There are plenty of ups and downs in the NHL. Players can be doing great one season, and then the next maybe not. In the case of the Pittsburgh Penguins, there were a few players that struggled last year, so much so that fans demanded them to be traded. It’s still early in the season, but these are the players having bounce-back years so far.
Pittsburgh acquired Jason Zucker from the Minnesota Wild on Feb. 10, 2020. At the time, he seemed worth the price, which was a 1st round draft pick, Alex Galchenyuk and prospect Calen Addison. However, his time in Pittsburgh has been fairly underwhelming in the season and a half since. This year is looking different so far, and his performance has been a breath of fresh air for the Penguins.
First off, he’s putting up fairly respectable points this season with three goals and one assist in six games. If he continues at this pace, he’s easily putting up 50+ points. Second, and arguably most importantly at the moment, he’s been providing the team with leadership that they lack in the face of injury. It seems every time Zucker’s on the ice, he has the heart and the hustle that serves as inspiration for the rest of the team. He could be quite the influential player this year.
Like Zucker, the Penguins acquired Marcus Pettersson in a trade. On Dec. 3, 2018, Pittsburgh sent Daniel Sprong to the Anaheim Ducks for Pettersson in a one-for-one trade. Since being acquired, he performed admirably and earned himself a five-year, $20.125 million contract. However, last year he only displayed what seemed to be lackluster defense and poor offensive capabilities. To say he didn’t live up to his contract extension was an understatement.
The same can’t be said so far for this season. Pettersson has been playing outstanding shutdown defense while also heavily contributing in the offensive zone. In six games, he has one goal and three assists for a total of four points. He’s undoubtedly been the most stand-out defenseman so far, and he could continue to be that perfect defenseman that the Penguins need right now.
If there was any player that needed a bounce back year, it was Tristan Jarry. In short, he had a rough season last year and his performance in the 2021 playoffs was almost the final nail in the coffin. Jarry had a .888 save percentage and a 3.18 goals against average, not to mention multiple instances in which he mishandled the puck and gave the New York Islanders golden opportunities. Fans demanded Jarry be traded after that.
He seems to have taken that in stride as management had full confidence in him. They also changed up the goaltending coaching staff, making sure Jarry had all the tools needed for a bounce back year. So far, Jarry has definitely had one. In the five games he’s played, he has a .933 save percentage and a 1.78 goals against average. These numbers are substantially better than the abysmal performance in the playoffs last year.
While it is still very early in the season, Zucker, Pettersson and especially Jarry have shown that they could be having bounce back seasons. This couldn’t have come at a better time as the Penguins need all hands on deck for the time being. If these guys keep performing as they have, this season will be nothing if not fortuitous.
Go to our NHL page for more updates!