For the first time in forward Chris Kunitz‘ career, he was selected as the left wing candidate for the NHL All-Star First Team.
Playing next to star center Sidney Crosby all year, the Pittsburgh Penguins forward reaped the benefits of playing next to one of the best hockey players in the world.
In last year’s lockout season, Kunitz finished the season with a 1.08 points per game — the first time he has obtained over one point-per-game.
While playing in all 48 games, the 33-year-old posted impressive numbers in points (52), goals (22) and assists (30) — all of which are just short of his career-high statistics.
Kunitz was also outstanding on the power play (16 points) and in clutch moments (5 game-winning goals).
The question now surrounding Kunitz is whether or not he can do it again in 2013-14.
When a 33-year-old veteran has a season like he did, the natural assumption is that a slight regression will occur the following campaign.
But will that be the case for Kunitz?
It is very possible that we could see a lapse in the production from the Penguins forward.
In a full 82-game season, it is very unreasonable to assume that Kunitz will put up more than a point-per-game. But with the teammates he is playing with, you never know what is possible.
Kunitz’ linemates in 2013-14 will most likely be Crosby and Pascal Dupuis (who had a career year with the Penguins as well).
Dupuis could certainly support the continued success of Kunitz with his recent display of talent, and with number-14 also passing alongside Crosby, Kunitz has the possibility to put up terrific numbers again — assuming number-87 can stay healthy.
Another reason why Kunitz may experience the same success is the bigger role he may play in the lineup next year.
Kunitz could very well put up a 60 to 70 points next season — which would be a career-high season for the Saskatchewan native.
While Kunitz has never been an elite player — and will never considered to be — as long as he is playing next to Sidney Crosby, he will put up an excellent stat line.
The Pittsburgh Penguins forward will most likely take a step-back from his All-Star team and league-leading season, but another year in which Kunitz puts up career numbers wouldn’t surprise anyone.