Player: Rickard Rakell
Born: May 5, 1993 (Age 29, 28 during the season)
Height: 6’ 1”
Weight: 195 pounds
Hometown: Sundbyberg, Sweden
Draft: 2011 NHL Draft, 1st Round (30th overall) by the Anaheim Ducks
2021-22 Statistics: 19 games played— 4 goals, 9 assists, 4 penalty minutes
Contract Status: Rakell completed a six-year, $22.8 million deal in 2021-22. He is now one of the Penguins’ remaining unrestricted free agents, a list which also includes Evgeni Malkin, Evan Rodrigues, Kris Letang and Casey DeSmith.
Fun fact: Rakell scored his first goal in Pittsburgh back in December 2017, during a 4-0 Ducks shutout in PPG Paints Arena.
History: This is Rakell’s first season with the Penguins, and therefore his first Pensburgh season in review.
Rakell skated for less than five minutes of Game 1 of the Penguins’ first-round series against the New York Rangers before a high hit from the New York Rangers’ Ryan Lindgren knocked him out of the series.
Rakell returned for Game 7. In under 20 minutes of postseason ice time, he recorded six shots, one hit, and zero points.
Story of the Season
At the 2022 NHL trade deadline, Ron Hextall dealt Zach Aston-Reese, Dominik Simon, a second round pick this year and goaltending prospect Calle Clang for Rakell. The forward had put up 16 goals and 12 assists (28 points) in 51 games with the Ducks last season.
When Rakell first joined the lineup, he played on Jeff Carter’s line. During his 19 games with the Penguins, he rotated through the top three lines. His 5v5 stats with different centers, via Natural Stat Trick:
Jeff Carter: 86:45 TOI together, 47.70 CF%, 2 GF, 4 GA
Evgeni Malkin: 110:13 together, 49.76 CF%, 5 GF, 9 GA
Sidney Crosby: 98:04 together, 58.85 CF%, 11 GF, 1 GA
Rakell showed almost immediate chemistry when he began skating on Crosby’s line, with a few passes with Crosby and Guentzel which felt nearly electric.
It was a short sample, but Jake Guentzel and Sidney Crosby had a lower CF% without Rakell (53.51) than they did with him (58.46%.), with Rakell adding a lot of skill and fitting in instantaneously with the Pens’ top line.
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%: 54.01% (8th)
Goals For%: 61.29% (2nd)
xGF%: 56.17% (12th)
Scoring Chance %: 58.16% (3rd)
High Danger Scoring Chance%: 60.33% (2nd)
5v5 on-ice shooting%: 10.86% (2nd)
On-ice save%: 92.16% (10th)
Goals/60: 0.87 (6th)
Assist/60: 1.51 (1st)
Points/60: 2.38 (2nd)
Micah Blake McCurdy, of HockeyViz, called Rakell “a middle-six forward with no finishing ability to speak of” at the time of the trade.
Of course, playing on Sidney Crosby’s wing will improve your finishing stats if a player can convert the Grade-A chances created by Crosby.
The Atheltic’s GVSA card really liked Rakell as an all-around forward who does practically everything very well, even if nothing is especially elite. It ranked his 2021-22 salary ($3.8M) well below his market value, so he may be looking for more on the open market this summer.
The microstats from games that were tracked this season found a lot of value in Rakell’s shooting. Not so much his passing, and most his zone entry/exit work isn’t much of a focus on his game. Seeing these stats with a full season of tracking with the Penguins would tell us more, but alas.
Rakell’s performance this year was playing well against very strong competition. He brought the EV offense, finishing and goals to the table.
RICKARD RAKELL IS SCORING GOALS AS A MEMBER OF THE PENGUINS! pic.twitter.com/a4d6n0RuGo— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) March 27, 2022
Since his arrival in Pittsburgh, Rickard Rakell has scored three goals in six games pic.twitter.com/UPTvukur5e— Pittsburgh Penguins (@penguins) April 1, 2022
Crosby and Rakell played exactly 2 minutes together tonight and were factors on all 3 goals together. pic.twitter.com/seyq05qtEn— Jake (@JakeD8771) April 10, 2022
Injuries limited their playing time together, but there was some serious chemistry between Guentzel, Crosby and Rakell. Now, Rakell is a UFA. Should the Penguins lock him down for next season, or are there better options for their top-line wing?
For Rakell, the ideal 2022-23 involves getting paid. That might interfere with any hopes of the Penguins getting him back on Sid’s wing.
How would you grade Rickard Rakell’s 2021-22 season?
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