Player: Jake Guentzel
Born: October 6, 1994 (Will be 29 years old in October).
Weight: 180 pounds
Hometown: Omaha, Nebraska (USA)
Draft: Third Round, 77th overall, Pittsburgh Penguins (2013)
2022-23 Statistics: 78 games played, 36 goals, 37 assists, 73 points, 46 penalty minutes
Contract Status: Signed through 2023-24 season with a cap hit of $6.0 million
Fun fact: This is the second year in a row and the third time in his career that Jake Guentzel has led the Pittsburgh Penguins in goal scoring. Since making his NHL debut Guentzel’s 197 goals are second on the Penguins during that stretch, trailing only the 212 scored by Sidney Crosby. His 0.43 goals per game during that stretch is 16th in the entire NHL among players that have appeared in at least 100 games.
Hidden Stat: Jake Guentzel led the NHL with seven empty-net goals this season.
History: The 2021-22 Season In Review For Jake Guentzel.
Guentzel’s production was pretty steady for most of the season, but was bookended by a sensational start and finish. He scored 11 goals in his first 19 games over the first two months of the season, 12 goals over his final 22 games, and then had just 13 goals over the 37 games in the middle.
Story of the Season
The overall numbers were there for Guentzel and right in line with what you might expect from him. He made a run at 40 goals and got close to it, he was close to a point-per-game player, and he was again one of the Penguins’ best offensive players.
There were still times this season where you were left wondering what sort of season he was actually having.
He got into some penalty trouble, and his overall goal scoring numbers were heavily boosted by a league-leading seven empty-net goals. Overall, though, 36 goals in 78 games is a very strong year, and he remains one of the best offensive wingers in the NHL. Wingers that can score 35-40 goals do not exactly grow on trees in the NHL.
Regular season 5v5 advanced stats
Data via Natural Stat Trick. The ranking is out of 15 forwards on the team who qualified by playing a minimum of 150 minutes.
Corsi For%: 53.51 (5th)
Goals For%: 54.63 (4th)
xGF%: 54.54 (8th)
Scoring Chance %: 54.66 (4th)
High Danger Scoring Chance%: 56.35 (6th)
5v5 on-ice shooting%: 8.45 (3rd)
On-ice save%: 92.69 (3rd)
Goals/60: 0.81 (3rd)
Assist/60: 1.06 (5th)
Points/60: 1.87 (6th)
A lot of what you might expect from Guentzel given his talent and role on the team’s top line with Sidney Crosby. When he was on the ice, good things generally happened for the Penguins. He helped drive possession, offense, and his line was extremely efficient when it came to producing offense. The Penguins were especially top-heavy this season offensively, and the Crosby-Guentzel connection was consistently one of its best duos.
Where there is No. 59, there is No. 87 somewhere nearby. Guentzel and Crosby were joined at the hip as the Pens’ main offensive line this season, joined on the other wing by Bryan Rust or Rickard Rakell at various times.
Despite his small stature, Guentzel knows that goals in the NHL come from in tight. While he is liable to plaster shots from anywhere in the offensive zone, he does get most his action from right in front of the net.
Finishing problems were real this year for the Pens at large, and also bit Guentzel. He scored 29 goals with a goalie in the net this season, but had compiled enough expectation to where he was looking at 34. Adding five more goals would have gotten him above 40 on the season and put a more positive takeaway for his season.
They don’t pay the Pens’ first line for defense, and never have. Guentzel’s role and focus is on creating offense, which he does very well. As mentioned, it would have been a better season for him if not for his typically steady finishing from years past falling off in 2022-23.
And herein lies the microstats of an elite offensive winger, showcasing many reasons why Guentzel is such a perfect fit for Sidney Crosby. Guentzel does (almost) everything well. Generating off the rush isn’t a huge emphasis, but his overall in-zone offense is almost peerless across the league. Guentzel can create almost equally well off shooting the puck as he can by passing to setup chances.
Guentzel is one of the Penguins best players, but they are facing some big decisions with him over the next year. He is entering the final year of his contract next season and the new front office is going to have to decide if he is going to be a part of their future, or if he might be a trade option in effort to change things up following a disappointing season.
At the moment, Guentzel’s $6.0 million salary cap number is one of the best bargains in the league for players no longer on an entry-level deal. But he will be 30 years old when his next contract begins and will almost certainly cost a lot more than his current salary cap number.
Is he somebody that can help lead the Penguins into the post-Sidney Crosby/Evgeni Malkin/Kris Letang era? What will his career look like into his 30s at $8 or $9 million per season?
Those are big questions without easy answers. It seems highly unlikely that he is traded, but after missing the playoffs and with his current contract situation everything should be on the table.
Ideally he is in Pittsburgh for at least one more season and makes another push at the 40-goal mark. There really is not much room for Guentzel to improve because anything more than what he currently does offensively would take him into the NHL’s truly elite. He is an outstanding top-line player, and consistently produces like it. Some better discipline would be nice, and perhaps a little more on the defensive end. Getting him signed to a new, team-friendly contract extension would also be ideal. Even if not entirely likely. At least on the team-friendly part.
How Would You Grade Jake Guentzel’s 2022-23 Season?