Pittsburgh Penguins Offseason Grades: Ian Cole Makes a Name For Himself


Let’s be honest, when it was reported that the Pittsburgh Penguins had acquired Ian Cole from the St. Louis Blues everyone in Pittsburgh collectively said, “who?”.

More from Penguins News

Don’t feel bad, some hockey writers did the same thing. But, as it turns out, Cole’s a pretty good defenseman that seems to fit really well with the Penguins.

The Pittsburgh Penguins were in a situation that almost mandated a change of scenery for Robert Bortuzzo. Cole was in a similar situation with the Blues as he didn’t fit their style and found himself scratched on multiple occasions. Expectations weren’t very high for him among Pens fans, but some in this business, including myself, compared him to Matt Niskanen. There was unrecognized potential there, and the former first round pick delivered.

Over his first few games in a Pittsburgh Penguins jersey he seemed to be timid, and made a few untimely mistakes. It was clear that he was still trying to get comfortable in Mike Johnston’s system, which was called out by a few players as “different”. One thing that was noticeable right away, though, was his willingness to fire the puck from the point. That was something the Pens lacked severely. Bortuzzo was known to shoot when given the opportunity, but he has nowhere near the bomb that Ian Cole possesses.

The Pens got a taste of that just weeks before they acquired him.

In 20 regular season games with the Pittsburgh Penguins Cole accrued 8 points. He also boasted a 57.56% 5v5 corsi-for which was the highest among Pens defensemen in that time frame. It’s easy to see that he was a nice surprise considering the initial expectations that most had for him.

Cole saw an increased role over the final weeks of the regular season and into the playoffs due to the injuries suffered by Christian Ehrhoff and Kris Letang. Overall, the Pittsburgh Penguins defensive corps maintained solid possession numbers throughout the series against the New York Rangers, and Ian Cole once again led that cast in corsi-for while 5v5. He also saw his average TOI jump from 18:29 and 24.6 shifts-per-game to 23:00 and 30.4 shifts-per-game.

I won’t crown Ian Cole as the next great Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman, but I do predict that he’ll be a solid piece of this blue line corps for the next few years. At 26 years old, the former 18th overall pick has a lot of upside and should sign for a very cap-friendly deal in the $2 million range. He has good size at 6’1 and 219 lbs., and doesn’t shy away from the physical aspects of the game.

I’ll give Ian Cole a B+ for his performance in 2015 with the Pittsburgh Penguins. He had a learning curve to deal with, but really stepped up in a big way when called upon. Based on total TOI, he played with Rob Scuderi more than any other Pens defenseman, so you have to imagine that he could be even better alongside a more formidable partner.

I don’t anticipate an offer sheet for Cole from any other team, so the Pens should be clear to sign him to a similar deal as Matt Niskanen when he reached restricted free agent status. He’ll play a major role next season and could end up in the top-4 if the defensive corps stands pat.

Next: Offseason Grades: Patric Hornqvist

More from Pens Labyrinth