Let’s play a guessing game. We’ll call it “Name That Penguin.”
Ready? Who’s scored eight goals and 12 assists (20 points), registered a plus-11, and leads the team with 64 penalty minutes this season?
Stumped? I’ll give you a hint. The answer’s more it than individual. Kind of an on-ice kolkhoz, or collective, if you will.
If you guessed “Recall Man,” you’d be spot on.
Okay, there’s no such Penguin. But I wanted to make a point.
Our Penguins have received extraordinary production from the eight players they’ve called up from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton in 2016-17 (I’ve excluded Derrick Pouliot, who began the season with the Pens). A testament to the fine job GM Jim Rutherford and his staff have done in securing quality depth guys who can step in and plug a gap should the need arise.
Or more than plug a gap, as the following numbers suggest.
When injuries shook the defensive corps Steve Oleksy, Chad Ruhwedel and Cameron Gaunce stepped firmly into the breach. Carter Rowney and Tom Sestito have likewise filled in effectively up front.
Josh Archibald is the latest erstwhile Baby Pen to shine. Playing his first game of the season for the black and gold (and second overall) the speedy right wing struck for a pair of key goals in last night’s 4-3 overtime loss to Arizona.
In particular, his Johnny-on-the-spot shorthanded tally off a forced flub by Coyotes goalie Mike Smith at 14:38 of the third period ignited a Pens rally and helped secure an all-important point on the road. One that enabled our boys to maintain a share of second place in the ultra-competitive Metropolitan Division.
“That play changed the complexion of the game,” Arizona coach Dave Tippett said. “We had the lead and things were going pretty smooth … but that gave them life, and then we were hanging on for dear life.”
Mike Sullivan also praised Archibald’s efforts.
“(Josh) scored two goals and brought us a lot of energy,” said the Penguins’ coach. “He chased pucks down and he was in on the forecheck. He can really fly.”
The Saskatchewan native’s heady play shouldn’t come as a shock. The Pens’ sixth-round pick in the 2011 Entry Draft, Archibald starred at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, netting 29 goals in 2013-14 to merit Hobey Baker consideration.
As a member of the Mavericks, Josh frequently shared the ice with Jake Guentzel, the most prominent of the Pens’ call-ups. The team’s third-round pick in 2013, Guentzel’s already carved out a spot among the club’s top-six forwards with his skilled, determined play. After setting the AHL on its ear (21 goals), the rookie pro’s tallied five goals and 10 points in 17 games with the locals. Including a two-goal effort in his black-and-gold debut.
The gritty 180-pounder’s displayed good chemistry with Evgeni Malkin, to boot.
Yet the true worth of Jake and his mates extends far beyond their surprisingly effective play. They afford Rutherford the luxury of operating from a position of strength should he decide to swing a deal before the upcoming trade deadline.
Now that’s what I call value.