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2020-21 Season in Review: Bryan Rust

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It’s time to put Bryan Rust under the microscope as our 2020-21 season review rolls along.

New York Islanders v Pittsburgh Penguins - Game Two Photo by Joe Sargent/NHLI via Getty Images

Vitals

Player: Bryan Rust

Born: May 11, 1992 (29 years old)

Height: 5’ 11”

Weight: 192 pounds

Hometown: Pontiac. Michigan

Shoots: Right

Draft: 2010, Pittsburgh Penguins, 3rd round, 80th overall

2020-21 Statistics: 56 games played — 22 goals, 20 assists, 42 points

Contract Status:

History — Signed for one more season with a salary cap hit of $3.5 million. Set to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. We’ll discuss this more further down.

2017-18 Pensburgh Season in Review (B Grade)

2018-19 Pensburgh Season in Review (60% B Grade, 27% C Grade, 6% A Grade)

2019-20 Pensburgh Season in Review (91% A Grade, 9% B Grade)

Playoffs

In the Penguins short playoff stint against the New York Islanders, Rust and the rest of the Penguins first line went missing for long stretches of play, especially on the road where the Islanders could get the matchup they wanted. Even so, Rust still notched two goals, tied for second best on the team in the playoffs. Metrics wise, he posted a 62.3% Corsi For % in the six games, good for third best on the team trailing only Jared McCann and Sidney Crosby. One area of great concern that sticks out for Rust in the playoffs was his presence on the ice for six goals against while only being on the ice for three Penguins goals.

Monthly Splits

via Yahoo!

Story of the Season

What more can be said about Bryan Rust at this point that hasn’t already been said? From little known call-up to first line staple, Rust once again proved his worth to the Penguins with another strong campaign. For the second straight season, Rust reached the 20 goal mark, potting 22 on the season, placing him third on the team behind fellow linemates Crosby and Jake Guentzel.

Through his career to this point, Rust has a reputation of being somewhat injury prone but that did not turn out to be the case this season. Along with Guentzel, Rust was one of only two Penguins players to appear in all 56 games, playing a crucial role in the Penguins winning the MassMutual East Division.

When the Penguins were at their best during the months of March and April, so was Rust. In 31 games over that stretch, Rust scored 14 goals and recorded 24 points. On May 1st against the Washington Capitals, Rust scores his final goal of the season which also turned out to be the 100th goal of his career.

Regular season 5v5 advanced stats

Data via Natural Stat Trick. Ranking is out of 16 forwards on the team who qualified by playing a minimum of 150 minutes.

Corsi For%: 52.3% (4th)
Goals For%: 55.7% (8th)
xGF%: 50.9% (6th)
Scoring Chance %: 52.3% (6th)
High Danger Scoring Chance%: 49.0% (8th)
5v5 on-ice shooting%: 9.1% (8th)
On-ice save%: 92.5% (9th)
Goals/60: 0.76 (7th)
Assist/60: 0.76 (13th)
Points/60: 1.52 (12th)

—While Rust did notch another 20-goal season this year his offensive production dropped from the season prior. Some of that may have been expected after an unusually high shooting percentage in 2019-20 slightly returned to Earth this season and his goal numbers were slightly lower even in comparable games played between the two seasons. His assists numbers were also diminished.

—While the offensive box score numbers took a step back, Rust did improve on his Corsi For%, ranking fourth on the entire team this season. If you take out Frederick Gaudreau who only played in 19 games and Jeff Carter who only played in 14 after being acquired at the trade deadline, Rust posted the second best CF% among Penguins regulars tailing only Jared McCann.

Charts n’at

Lots of blue equals lots of good for Bryan Rust in 2020-21. Perhaps the Penguins prefer to see that defensive number a bit higher, but as a first line player, Rust is more counted on for his offense than anything else. We mentioned above how his assist numbers took a dive this season and that is reflected in red on this chart. Other than that, a very good season from Rust that is becoming more a normal than an anomaly from him.

This chart takes all the numbers from above and spreads it out over the last three seasons. Basically, Rust is a very good player and brings a lot to the Penguins when he’s on the ice. This won’t come as much of a surprise to those who have been watching his play over this time period, but seeing it like this really drives home just how good he has been.

Besides a brief stint with Evgeni Malkin and Jason Zucker for a time, Rust spent the bulk of his time on the top line with Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel. For a guy who has scored 18+ goals the last three seasons, Rust hasn’t seen much total power play time but he is a crucial penalty killer for the team. His lack of power play time can be more contributed to the Penguins having so many weapons to deploy rather than any fault in Rust himself.

Bryan Rust is listed as a right winger on the Penguins depth chart but by looking at his shot chart you might not be able to guess exactly where he plays. Rust is the type of player who likes to fire the puck towards goal and will do so from about anywhere on the ice when given the chance. He’s particularly dangerous from inside the dots or just in front of goal.

After beginning his career as a bottom six forward, Rust has developed into an offensive force in the NHL and his time on ice and role is reflective of that. You’ll notice his role increase each season he has played and it’s been a well earned promotion for Rust.

After a down 2018-19 season, Rust has been money for the Penguins ever since, especially when it comes to offense. He’s been by far one of the Penguins best offensive players the last two seasons but he also adds a solid defensive aspect that makes him even more valuable to what the Penguins want to do under Mike Sullivan.

Even strength offense and even strength defense are where you will find Rust doing the bulk of his work. His offense ISO chart should look familiar as it closely resembles his shooting chart from above, especially in the red areas where Rust does most of his damage. In the defensive zone, a solid blue area in front of goal is nice to see but a little more red on the right side where Rust typically plays could be improved upon.

Highlights

Bottom line

Just another great season from Rust across the board even if the offense did take a slight dip as compared to the season prior. His speed and his style of play are perfect for playing alongside Crosby and Guentzel and he possesses enough skill that there isn’t a major black hole in terms of offensive production even if he isn’t posting superstar numbers like the other two.

For a guy who no one heard of before becoming a folk hero during the back-to-back Stanley Cup years, Rust has developed into one of the Penguins most important players. Not just anyone can play with Sidney Crosby as we have seen in the past, but Rust has made himself a staple on the top line in recent seasons. What’s perhaps worth even more, if the lines need a shakeup, Rust has also shown great chemistry with Evgeni Malkin so Mike Sullivan has no qualms about pairing them together if he sees fit.

Ideal 2021-22

Hard to ask much more from Rust as this point so we’ll stick with more of the same for next season. Perhaps in a full 82 game season he can take a run at career highs across the board like he did in 2019-20 before the season was cut short. He’s proven he can fill the net and sticking with Crosby and Guentzel on the top line should help that trend continue. Rust will be in a contract year next season so it will he will be an interesting player to watch with that aspect following him around assuming there is no extension beforehand.

Question to ponder

There are two for Rust.

—What will his next contract look like?

—Will 2021-22 be Rust’s last season in Pittsburgh?

In regards to the first question, one thing is for certain. Rust’s next contract will come at a much higher cost than the $3.5 million a season his current deal is extracting from the Penguins salary cap. Unless Rust regresses well beyond the mean and puts up the worst season of his career in 2021-22, he’s going to be well paid in his next contract.

Now onto the second question. Assuming Rust doesn’t crash back into Earth like the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs, there is a very real chance he could price his way out of Pittsburgh when it comes to his next contract, unless the Penguins view him as so valuable to this team that they make other moves to fit his new deal under the salary cap.

Poll

How would you grade Bryan Rust’s 2020-21 season?

This poll is closed

  • 61%
    A
    (248 votes)
  • 36%
    B
    (149 votes)
  • 2%
    C
    (9 votes)
  • 0%
    D
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    F
    (0 votes)
406 votes total Vote Now