While Sidney Crosby continues to stack up points— and prove, alongside fellow even-strength point leader Erik Karlsson, that NHL players don’t automatically turn to dust at age 30— he is helping set up what could be a career season for Jake Guentzel.
Last year, Jake Guentzel tied his career-best goal total (40) and set a new career-best in assists (44) for a personal-best points total of 84.
Will he be setting all new highs by the end of 2023?
Tonight marks Jake Guentzel's 400th career NHL game.— Penguins PR (@PenguinsPR) December 13, 2022
Guentzel's 174 goals are the 10th-most through any active player's first 400 career games. pic.twitter.com/7aQahiAFQE
Guentzel has so far missed four games this season, thanks to a painful shot from Kris Letang (combined with Sidney Crosby’s Thursday hit on Evgeni Malkin, it might be time for the Penguins to rein in the friendly fire.) Still, he’s put up 15-16—31 through 26 games.
Right now, that pace feels like it could continue:
- There are only six games so far this season where Guentzel has been held off the scoreboard entirely, and it has yet to happen three times in a row. Throughout his career, he’s been one of the most consistent producers in the NHL: Guentzel’s .93 points per game ranks him 20th among active players with 400+ games played.
- When Crosby is hot, Guentzel is rarely far behind— of Crosby’s 17 goals so far this season, Guentzel has the primary assist on 12.
- Guentzel leads the Penguins in man-advantage goals (5), and the power play has only recently begun to heat up. We will likely be seeing more 5v4 goals from him if it continues to improve— although that could partially depend on the health of Evgeni Malkin, who helped set up four of those power-play five goals.
Right now, if he can stick around for the rest of the season (knock on wood!), Guentzel is on pace for 45 goals (career best: 40), 48 assists (career best: 44) and 93 points (career best: 84.)
Jake Guentzel's 14th goal of the season gives the @penguins power-play goals in seven-consecutive games for the first time since Nov. 17-Dec. 1, 2015. pic.twitter.com/KNptAZRL0C— Penguins PR (@PenguinsPR) December 16, 2022
The Penguins might be lucky Guentzel’s contract doesn’t expire this year (his $6 million annual contact runs through 2023-24.)
Last season, only two NHL players (Jonathan Huberdeau and J.T. Miller) tallied more than 90 points for $6 million or less, and they both got significant raises for it (Miller to $8 mil/per, Huberdeau to $10.5.)
Guentzel isn’t the only Penguin currently on track to break some personal records this season.
Brock McGinn, who tallied a career-best 16 goals all the way back in 2018 for the Carolina Hurricanes, is on pace for 21 this year after scoring seven times in the last 18 games.
Marcus Pettersson, who recorded a career-high 23 assists in a 2018-19 season split between Anaheim and Pittsburgh, started out with 10 assists in his first 21 games. He hasn’t marked the scoreboard in nine contests, but those early apples still have him on pace for a new record of 27.
Here’s an unlikely one, but hey, it would be cool: Tristan Jarry has already marked two assists one third of the way into the season. He still has time to top the career-best four assists he recorded in 2020-21. Plus, if he gets four more, he’ll tie Marc-Andre Fleury (14) for the second-most assists in Penguins goaltending history (although he would still have a long way to go to catch Tom Barrasso’s 31.)