Pittsburgh Penguins: Bryan Rust Breakout Season Thanks To Ridiculous Shooting Metrics
|Photo Credit: Associated Press|
We continue our breakdown of the Pittsburgh Penguins 2019-2020 season with individual player recaps. Today will feature Bryan Rust.
Bryan Rust was one of the surprise breakout players for the 2019-2020 season, blowing past his previous career high in goals, and did so in far less games.
Should we have been surprised by the breakout though?
Rust, a former third round pick back in 2010, spent four years at Notre Dame fine tuning his game. He registered 17 goals in 40 games his senior year. After 30 combined points his first two years at Notre Dame, he registered 67 his junior and senior years combined.
Once turning pro, Rust was among a group of call ups that helped pushed the Pittsburgh Penguins over the edge on their way to back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 2016 and 2017.
The Pontiac, Michigan native established himself at the NHL level as a versatile two-way forward who did whatever was called upon him to get onto the ice, even killing penalties on occasion.
Rust bounced up and down the lineup, playing anywhere from the third line to on the right wing of Sidney Crosby and/or Evgeni Malkin.
Playing on Malkin’s wing for the majority of the season, Rust exploded to a career-high 27 goals in just 55 games played. He had scored just 51 goals in his first 253 games heading into last year.
The 28-year old winger, Rust, led the Penguins in goals, and finished fourth in assists, and second in points.
Rust: By The Numbers
The former third round pick certainly had one of the most surprisingly impressive offensive seasons this year, putting up one of the best individual statistically spreads out there.
Few scored at a better rate than Rust did last season, as his 1.23 G/60 was in the 95th percentile in the league.
His G/60, Pts/60, and SH% were all in the 90th percentile or higher and his expected goal rate (xG/60) was so close to that same level you might as well round up to give it to him.
When Rust got the puck on his stick, in a position to shoot, good things usually happened as a result.
There was some give and take with Rust’s game last season. All the focus on scoring, with the Penguins scoring over FOUR goals per 60 minutes that Rust was on the ice at 5v5, took away from his defensive play.
His expected goals against per 60 (xGA/60) leaves reason for hope for next season and beyond, but with the focus on this past season, Rust was a liability defensively on the ice in 2019-2020.
Even so, the shear amount of offense that was generated while he was on the ice was enough to give him elite level goal shares - both actual and expected.
Rust didn’t just do damage at even strength, as he led the team with eight power play goals last season. Of all forwards with at least 50 minutes of power play time last year, Rust ranked in the top 20 in G/60, Pts/60 and SH%.
Rust enters the third season of what has quickly become one of the best contracts in the league. When the Penguins originally signed him to a four-year contract, worth $14 million ($3.5 million AAV), Rust seemed destined to climb no further than the team’s third-line right-winger as the team already had Phil Kessel and Patric Hornqvist locked up long-term and ahead on the depth chart.
With both moving on, Rust finds himself as the team’s top right winger, although he will most likely lineup on the second line with Malkin.
Rust had never scored more than 20-goals in a season until last year, when he exploded for 27 and was on pace for 40 over a full season worth of games. That could leave some to worry about him regressing, but even if he does he looks locked in as some who could still at least hit the 20-goal plateau.
Playing with Malkin also should help keep him from falling back too much.
What did you think of Rust’s 2019-2020 season? Do you think he can maintain that scoring pace for the upcoming season? Or is regress back to a lower total? Let us know in the comment sections below, subscribe to the site at the of the page, and follow me on Twitter @AJ_Murfy and @SportBlogMurphy.