Player: Chad Ruhwedel
Born: May 7, 1990
Weight: 191 pounds
Hometown: San Diego, California
2021-22 Statistics: 78 GP, 4 G, 9 A, 13 P, 14 PIM
Contract Status: Ruhwedel was given a two-year contract extension with the Pittsburgh Penguins back in February 2022. The deal runs through the 2023-24 season and carries an average annual value of $800,000.
Fun facts: Ruhwedel hit career highs in games played (78) and points (13) during the 2021-22 season.
During the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs, Ruhwedel played in all seven of the Penguins’ games against the New York Rangers, recording zero points and claiming a plus-two.
Story of the Season
Chad Ruhwedel doesn’t offer anything spectacular, but he wasn’t asked to perform above his pay grade. His ceiling is that of a solid #7 or adequate #6 defenseman. The 2021-22 season allowed Ruhwedel the opportunity to carve out a role for himself, and he earned it based on his season-long performance.
Setting career highs in just about every meaningful category (even if it was because he was a bit player before this season), the undrafted defenseman gave Mike Sullivan three quality right-handed players in his defense corps.
He averaged 15:20 in TOI and gave Pittsburgh a good amount of hits (149) and blocks (86). Ruhwedel trailed only Zach Aston-Reese (187) and Kris Letang (171) in team hits.
Ruhwedel has never been known for his offensive game, but after he signed his new extension with the club on February 19, he looked to be playing with a bit more pep in his step. Three of his four goals came between February 15 and March 17.
His best statistical game of the season came during the team’s impressive 7-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on April 23. Ruhwedel recorded a goal and an assist while getting 18 minutes of ice time.
Regular season 5v5 advanced stats
Data via Natural Stat Trick. The ranking is out of seven defensemen on the team who qualified by playing a minimum of 150 minutes.
Corsi For %: 53.49 (3rd)
Goals For %: 50.54 (5th)
xGF %: 56.33 (1st)
Scoring Chance %: 54.86 (2nd)
High Danger Scoring Chance %: 56.96 (1st)
5v5 on-ice shooting %: 8.13 (4th)
On-ice save %: 90.93 (7th)
Outside of the on-ice save percentage, these are some solid advanced metrics for a guy who has historically been nothing more than a depth piece. The offense will never wow you, but the puck possession and scoring chances were definitely there.
Chad Ruhwedel, WAR% darling. The perfect marriage of solid play, low role and TOI, and excellent results.
Painting an even more detailed picture thanks to JFresh, hey, maybe Ruhwedel isn’t the greatest player entering or exiting the zone. That much is obvious, but again, these are pretty nice stats for a player of Ruhwedel’s caliber.
Ruhwedel outperformed The Athletic’s offensive and defensive projections as seen above.
What a comeback! Chad Ruhwedel drove to the net and tied things up, 4-4! pic.twitter.com/n91EWPdCxJ— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 16, 2022
3rd of the season and new career high for Chad Ruhwedel. The @penguins have the lead as we start the 2nd here on @ATTSportsNetPIT. pic.twitter.com/6512iIdcxz— AT&T SportsNet™ PIT (@ATTSportsNetPIT) March 18, 2022
DeSmith: "This guy's one more closer to Ovi..."— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 23, 2022
*walks over to Chad Ruhwedel with the Bold Penguin helmet*
JFresh labeled Ruhwedel as the “ideal depth defenseman,” and that description fits him to a tee.
He’s an inoffensive, all-around blue liner, and that’s meant in the best possible way.
Ruhwedel isn’t going anywhere. With the Penguins dealing with their own salary cap issues and the expiring contracts of Kris Letang and Evgeni Malkin, the team will need to be even more judicious when it comes to handing out money. Locking down Ruhwedel for two more years at just $800K gives the team the ability to deploy a serviceable defenseman while they can fill other, more pressing needs.
The San Diego native gives the Penguins cheap, effective depth that you can certainly win championships with. Let players like Letang, Marino, and maybe Mike Matheson shoulder the load of the defensive responsibilities.
The third pairing of P.O Joseph and Chad Ruhwedel could be in the cards come October 2022. The Penguins could do a lot worse than that.
Question to ponder
If Kris Letang doesn’t return to Pittsburgh next season, does that mean Ruhwedel gets elevated into the top-four? I see that as being an unlikely outcome. It seems Mike Sullivan knows what Ruhwedel’s capabilities are. Whether Letang returns or not, Chad Ruhwedel seems to be locked in as the team’s sixth or seventh defenseman, depending on who gets signed, traded, or released.
How would you grade Chad Ruhwedel’s 2021-22 season?
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