Since scorching into the big times by scoring a goal on his first shot on his first shift, Jake Guentzel has cemented his place in the hearts of Penguins’ fans for a very long time and continues to exceed his highest expectations year after year. Without a doubt, he has been the best forward on the Penguins not a part of the three-headed monster since joining the team as a rookie in 2016.
Guentzel was drafted in the third round by Pittsburgh in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft and would spend the next two seasons in the AHL and NCAA. In 2016, he received his first call-up and decided he would would also make it his last. He scored two goals in his NHL debut including the goal on his first ever shot and shift. Guentzel finished his rookie year with 33 points in 40 games, which is very impressive in its own right, but where he really made a name for himself was in the 2016-17 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
As a driving force behind the second cup run in a row for the Penguins, Guentzel made a strong case to win a Conn Smythe trophy. He tallied 13 goals, leading the entire league, and 21 points in the playoffs and earned himself a spot on Sidney Crosby’s wing for years to come.
In his first full regular season as a Penguin, he suited up for every game and set career highs for just about every category, including 48 points. Again, however, Guentzel made his presence felt in the 2018 playoffs. He would tie the amount of points he scored in the previous year’s playoffs that went four rounds deep in just two rounds. 21 points was good enough to earn him fifth in the league scoring for the playoffs despite playing half the amount of games the guys in front of him played. You have to wonder what records he could have broken had the Penguins gone further into the playoffs for the third year in a row.
Now, nearing the end of his third NHL season, he has already broken his career highs again. Through 66 games he has 33 goals and 62 points, putting him behind the three headed monster again. Guentzel signed a five year deal worth five million per year before this season, which will be a great deal for the team. The deal will last until he is 29 and he has done nothing but get better each year.
At 5 foot 11 and 180 pounds, Guentzel is more than meets the eye, as he has shown that he has tremendous strength and speed. Guentzel has a great hockey IQ and seems to be able to always be in the right place at the right time. He has been Crosby’s rock for the past two years and the two complement each other so well. They are a nightmare on the powerplay as well. You could go as far to say that Guentzel is a mini-Crosby.
Jake Guentzel continues to improve his game each year and bring more attention to himself as one of the premiere players in the league. In a few years, fans will be looking at him as one of the greatest to ever wear the black and gold.