Player: Jake Guentzel
Born: October 6, 1994 (24-years-old)
Birthplace: Omaha, Nebraska
Weight: 180 pounds
Contract: Completed a three-year entry level contract with a salary cap hit of $734,167 in 2018-19. Begins a six-year contract extension that runs through 2023-24 season with a new cap hit of $6,000,000
Regular Season History
Jake Guentzel’s professional hockey career has (rather unexpectedly due to where he was drafted) continuously shot in an upward direction and boy oh boy his 2018-19 season was no exception.
Finishing his 2017-18 season on somewhat of a down note with 22 goals and 48 points in 82 games, Guentzel was surely looking to rebound, as many were hoping he would be able to take that “next step” and his early career success was not just a flash in the pan or even a byproduct of Sidney Crosby’s greatness.
Indeed, from Game 1 to 82 in 2018-19, Guentzel proved his critics wrong, with an offensive instinct and flare that never left his play. Even analyzing his advanced metrics above, Guentzel was a positive force in the puck possession department with a plus-50 CF% and FF%.
And although as the year went on he earned more of a power play role, Guentzel had to do most of his damage at even strength. Just take a look from NHL.com to see the elite company he kept:
Guentzel had as many ES goals as Alex Ovechkin, and only John Tavares and Patrick Kane scored more in the whole league. Tremendous performance there.
Guentzel’s offensive outburst was so impressive that Penguins management rewarded the young winger with a 5-year, $30 million extension on December 27th (even if it was very, very likely that he would have been re-signed anyway).
Much has already been made of Guentzel’s incredible postseason play at only 24-years old. 43 points through 41 games is nothing to scoff at. And look, I’d be beating a dead horse by saying Guentzel had a poor showing in the ‘18-19 playoffs, because the entire team played poorly. However, in the four games Guentzel played in against the Islanders, he did score the final goal of the Penguins’ season in their 3-1 Game 4 defeat.
Game of the Season
My pick for Jake Guentzel’s game of the season has to be his first of two hat trick performances throughout the campaign. Accounting for basically the team’s entire offensive output, Jake put the Pens on his shoulders to score three goals and secure a 4-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on November 24, 2018.
Chart from Charting Hockey
The chart above shows that Guentzel was a pretty effective forward for the Penguins in terms of his possession data and how that correlated with his shot rate.
Data from hockeyviz:
This chart gives a great visual representation into Guentzel’s maturity as an NHLer. Obviously, as his primary point rate has increased, so too has line projection, now looking to be firmly planted as a top-6/first-line forward.
The above chart displays the goals Guentzel scored this season in the form of a heat map. If this picture tells you anything, it’s that Mr. Jake ‘n Bake is a menace in front of the net and down low, which has been par for the course throughout his career.
These are Guentzel’s shots portrayed via a heat map as well. And as you can see, the correlation between his goals heat map and this shot map is quite strong. Guentzel’s office is down, in front of opposing netminders.
That’s a great chart right there- Guentzel scored primary points in the 2018-19 season like a top-end first line player. The Pens were a dull team below NHL average as far as shots per hour with Guentzel off the ice (about 55 per hour) but with him on the ice they transform into a very good team with 65+ shots per hour. We see the same trend with goals, Pittsburgh scored well over 3.5 goals/hour with Guentzel on the ice, when he went to the bench that cratered to below 2.5 goals/hour.
Looking ahead, the hope is that Guentzel comes into the 2019-20 season with similar aspirations as his previous seasons. He is now locked up for the future, so he can take the financial side of the game out of his mind and focus on hockey. There is no real competition behind Guentzel to supplant him as Sidney Crosby’s left winger, so there is no reason why Jake can’t reasonably hit the 25-30 goal mark again.
Realistically, I can see Guentzel hovering around the 25-30-goal/60-70-point mark. Playing alongside the game’s greatest player certainly doesn’t hurt the stat column. Guentzel has earned the trust of coaches and fans alike with his steady brand of offense thus far in the NHL.
Worst Case 2019-20
A major regression strikes Guentzel and he ends the season with something like 40 points. He would really have to be stuck in a rut for a large chunk of the season, and if that’s the case, the team’s total offensive output will suffer immensely (especially if a certain right winger is going to be traded before the puck drops on a new season).
Does Jake have another 40-goal campaign in him for the 2019-20 season? Is it even fathomable to think that he may regress after such a monstrous season? Sound off on Jake Guentzel’s 2018-19 season and his ‘19-20 season outlook in the comments below.
What grade do you give Jake Guentzel’s 2018-19 season
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