What to expect from Dominik Simon

Derek Grant scored his first goal in a Penguins uniform early in the second period during an exhibition contest against the Detroit Red Wings. But it wouldn’t have happened without Dominik Simon. The Czech winger (#12) fought for the puck down low with defenseman Danny DeKeyser, eventually winning the battle and sending a pass to the open Grant (#38) – shown at 1:12 in the video below. Simon hopes to continue his NHL career doing the ‘little things’ just like this.

The first thing to note about Simon is he is not a goal scorer. He isn’t going to light up the lamp 20+ times every year in all honesty. He also likely won’t be a top 6 staple in his career (although there is nothing wrong with plugging him in there every so often). He does provide a lot for the team, though, and it doesn’t go unnoticed. The Athletic PGH recently ran a story where Simon received a lot of praise from his teammates, including Matt Cullen. Not to mention he has earned the trust of Mike Sullivan, who doesn’t hesitate to play young players.

Despite being a later round pick, Simon had a good looking hockey career going for him prior to the NHL. He managed to put up 30 points in 52 games as a teen playing in the Czech professional league in his draft year. This earned him a spot on the national team, where he put up 6 points in 10 games playing with the legendary Jaromir Jagr — at 18! He followed up this success by quickly acclimating his game to the North American ice as a member of the AHL Penguins. Over the course of 3 seasons, he played 159 games and managed 111 points.

Simon earned an NHL call up in December of 2017 and put up 2 points against the Toronto Maple Leafs in his first NHL game of the season. Simon would proceed to put up 12 points in 33 games for his rookie NHL regular season. Although the stat line doesn’t look pretty on the surface, he was quite productive for a rookie and a 5th round pick to boot. He was on pace for 30 even strength points and posted 1.68 points per 60. Simon also was no slouch possession-wise on Sidney Crosby‘s line (Crosby had 60.60 CF% with versus 56.70 CF% without).

Despite earning some ire from the fans, Simon also did well in the playoffs with Crosby. Simon recorded a 2.0 P/60 clip, good for 4th on the team, and proved to be a productive member on a productive line and not just a passenger. He also again slightly boosted Crosby’s CF%. In Game 4, he record a primary assist making a solid effort to carry the puck into the zone and then fire a quick pass to Jake Guentzel, leading to a 1-0 lead – shown at 1:50 in the video below.

Considering I see his ceiling as similar to Bryan Rust, I figured I’d compare their rookie campaigns:

Statistic (all at even strength) Bryan Rust Dominik Simon
Games Played 41 33
ATOI 11:56 10:53
Goals 4 4
Total Points 10 12
P/60 1.23 2
CF% 51.07 54.80

All this considered, what should we expect from Simon? Well, for sure we should expect him to be an NHL player. He’s proven he can be one, he received a one-way deal in the off-season and he has received praise from the men in the room. To think he’s not an NHL player begs the question: how high the bar is to be an NHL player? Simon can reasonably put up 20-30 points without any PP time, depending on games played and ice time. He’s smart in his own zone and knows how to defend. He can make plays, he can hound the puck carrier and win battles. I’d venture that, like Rust, he will find his usual home on the 3rd and 4th line but will likely see stints in the top 6.

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