“But Dominik Simon doesn’t score goals!” Pittsburgh fans curse and shout into the oblivion.
Simon, arguably one of the Penguins’ best two-way players from an analytical standpoint, may have finally heard enough of that argument, despite its warranted reasoning.
But in this year’s IIHF World Hockey Championships, the 24-year-old forward is turning heads in Slovakia as he plays for his home country, the Czech Republic. He has already exploded for three goals and five assists for eight points in the Czech’s first six games of the tournament.
Simon also charged into the Swiss net in the Czech’s game vs. Switzerland Tuesday morning, knocking the puck in with his skate and getting it confirmed as a goal after video review. He’s been all over the ice and seemingly always in perfect positioning for a high scoring chance.
The Penguins should be over the moon with how much success he has had with his offensive game so far at Worlds, as it’s probably something they’ve been waiting to see for a while now, but they especially have to be thrilled that Simon’s doing it all without Sidney Crosby on his flank — another argument that divides fans.
In our season review of Simon, the numbers didn’t lie. His sparkling production at 5-on-5 was a huge testament to the Penguins’ success in their opponents’ zone. And even though he only found the back of the net eight times in 71 games in 2018-19, Pittsburgh was consistently a threat to score and spent very little time defending in its own end while he was on the ice.
Simon’s success in Slovakia may just be the beginning for the young forward with a year left on his contract at a very appealing $750,000 cap hit. If his scoring prowess in Europe against lesser talent translates back to the NHL come October, the Penguins may be in for a real, inexpensive treat. If it doesn’t, well, reactions will continue running on their negative course, especially when a new contract is on the line next summer.
Who knows, though? Maybe there’s been a scorer lurking inside Simon all along. He’s just finally breaking out of his shell.