The Penguins have been reaping the spectacular benefits of Jake Guentzel for two straight, entry-level contract-ful years by being the direct recipients of a highly-touted offensive player for the price of a fresh, young face. In just year two of his three-year ELC deal, Guentzel has been turning heads and breaking records around the NHL and showing just how valuable of an asset he is, exemplified by the 23-year-old’s advanced stats below.
Name: Jake Guentzel
Position(s): Center, left wing
Age: 23 (24 on October 6, 2018)
Basic 2017-18 Stats: 48 points (22 goals, 26 assists) in 82 games played
Guentzel consistently put up numbers over the desired 50-percentile mark in both Corsi and Fenwick percentages, the deciding factor on whether the team as a whole is better with the puck on his stick paddle. He also is only second to net-front menace Patric Hornqvist when it comes to racking up high danger chances for, which comes as a pleasant surprise.
Sidney Crosby came on top by a mile at most ice time shared with Guentzel, which, when you consider how well these two complemented each other this past season, it’s hard to argue why. Their shared CF% is through the roof, which is unreal from a possession standpoint. The duo often get pucks past opposing netminders when paired together too. It just seems that they’re always setting each other up, and it’s a strategy that Mike Sullivan will probably utilize (apart from any future, drastic reason) for as long as those two don the Penguins’ logo on their chests.
Bryan Rust and Guentzel’s numbers together came as a lovely surprise. I truly didn’t think those two played so well on the same line. Rust tends to fit in anywhere, but on a line with Guentzel, a magic 56.7 CF% was produced. That’s an excellent stat line. However, a push from Phil Kessel had Guentzel gobbling up points most often. It’s nice to see Guentzel experiencing success from more than just the top line with the best player in the world. It should add to his repertoire come re-signing time a year from now with Jim Rutherford.
When you comb over Guentzel’s heat maps, he absolutely owns the slot and goal crease down low, landing shots on goal in a gargantuan manner. Playing alongside Crosby will do that. It’s also nice to see that he doesn’t favor his natural side and manages to evenly split his offensive work in front of the net. In fact, according to these maps, Guentzel showed a bit of a preference for the right side of the net mouth even though he plays left-handed. However, backing up more towards the blue line, you’ll notice he takes his shots from 40 feet out more often on the left side of the ice. During power play shifts, Guentzel also favored the left side and middle of the ice — both excellent places for scoring chances on the man-advantage.
Guentzel never saw time on the penalty kill (to no surprise), but you’ll notice his line had some trouble defending in their own zone. Matt Murray seemed to be peppered at will.
Monthly Splits and Other Stats
Guentzel saw most of his success in the regular season happen in the months of November and February, where you’ll see clear spikes in the amount of points he tallied. In the months where we saw a slight drop in offensive production, Guentzel seemed to boost his defensive game, racking up a decent amount of hits and blocked shots. Luckily for the 23-year-old, when he sort of hit a goal-scoring “rut,” his picked up those lost points by setting up his teammates. If you can’t score, pass off to someone who’s hot. Easy money.
There didn’t seem to be much of a difference between what day of the week it was for Guentzel, as his numbers are pretty even across the seven-day board. He had a little bit of a surge in the middle of the week, namely Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but nothing really too notable — which, in a regular season filled with 82 games, is actually a really good thing. Scoring regularly each night bodes well for a league that doesn’t discriminate on what day it is.
When it came to figuring out which teams Guentzel had his best games against, Pittsburgh’s conference rivals Philadelphia and Columbus took the cake. When reminiscing about each of those eight games, tensions were always high, and it always seemed like Guentzel had a part in the victories. He recorded six points (two goals, four assists) against the Flyers and four points (two goals, two assists) versus the Blue Jackets. Guentzel also had success against conference opponent Carolina, tallying up five points (two goals, three assists) in the four games played against the Hurricanes. Apart from that, his offensive total were pretty regular and even across all the other 28 NHL teams.
When it came to home and road splits, Guentzel had a consistent approach, keeping his goals and assist totals just about the same no matter if he was playing in a a homestead or out in enemy territory. He did however have a slight advantage when playing in Pittsburgh, which is pretty normal. Producing on the road is tough, and it was good to see he didn’t completely disappear.
Praise and Quotes
When you play as well as Guentzel did his second record-breaking season, you’re going to receive a fair amount of praise from media and fans. Here’s just a sample of what was said about his strong campaign:
“A lifetime of growing up in hockey rinks has led to a hockey IQ as high as any in the NHL. There’s no reason to think he won’t keep on exceeding expectations — no hurdle has tripped him up yet.” — Justin Bourne, The Athletic
“One of the common thoughts coming into the postseason was this: ‘Guentzel can’t possibly be expected to do what he did last year.’ That has proven to be correct. He is doing more.’” — Joe Starkey, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“He’s a really gritty guy. You can see him after each play. He’s almost like (Hornqvist) in a way where everyone is kind of attacking because he’s getting to those dirty areas. I think he feeds off that. He gets into the games, he gets physical and it’s just part of his game.” — Conor Sheary
“What’s been so fascinating about how destructive Guentzel has been to opponents at every level is how he plays more like a gentle breeze than a hurricane force wind. But the results are still devastating.” — Justin Bourne, The Athletic
Social Media Praise
#Pens Jake Guentzel now has 41 points in 35 career playoff games (1.17 per game). Here's the list of players with more playoff PPG w/35+ games played:— Corey Masisak (@cmasisak22) May 4, 2018
That's the list.
We mic'd one player in Game 6.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 23, 2018
We think we hit the Jakepot. pic.twitter.com/IGbEVBdQMP
Jake Guentzel of the @penguins is the seventh different player in NHL history to record 20+ points within his team’s first 10 games of a postseason. #NHLStats #WSHvsPIT #StanleyCup pic.twitter.com/UPQUnj9By3— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) May 4, 2018
NHL all time postseason goal per game leaders:— Josh Yohe (@JoshYohe_PGH) May 4, 2018
Mario Lemieux — 0.710
Mike Bossy — 0.659
Jake Guentzel — 0.657
Barry Pederson — 0.647
Rocket Richard — 0.617
Cam Neely — 0.613
Wayne Gretzky — 0.587
Pavel Bure — 0.547
Overlooked in all the Cup festivities is that Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby, eliminated in the 2nd round, finished the playoffs 5th and 6th respectively in playoff scoring. Imagine their numbers if they had advanced further— Wray Perkin (@WrayPerkin) June 8, 2018
Even Strength: A-
He won’t give you that much on the defensive end, even though he did pick up his physical game a bit in the middle of the regular season, but he’s always solid in the attacking zone. When Guentzel’s on the ice and playing to his strengths, the Penguins are collectively a better team. He scored 15 of his 22 total goals when Pittsburgh was at full-strength, which, as all of you may painfully remember, was hard to come by. This was Guentzel’s first full season in the NHL, and though many were expecting him to double his offensive numbers, he still put up a respectable 48 points for a sophomore in the NHL.
I think a lot of folks had higher expectations of Guentzel — hoping for more than 30 goals or so — but the kid is only 23 with many years ahead of him. A little regression isn’t a bad thing when you look at his career so far from a big picture standpoint.
Special Teams: B
Guentzel netted seven and five helpers in 2017-18, for a total of 12 power play points. He didn’t manage any short-handed points, and he never really experienced ice time on the penalty kill. To be fair, he was playing on a team with guys like Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, and Phil Kessel — all of whom torched teams with the man-advantage all season. Guentzel contributed occasionally, and that was good enough for the Penguins’ lethal power play.
Guentzel didn’t miss a single game this past season, suiting up for all 82, plus all 12 playoff games. Considering he was pulled up from the AHL in his first season and only played 40 games, staying healthy in his first full season as a young, scrappy player is a big accomplishment in itself.
Guentzel managed to out-score Crosby in this year’s postseason, making this grade pretty easy to decipher. He lead all players in playoff points for weeks after the Penguins were bounced. There’s really no other way to put it — he was phenomenal once again.
Overall 2017-18 Grade: A-
In Guentzel’s report card, I mainly stuck to how well he faired during the regular season, but I wouldn’t dare end this article without a proper stick tap to his unbelievable playoff performance. Here’s a quick link to how Guentzel, once again, proved he’s red hot in the playoffs, including all the records he broke in the process.
After the 2018 postseason came to a close, “Playoff Jake” finished fifth in the points standings, going as long as the last series to lead all players — and that’s even after being knocked out of the running by the eventual Stanley Cup-winning Washington Capitals. His 21 point feat held the lead for weeks after being banished to the golf links, only to be beaten by four guys that went all the way to Game 6 of the Final, which is ridiculous. Guentzel was on another level.
All in all, it was a solid year two for him, and I fully expect him to make another leap forward this coming 2018-19 season. Maybe this will be the year Guentzel cracks the 30-goal mark.
How would you grade Jake Guentzel’s 2017-18 season?
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