Pittsburgh Penguins rookie Jake Guentzel proof to be some-more than only Sidney Crosby’s wingman

10:22 AM ET

PITTSBURGH — Even with all a stars and expected destiny Hall of Famers on a Pittsburgh Penguins‘ roster, rookie brazen Jake Guentzel competence consolidate this season’s group some-more than any other player.

This hasn’t been a same high-flying Penguins patrol that we saw in 2016, even yet Pittsburgh is only one win divided from a lapse outing to a Eastern Conference finals. It has been a gutsy, smart, opportunistic, resilient, find-a-way-to-win team, however. The Penguins are, once again, on a verge of a final four. But during times it’s been a bit of warn that they’ve gotten this far.

A small like Guentzel himself.

Look during a postseason scoring leaderboard, and you’ll find a 22-year-old child from Minnesota sitting alone during a top, with 8 goals in his initial 9 career playoff games. To put that in perspective, NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika went behind by story to figure out who else has matched that kind of prolongation in his initial 9 playoff games. It’s a brief list: Maurice Richard, Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. Not bad.

So yeah, it’s been a bit of a whirlwind for a child who was personification college hockey for Nebraska-Omaha final season.

“I don’t know if we can report it,” pronounced his dad, Mike Guentzel. “This whole 13 months given he incited pro has been some-more than we can imagine. we keep revelation people, ‘I wish they don’t arise us adult from this dream.'”

“It’s crazy,” Guentzel concurred. “[I’ve gotten] a lot of texts.”

It’s been reduction than a year given a Penguins strictly sealed Guentzel to an entry-level agreement after a audition with Wilkes-Barre in a AHL. There were signs even afterwards that he was prepared to be a big-game player. Guentzel had 14 points in 10 AHL playoff games final spring, including an overtime idea opposite Providence that propelled Wilkes-Barre to a second round.

It hinted during what was forward and also positive a 5-foot-11, 180-pound Guentzel that, even but ideal NHL size, his diversion could interpret to a veteran level.

“It gave him a new perspective of where he’s during and where a pro diversion is at,” Mike Guentzel said. “That unequivocally increased Jake’s confidence. He’s always been means to score, make plays. He’s always had a ability in large moments, large games — tied or behind — to get a large idea or large play.”

It’s also what captivated a Penguins to Guentzel in a initial place. He was drafted — in a third spin (77th overall) in 2013 — during a time when a Penguins were mostly forced to work but many breeze picks or a first-round selection, given picks were also a banking used to indurate a register built to win a Stanley Cup.

Former Penguins GM Ray Shero had a few non-negotiable criteria he upheld along to his scouts. For a awaiting to get on a Penguins’ list, he indispensable to have a brew of skill, a unchanging gait to his game, hockey sense, competitiveness and a ability to play but fear of confrontation.

A pattern that wasn’t on a list? Size. The Penguins were peaceful to disremember a standard tallness and weight concerns if a actor checked all those other boxes. Guentzel positively did.

“Most importantly, he competes,” pronounced New Jersey Devils partner GM Tom Fitzgerald, who was partial of a staff underneath Shero who drafted Guentzel. “He can slip into a line with [Sidney] Crosby and [Evgeni] Malkin and he only plays. He doesn’t get fazed by Crosby.”

That’s been an critical eminence for Guentzel. Before Crosby suffered a concussion in Game 3 of a Penguins’ Eastern Conference semifinal array opposite a Washington Capitals, Guentzel had staid in easily on a captain’s wing. And to Fitzgerald and a rest of us, he looked like he wasn’t daunted in a slightest by personification with a best actor in a world.

Maybe it’s being a son of a hockey coach. (Mike coached during a youth level, in a USHL and is now a associate conduct manager during Minnesota.) Maybe it’s from flourishing adult around a diversion in a hockey-crazed state. Guentzel is a classical course rat, that endears him to everybody who coaches him.

He’s had success during each level. He’s met each challenge. Now, he competence have to find his approach but Crosby, while a Penguins’ captain recovers from a concussion. Guentzel’s lane record suggests he’ll do only fine.

“He’s a man that finds ways to have success regardless of who we put him with,” Penguins manager Mike Sullivan said. “He has a finish game. He can play down low and grind. He has hockey sense. He can make plays off a rush. He plays with a lot of courage. He’s not fearful to go to a net and take a cross-check and crash a miscarry and maybe get a hang on a deflection.”

In short, he finds opposite ways to score. Very most like his group has this postseason.

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