Penguins prediction rewind: Garrett Wilson came out of nowhere to secure spot on fourth line | TribLIVE.com
Penguins/NHL

Penguins prediction rewind: Garrett Wilson came out of nowhere to secure spot on fourth line

Jonathan Bombulie
1434829_web1_gtr-pens02-040119
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
The Penguins’ Garrett Wilson tries the wraparound on the Hurricanes’ Curtis McElhinney in the first period March 31, 2019 at PPG Paints Arena.

Last summer, beat writer Jonathan Bombulie made a series of predictions leading up to the start of the 2018-19 season. Some were OK. Some were hilariously off the mark. In this series, Bombulie will explain what he was thinking and where his logic went off course.

THE QUESTION

Which Wilkes-Barre/Scranton call-up will play the most NHL games for the Penguins this season?

A. Zach Aston-Reese

B. Jimmy Hayes

C. Juuso Riikola

D. Tristan Jarry

E. Teddy Blueger

F. None of the above

THE PREDICTION

A. Aston-Reese

THE RIGHT ANSWER

F. None of the above

THE RATIONALE

• The only reason Aston-Reese started the season in the AHL was that he was the only candidate for demotion who didn’t need to clear waivers to be sent down after the late signing of Derek Grant caused a logjam of bottom-six forwards. Aston-Reese showed some promise before Tom Wilson’s illegal hit ended his season in the playoffs the year before.

• Riikola was an intriguing prospect, but he figured to be no better than eighth on the defenseman depth chart. … Jarry had already essentially lost the back-up battle to Casey DeSmith. … Blueger had too many players to leapfrog on the center depth chart.

READER REACTION

A sample of Facebook comments:

• “I’m going to go with Blueger. While Zach has more of an ‘all-around game,’ Blueger would be a guy that could provide a Guentzel-like spark.”

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED

• Called up by the first week of November, winger Garrett Wilson gave coach Mike Sullivan a physical option on the fourth line that he turned to more often than not. Wilson recorded two goals, eight points and two fighting majors in 50 games. He appeared in all four playoff games as well.

• Aston-Reese made some contributions, adding eight goals and 17 points in 43 games, but he didn’t stay healthy enough to play more games than Wilson. … Riikola ended up starting the season in the NHL, so he wasn’t technically a call-up at all. … DeSmith got a contract extension and Jarry played only two games. … Blueger might have made the biggest impact of any of the call-ups, but he didn’t make his NHL debut until the end of November.

THE FLAWS IN THE LOGIC

• Being named the successor to Tom Kostopoulos as Wilkes-Barre/Scranton’s captain didn’t sentence Wilson to a full season in the AHL. It was a mistake to think it would. It was also a mistake to underestimate the appeal of a physical presence on the fourth line. Even the most modern coaches tend to want to have a player like Wilson around.

• Predicting which call-up will play the most games in a season isn’t just about ability. It’s also about durability. That’s something Aston-Reese has yet to display in his NHL career.

LESSONS LEARNED

NHL teams that consider themselves championship contenders don’t make call-up decisions based on ceiling. They make them by pondering who they think will help them win a game tonight. If a coach trusts a veteran player to not make a mistake in limited duty, he has a better chance at a promotion than a talented 20-year-old.

Follow the Pittsburgh Penguins all offseason long.

Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .

Categories: Sports | Penguins
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.