Pittsburgh Penguins by the numbers: Juuso Riikola

Juuso Riikola #50 of the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Juuso Riikola #50 of the Pittsburgh Penguins. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

The definition of a healthy scratch for the Pittsburgh Penguins continues to look like Juuso Riikola. The interest is there, just not permanently.

That main interest got peaked after Juuso Riikola had a stellar preseason for the Pittsburgh Penguins, getting excitement rolling from the start. The high was quickly erased, however, and we are where we are today. Over the past two years, this has been the trend—great September’s followed by mediocrity.

In his time in Pittsburgh, he could have played in just over 140 games. However, he was a healthy scratch in over 70 of them. But for some reason, he still has been their game after game. In a way, he’s kind of like Mike Sullivan’s puppy; the interest and excitement are there; you just don’t trust him yet.

In his 36 games played this year, he has a line of 1 goal, 6 assists, and just under 14 minutes of ice time per game. Not terrible, but also not respectable. Those numbers are the lowest of every other defender on the Penguins roster, leaving more intrigue as to why he has still been looked to. Oddly enough, early on in the season, Sully experimented with him playing on the wing.

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Pittsburgh Penguins by the numbers: Juuso Riikola

That experiment leads to the first time in Riikola’s career that he played somewhere other than in defense. If there has been a bright spot for the Penguins cough lozenge, it has been on the power play and penalty killing lines. That is where he has been able to show his most promise thought the entire season.

As the season moves on, Riikola will most likely continue to be the Penguin’s 8th defender. He hasn’t shown enough to move past Chad Ruhwedel, but he’s not bad enough to have a “black ace” take over his role. He has proven to be somewhat trustworthy at times, but not the night in and night out.

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After the playoffs and into the summer, Juuso’s contract is running out. The Penguins have full control as he will be an RFA. His future will be hanging in the balance of other moves that could take place. If the Pens move away from Justin Schultz, then keeping Riikola would add longevity. However, there is growing potential behind him and could be pushing him out very shortly.