This morning, the Pittsburgh Penguins called one of their most promising prospects up to the NHL to fill in for the injured Chris Kunitz. Jake Guentzel will be with the Penguins as they face off against the Rangers. He could just be a healthy scratch tonight, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Mike Sullivan and Jim Rutherford give Guentzel some playing time over the next week or so just to see what he’s got. So, what exactly should Penguins fans be expecting from one of the most promising Baby Penguins? Let’s take a look.
Guentzel is a forward with impressive scoring ability. In three years at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, Guentzel was a 1.10 point per game player. After his final season of NCAA hockey ended last spring, he joined the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins for their playoff run, tallying 2 goals and 6 points in 11 games. 2016-17 is his first full professional season, and thus far he has put up 7 goals, 10 assists and 17 points in 16 games for the Baby Penguins, leading the team in all categories.
Guentzel is a pretty small build at just 5’10, 168 lb., but he’s fast, and if there’s one thing that last season’s Cup-winning team taught us, it’s that speed is greater than size.
I suspect that if Guentzel does see playing time in this NHL stint, he’ll play somewhat of a sheltered role at first, maybe seeing 10 minutes of ice time on a bottom 6 line. However, just by watching him play, Guentzel looks like one of those guys who could jump right in and play the NHL way without flaw instantly, and if he can impress early, I wouldn’t be too shocked if they give him some looks with Crosby.
I don’t think Geuntzel’s stay in the NHL will be permanent this time. I think he will prove that he’s the real deal and will be back full time before the end of this season, but the Penguins are pretty healthy for the most part now and Guentzel’s contract can be moved from AHL to NHL freely, so he’s a flexible piece for Rutherford to move around when it comes to the salary cap.
It will certainly be exciting to see what Guentzel’s got in the tank because without a doubt we’ll be watching a future NHLer on the ice.