Landing coveted free agent Christian Ehrhoff this summer was a coup in itself. But after getting the chance to watch him these last few weeks and seeing how well the defenseman fits in with Mike Johnston’s system here in Pittsburgh, it makes the addition even more exciting.
“Mike wants us to be involved in the offense and move the puck quick and join the play, and that’s something that suits my game,” Ehrhoff said.
Ehrhoff is a top-four, big-minute offensive defenseman who led the Penguins in ice time during the preseason by averaging 24:21 minutes played in four games.
The 32-year-old German native is an excellent skater who’s in great shape and can handle a big workload. He has tremendous puck-moving ability and possesses a heavy shot that he doesn’t hesitate to use. He’s also a veteran presence that helps fill the void left by the depatures of Brooks Orpik and Matt Niskanen to Washington this offseason.
“He’s played in the league a long time,” captain Sidney Crosby said. “He’s got a lot of experience, particularly there at the point. He’s been there for a long time using his shot and he can see the ice well. I think he’s a guy who can do everything well. He’s a big guy who can defend, so he’s been real solid for us.”
Ehrhoff is a cerebral player who is someone that skilled guys like to play with because of the way he thinks the game and his calm, even-keeled demeanor.
Guys like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin can actually be difficult for a lot of guys to play with because they do a lot of unexpected things their teammates may not be ready for. But Ehrhoff looks totally comfortable anticipating what they’re thinking and either getting them the puck or getting open when necessary.
“I think he’s a really smart player with the puck,” said defenseman Kris Letang, who was paired with Ehrhoff throughout all of training camp and the regular-season opener. “Really calm, he’s under control. It’s fun to see how he reads me already and know what kind of player I am. … When one goes, the other one stays back. We know pretty much what we’re thinking out there.”
The coaches switched it up and paired Ehrhoff with Paul Martin for Saturday’s 5-2 win over Toronto, someone who’s always liked his game.
“I’ve always been a big fan of Christian, watching him on a couple different teams he played in San Jose and Vancouver and then into Buffalo,” Martin said. “Now we’ve got him. Very similar to a lot of the guys we have here. He skates really well, very poised, moves the puck great and he brings that offensive upside too. But he’s not afraid to compete, so he’s a good addition back there.”
Overall, it's been a smooth transition both on and off the ice for Ehrhoff so far here in Pittsburgh.
"The guys have made it really easy on me to feel welcomed and system-wise, everybody was starting from zero so we’ve all been in the same boat that way," he said. "Living-wise, it’s been great. I settled in, the family’s doing great and I’m excited to get the regular season going."