The time has come for Patrick Wiercioch.
After a very successful rookie season, the defenceman earned himself a one-way, three-year contract extension and is expected to challenge for a spot in the top four on the Ottawa Senators this season. He's being asked to fill the role of the now-departed Sergei Gonchar, which is no small task; Gonchar was a favourite of head coach Paul MacLean who was heavily relied on for his presence on the powerplay and the penalty kill, and he potted a good number of points, as well. Wiercioch has big shoes to fill.
But his first season wasn't too bad. Commenter Turris' Ass Goals summed it up nicely:
12th in Rookie scoring and tied with Silfverberg and Tarasenko.
6th in scoring on the senators with a +9 (tied for highest), 3 powerplay goals (tied for highest) and a 21.5 relative corsi rating. Now I don’t know what the hell corsi is, but I do know it was higher than Gonchars.
This is all coming from a rookie who took a puck to the throat not too long ago.
Not too bad.
Still, this season will be a big test for Wiercioch. Although his extension carried a three-year term, the Sens expect immediate payoff from him. He's likely to play about 17-18 minutes per game, including significant powerplay time alongside Erik Karlsson (which should help his offensive production) and possibly some short-handed time, as well.
Even though he's just been given a contract worth $6M, Wiercioch still isn't a sure thing on Ottawa's blue line. He could play anywhere from top pairing to bottom, getting 15 minutes a night or upwards of 20; a lot of it will depend on how assertive he is on both ends of the puck and how well he can endear himself to MacLean. Based on his usage last season (he started 62.7 per cent of his shifts in the offensive zone), it's obvious that Wiercioch hasn't yet earned the full trust of his coach. He'll have to rectify that situation very quickly this season.