Seemingly any young talent that is brought up inevitably will be placed on a line with Sidney Crosby. So far, Dominik Simon has been no exception.
It can be said that Crosby makes a lot of his linemates better and there is no doubt that is true. But, to play with Crosby, you’ve got to have some skill and be a bit gritty and that’s exactly what Simon brings.
“He makes the game so much easier for you,” Simon said. “He finds you everywhere. I’m really grateful that I can play with him. I’m just trying to play my best.”
Thursday, Simon posted his third and fourth goals of the season in just his 16th game. He had just four in 21 games in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton this year. Over a combined 138 games the past two seasons, Simon potted 40 goals in the AHL. The ability is there.
So what is his place as an NHL full-timer as it looks like he’s earned that for the remainder of this season?
Simon has been a tremendous infusion into the lineup for the Penguins through 16 games. He’s been a vital part of the top line over the 7-2 stretch the team is enduring.
It’s probably really good when the NHL’s best player is complementing your play as of late.
“You can tell the past couple games he’s more confident using his shot,” Crosby said. He’s got a great shot, he’s had a couple great shots and he’s finding the net. When guys are doing that you just tell them to keep shooting.”
Daniel Sprong was also called up recently and was the right wing on the line. They all had an explosive game in Brooklyn during the 4-0 shutout of the Islanders a few weeks ago. Sprong’s chemistry, however, wasn’t quite what Simon and Crosby have built and Sprong was sent back. It’s now Conor Sheary manning that spot.
Head coach Mike Sullivan has been thrilled with Simon. Having coached him in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, he was pretty aware what he was getting.
“Any time a young player plays with Sid there is a tendency to want to get Sid the puck all the time,” Sullivan said. “We encourage them to play their game and Sid will adapt to them.”
“He’s doing a better job of taking what the game gives him. Players first call up, there’s a wow factor. But the wow factor isn’t there for the second, third callup and players get more comfortable. That’s what we’re seeing with Dominik.”
Simon was never considered a heralded goal scoring prospect in the organization. He did score a bit in the AHL but it’s a tough transition, especially when he played all of his young career in Europe before transitioning to the American pro game. Regardless, Simon has been more than impressed with his shot.
“After you score a couple you feel better on the shot. I’m just trying to find more spots for the shot, you’re going into the soft spots more because you have more confidence in there. I hope it’ll keep going in and I’ll do my best.”
The Penguins have done a very good job at taking marginal prospects and putting them in situations to thrive. Many questioned if the likes of Conor Sheary, Tom Kuhnhackl, and Bryan Rust among others could make spots for themselves on the team. Sheary and Rust carved out top-6 minutes in two pivotal Stanley Cup runs.
Simon is playing top-6 minutes with Crosby currently and doing a great job of it. While it’s fair to reserve complete thought on whether Simon can stay there, we’ve seen this story before and it usually goes pretty well.