Penguins Predictions: Can Dominik Simon ramp up his production?
Assessing the game of 25-year-old Pittsburgh Penguins winger Dominik Simon is as simple as can be.
There’s one big plus: The Penguins score goals more frequently when he’s on the ice than when he’s not.
There’s one big minus: He’s almost never the one actually putting the puck in the back of the net.
Understandably, this makes Simon a lightning rod for fan criticism. Those who focus on the process like Simon’s game. Those who focus on results do not.
Inside the Penguins organization, Simon is a considerably less polarizing figure. From coach Mike Sullivan to captain Sidney Crosby, there is near unanimous praise for the little things Simon brings to the table.
He thinks the game at a high level, which is probably why he’s spent a lot of his career playing on a line with world-class talent, from Jaromir Jagr at the World Championships to Crosby in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He’s also an excellent passer and a conscientious defensive forward.
The analytics community can cite a series of complex statistics that measure Simon’s worth, but one pretty simple number does the job fairly well. When Simon played on the team’s top line with Crosby and Jake Guentzel last season, the Penguins averaged 5.3 goals per 60 minutes. When some other winger manned that spot, that figure was 3.6
“There’s a lot of subtleties in Dom’s game that help the line he’s on be effective,” Sullivan said last season.
The statistic that best illustrates Simon’s shortcomings, on the other hand, is even simpler still. He scored eight goals in 71 games last season.
There were 248 forwards who played at least 70 games in the NHL last year. Only 24 scored fewer goals than Simon.
For a player to continue to receive top-nine minutes in the NHL, he must have at least a modicum of goal-scoring ability. Does Simon? That remains to be seen.
How many goals will Dominik Simon score next season?
A. More than 12
Last season, Teddy Blueger led regular Penguins forwards with an 18.2% shooting percentage. Is he a better shooter than Guentzel, Crosby or Phil Kessel? Of course not. This illustrates the vagaries of shooting percentage at the NHL level. Simon’s was 6.6%. That’s bound to go up, even if he keeps playing the exact same game. After all, it’s not like he’s never been a scorer at any point in his career. In his first North American season in 2015-16, he led Wilkes-Barre/Scranton with 25 goals, posting a better per-game rate than Conor Sheary, Oskar Sundqvist or Bryan Rust.
B. Between 8 and 12
Simon is still relatively young, but 108 NHL games is enough of a sample to get a feel for what a player’s game is going to look like. It’s entirely possible he’ll never be a goal scorer of any repute. He doesn’t have a nasty wrist shot. He’s not big enough to score a ton of greasy goals at the net front. He might simply be a complementary player who has to scratch, claw and fight just to threaten double digits in the goal column.
C. Less than 8
With Dominik Kahun coming in from Chicago, Jared McCann preparing for his first full season with the team and Zach Aston-Reese healthy, there are plenty of candidates to bump Simon down the depth chart. If he couldn’t score 10 goals with a significant dose of top-line ice time, he surely won’t be able to do so from the fourth line.
B. Between 8 and 12
A shooting percentage correction should give Simon a few more goals, but not that many. He just doesn’t play the kind of game that lends itself to scoring in bunches. That said, no one should complain if Simon turns in a 10-goal, 35-point season. That bit about him doing all the little things right isn’t just hockeyspeak. It’s real. He helps the team win.
Jonathan Bombulie is a Tribune-Review assistant sports editor. You can contact Jonathan by email at [email protected] or via Twitter .