing defenses.
It doesn’t appear that Rust will ever be a player who fills the net for the Penguins. He will provide you with the occasional offense that always seems to come at exactly the right time. Over the course of three seasons, Rust has proven to be an effective player in the Penguins system and earned the trust of the coaching staff and management. It’s not hard to see why general manager Jim Rutherford wants to keep Rust around for as long as he can.
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