Pittsburgh Penguins: Cody Ceci vs Chad Ruhwedel, Who Plays?
|Photo Credit: Bill Hurst/Associated Press|
The Pittsburgh Penguins won’t have a shortage of options on their blue line when the season finally rolls around.
After signing former Toronto Maple Leaf and Ottawa Senators defender Cody Ceci to an one year deal, Pittsburgh now have eight players under contract on the blue line and you could easily see a scenario in which all of them are rotated in and out of the lineup.
Keeping things symmetrical, the Penguins kept things even with four being left-handed and the other four, right-handed, making it easy to try and guess what the depth chart is going to look like.
While the left side of the ice looks set in stone, the signing of Ceci raises some questions in how the bottom pairing may get filled out.
Quick bio on both players
Ceci was drafted 15th overall in 2012 in a draft that went heavy on defenseman early on. The Ottawa native himself was the ninth defenseman taken in a draft that featured Matt Dumba and Morgan Reilly (now teammate Mike Matheson was also picked in the first round).
Of all the defensemen selected in the top 15, Ceci has the third most games played, spending the first six seasons of his career with the Senators before being part of a six player deal that sent him to the Maple Leafs.
Ceci has scored 26 points in a season twice in his career, breaking the ten goal plateau once during the 2015-2016 campaign.
Chad Ruhwedel went the longer way to get to this point. Where Ceci was a first round pick, Ruhwedel went undrafted and has spent multiple seasons in the minors working his way up. Now entering his fifth season in the Penguins’ organization, for the moment, Ruhwedel has his clearest path to consistent playing time.
The former UMASS-Amherst blue liner logged a career-high 44 games during the 2017-2018 season, and topped the 40-game plateau for the second time this past year.
While some sort of rotation is the most likely outcome, who should get the nod between the two? What do both players bring to the table that makes them a more ideal candidate for playing time?
Let’s take a look at what both Ceci and Ruhwedel have done the last couple of seasons number wise.
Neither have been great at producing their own offense or creating for others, at least in the past three years.
Ceci has gotten by far a bigger sample size than Ruhwedel, playing in over 2,000 more minutes at 5v5 over the past three season but the latter has certainly played enough in his role to know what he is going to bring to the table.
Neither have put up any spectacular numbers, Ruhwedel better at scoring, Ceci with a little more success than as a playmaker. That being said, there’s a reason they are fringe third pairing defensemen as their best offensive metric still puts them in the middle of the pack when compared to the rest of the league.
Ruhwedel isn’t afraid to throw the puck at net, with his shots per 60, as well as his unblocked shot attempts both hover around the 70th percentile.
One positive note, and something that could be the deciding factor in who might get the majority of the playing time, both have been really good at not turning the puck over. That’ll certainly be a welcome change for the bottom pairing.
On Ice Production
A couple of things to think about when looking at these numbers.
The easy thing is going to be to say that Ceci didn’t play for very good teams in Ottawa, especially his last two seasons there, which made up two-thirds of the sample size we took for this. Yes, that’s true, but these same numbers warned us about Jack Johnson and we saw how that turned out.
Ceci has been a black hole of driving play over the past three years, as his expected goal share and puck possession is among the worst in the league at 5v5.
Whoever gets a jersey on a given night is going to be paired with Matheson, who can create for himself fairly well, but also struggles in consistently influencing play in a positive fashion.
Meaning the Penguins could be dealing with another season of not getting any positive impact out of the team’s third pairing.
Another thing, on the positive note, that Ruhwedel’s expected goal share, and on ice save percentage is actually very encouraging. The scary part is that with questions about the team’s depth scoring options up front, his on ice save percentage doesn’t seem to help the cause seeing as most of his time will be with one of the two bottom six lines.
Special Teams Production
The scenario’s that have to happen in which either Ruhwedel or Ceci are manning power play minutes aren’t going to be mostly good. They could end up with some mop up man advantage minutes, but outside of that, neither are going to be relied on for production on the power play.
Ruhwedel has shown that, has in the past three seasons with the Penguins, he has logged just under ten minutes (9:46) of power play time - an average of just five seconds per game.
Ceci on the other hand has averaged about thirty seconds on the man advantage per game over the past three seasons, just about enough to cover the tail end of a power play on the second unit.
Not surprisingly, Ruhwedel hasn’t done anything with his very limited time on ice, as the Penguins haven’t registered a goal while he has been on the ice. Ceci on the other hand, has averaged about 4 points per 60 minutes played on the power play, all assists.
The more likely scenario is them seeing time short handed, something both have done far more over the last three seasons.
Ruhwedel has logged almost a minutes worth of penalty kill time per game, and Ceci has played nearly 600 minutes while down a man.
League average save percentage while short handed over the past three seasons has been 86.6%. Ceci has actually posted a number higher than average (87.1%), with Ruhwedel coming well bellow average (84.21%), giving the former first round pick the advantage.
Overall, who plays?
This is an interesting situation. Both will probably play, as long as they make the roster. It’ll be interesting to see who gets the majority of the playing time. Ruhwedel is signed beyond this year, but Ceci has a higher dollar amount on his contract.
Ceci isn’t the most popular player when it comes to the analytical community, for good reason. The last time they signed someone with these kind of underlying numbers, well, we saw how that went.
Jim Rutherford wouldn’t have signed him unless they had some sort of plan for him (You would think that, but with Juuso Riikola, I guess you can never know).
Who should get the majority of the playing time? Do you believe it will actually be a rotation or will one player run away with the playing time? Let us know in the comments below and follow me on Twitter @AJ_Murfy