Player: Bryan Rust
Born: May 11, 1992 (age-29 season in 2021-22, turned 30 during the playoffs)
Height: 5’ 11”
Weight: 192 pounds
Hometown: Pontiac, Michigan, United States
2021-22 Statistics: 60 games played —24 goals, 34 assists, 58 points, 14 penalty minutes
Contract Status: This was the final year of a four year deal Rust signed back in 2018 under Jim Rutherford. Just days after the Penguins 2021-22 season came to an end, Rust and the Penguins ended any free agency speculation with a new six-year contract that carries a $5.125 AAV.
Fun facts: Rust set career highs in points and assists this season while missing 22 games. Over the course of a full 82 game slate, Rust was on pace for a 33-46-79 season, numbers that shatter his previous career bests.
Along with fellow line mates Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel, Rust helped light up the New York Rangers in a losing effort in the first round. Rust posted eight points in the seven game series, with six of those points being assists. Those eight points are the second highest playoff total of his career, just one behind the nine he posted in 2016 and 2017 in many more games played. This was also a significant boost in productions for Rust after posting a combined just nine points in the four playoffs prior.
Story of the Season
At this point it’s safe to say Bryan Rust is not a fluke and has developed into a top line winger in the NHL. In fact, that was probably already true a few seasons ago, but once again he proved his worth with another high level season on the Penguins top line alongside Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel. In 60 games played, Rust reached the 20-goal mark for the third straight season and posted a career high in both assists (34) and points (58).
The only downside for Rust this season that perhaps held him back was the 22 missed games. Rust battled injuries early in his career but had a nice run of play the last few seasons with little missed time. Even if Rust cuts those missed games in half and plays 71 this season, he absolutely obliterates all his old career highs.
Rust potted a solid 24 goals this season but still finished below his goals expected number. According to Money Puck, Rust finished the season with -1.4 goals expected, barely keeping him from reaching the 25-goal plateau.
Regular season 5v5 advanced stats
Data via Natural Stat Trick. Ranking is out of 17 forwards on the team who qualified by playing a minimum of 150 minutes.
Corsi For%: 51.0% (11th)
Goals For%: 53.9% (10th)
xGF%: 39.9% (5th)
Scoring Chance %: 53.3% (10th)
High Danger Scoring Chance%: 52.2% (10th)
5v5 on-ice shooting%: 8.8% (5th)
On-ice save%: 92.7% (9th)
Goals/60: 0.73 (9th)
Assist/60: 1.32 (4th)
Points/60: 2.05 (5th)
It might jump out to some that despite Rust’s box score numbers, he ranked rather low among his teammates when it came to the analytics portion of his stats this season. Although he did rank low, he still put up positive possession stats overall which remains a good sign. He wasn’t earth shattering a 5-on-5 this season but he was far from a hinderance when he was on the ice.
It feels like there are times when Rust is still labeled as a grinder type player rather than an elite scorer like he is. Perhaps it’s how he clawed his way to the NHL that allows that reputation to stick with him, when in reality Rust is plays with a lot of gas a very little breaks when on the ice. His impacts swing heavily towards the offensive side of the game and he’s incredibly strong on the man advantage.
Very well rounded at almost everything, a sign of why he fits in well with Crosby or any other good forward. He spends most of his time with Crosby but it’s no surprise looking at these numbers that he has developed some chemistry with Evgeni Malkin as well. The eye test will tell you what Rust is excellent at and the stats back that up.
When Rust said a few weeks ago at his season-ending press conference, “I feel like I’ve played to a higher level than what my contract said the last few years,” he was not exaggerating. At his past price, Rust was one of the biggest bargain in the NHL. He earned and received a deserved pay raise but still signed for well below market value.
Bryan Rust powers his way to the front of the net and buries it to put the Penguins up 3-1.— Danny Shirey (@DannyShireyPGH) March 23, 2022
Pay the man. pic.twitter.com/A8rtGXG1MH
Pay him they did.
THE SKILL— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) January 6, 2022
Bryan Rust batted his own deflection in for the Penguins! pic.twitter.com/WMhdhyvdR6
30 seconds of beautiful puck movement on the Penguins' power-play.— Danny Shirey (@DannyShireyPGH) February 2, 2022
Malkin takes a hit at the blue line to keep the puck in and some sweet passing leads to another Bryan Rust goal. pic.twitter.com/Ueb4nAz05t
Bryan Rust in 2022:— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 7, 2022
January 2: Three goals, two assists
January 5: Two goals, one assist
January 6: Two goals... so far
Here's the first one of the night ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/FK9KraWFs2
Superman wears Bryan Rust pajamas. pic.twitter.com/6ievQ4xpGa— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) January 7, 2022
Does scoring against Carter Hart still count?
RUST NEVER SLEEPS.— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 5, 2022
With this goal, Bryan Rust hits a new career-high in points with 57 (23G-34A). pic.twitter.com/QHL9xz4SW4
Bryan Rust was just named the NHL's 3rd star for the month of January... and he's not slowing down any time soon. pic.twitter.com/orRoivtzR8— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) February 2, 2022
There isn’t much left to be said about Bryan Rust that hasn’t been said in these season reviews in the past. His remarkable climb from fringe player to top-line mainstay alongside the best player of this generation is nothing short of astounding. What may be even more impressive is Rust proving he wasn’t just a one-hit wonder and has continued to be a top level contributor for the Penguins. It was more of the same this season as he registered a new career high in points.
More of the same from Rust should bode quite well for the Penguins in 2022-23. If we’re being picky maybe a slight increase in production to go with the pay raise but either way, if Rust produces numbers similar to the last three seasons he will still be a bargain on that new contract. Assuming he remains on that top line with Crosby and Guentzel it’s hard to imagine Rust not having another repeat performance.
Question to ponder
Will Bryan Rust play for the Penguins next season?
Well, the Penguins and Rust certainly removed any kind of offseason suspense surrounding his future with the team by agreeing on a six-year deal less than a week after being eliminated from the playoffs. While it’s likely we will never know for sure what Rust could have brought home on the open market, it’s worth wondering how high that number could have gone should be continue to produce at this current rate.
How would you grade Bryan Rust’s 2021-22 season?
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