No defenseman on the Columbus roster last season played more games than Andrew Peeke, who made it into 80 contests for the Jackets. He played big minutes for the young team, but in the end, his results were mostly mixed or negative. Does he really fit into this team long-term?
Peeke was originally selected by the Blue Jackets in the second round (#34 overall) at the 2016 NHL Draft. He was coming off of a standout season with Green Bay (USHL), where he’d scored 4 goals and 30 points in 56 games. But, he wasn’t viewed much as an offensive defenseman at the time, and he hasn’t developed as such.
He spent three years at the University of Notre Dame, logging 119 games, scoring 12 goals and 40 assists during that span before eventually turning pro for the 2019-20 season. Since then, Peeke has quietly established himself as a sturdy, durable stay-at-home defender, now a veteran of 195 NHL games over four seasons.
This season, Peeke set a career high with six goals, and with seven assists came up two points short of his career high (15), scoring 13 points on the year. Unfortunately for the Jackets, he was playing way out of his comfort zone, much higher in the lineup than he probably should be – which led to an eye opening -41 rating on the season; a full 8 ticks lower than the next closest player on the team (Johnny Gaudreau).
While the +/- ranking doesn’t tell you the full story, it’s a notable stat for a guy who is supposed to be a shutdown player on this team. To be fair, by playing more than 21 minutes per game, Peeke was facing tougher competition than he probably should have been, which led to a lot of time spent in the defensive zone. This is evidenced by his 195 blocked shots, which were the fourth most in the entire NHL.
Ultimately, we need to tell it like it is here: Andrew Peeke is, ideally, a bottom-three defender in the NHL. He doesn’t have the skating or puck handling ability to play higher up in the lineup, but he’s a steady defender who can get the job done against secondary competition, and play on the penalty kill. Playing him more than 16-17 minutes a night is asking for trouble, which is exactly what happened this season.
Final season stats: 80 games played, 6 goals, 7 assists, 13 points, 22 PIMs, -41, 90 shots on goal. Overall rating: D
It’s not that Peeke was bad, it’s just that he wasn’t used in a way that will make him successful. With yesterday’s addition of Ivan Provorov, he’ll have less of a burden on his shoulders, especially if the team around him can stay healthy. In proper usage, I think he’s an effective player; but with the depth down the right side for the Jackets, I have to wonder if he’ll get a change of scenery in the not-so-distant future. He seems like he could be a redundant piece for the Jackets.