Archive for Jesper Fast
Last season, the Rangers deployed Benoit Pouliot, Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello on their third line and Derek Dorsett, Dominic Moore and Brian Boyle on the fourth for much of the season. Needless to say, depth up front was a team strength.
Thanks to the cap crunch and some head-scratching offseason moves, the bottom-six just wasn’t quite the same this year. The team spent much of the season attempting to identify a third-line scoring winger and failed to support Dominic Moore on the checking unit. But though the sum of its parts wasn’t good enough, many members of the bottom-six did have terrific seasons.
What more could you ask for from the prized former Blackhawks first-round pick after he chose to join the Rangers last summer? Hayes really turned it on in the second-half, when it seemed like he improved every single game. Hayes has an impressive combination of size, hands and wheels, and the sky appears to be the limit for the 23-year-old. Hayes was a little quieter in the playoffs, but it’s hard to fault him for that.
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When the Rangers started the season, there were many questions about which kids would make a significant impact on the big club. Kevin Hayes made the club out of camp, but his transition to center in the NHL was going to be a long road and there were times when he sat as a healthy scratch. Jesper Fast was yo-yo’d a few times this season before finally sticking around December. J.T. Miller received the same treatment.
By the time the Rangers started rolling in December, Hayes, Miller, and Fast had become the three rookie staples in the lineup. Hayes had been impressing everyone –literally everyone, as I don’t think there’s one person who believes the Rangers rushed him– as he adapted to the NHL and the rigors of the center position. He got better each and every game, first focusing on defense and positioning.
Hayes put up a modest 6-11-17 in the first four months (46 games). But once February came, Hayes turned up the scoring, notching 11 goals, 17 assists, and 28 points in the final 35 games. With Derick Brassard and Derek Stepan holding down the top two center spots, Hayes turned even his fiercest doubters into his largest supporters.
The Blueshirts had pushed their chips to the middle of the table and with Henrik Lundqvist now 33 and reaching an age when he could logically be expected to decline, sacrificing draft picks and prized prospects at the expense of the team’s future was no longer of much concern.
The looming salary cap crunch meant a difficult decision lay ahead this summer between key free agents Derek Stepan, Carl Hagelin and Martin St. Louis, followed by another class of increasingly expensive FAs in 2016 including Yandle, Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes.
But the late stages of the season and the start of the playoff run have changed things. Specifically, Lightning legends St. Louis and Boyle have quickly drifted from critical veteran cogs to afterthoughts, while the figurative torch has been passed to young emerging Blueshirts.
It was once assumed that Hagelin would be the odd man out this summer, but now it’s almost impossible to imagine the organization choosing to retain St. Louis over the Swedish speedster (although St. Louis could still re-sign for a bonus-laden veteran deal). Boyle likely plans to conclude his career when his deal expires following next season anyway, but the hole he’ll leave has already been patched with a much younger power play ace in Yandle.
The Blueshirts will still be up against the cap even subtracting these two players, but their young players are already exceeding the price tags of their rookie deals and have fortified the club’s core.
Jesper Fast and J.T. Miller were both terrific in the season’s final weeks and have continued that strong play into the postseason, while Kevin Hayes has only scratched the surface of his potential. Other young pieces like Kreider and Derek Stepan will bloom on Broadway for years to come. And there are still a couple more blue-chip prospects to come, with Pavel Buchnevich and Brady Skjei potentially joining the fray as soon as next season. Heck, if it were possible, plugging in Buchnevich and Skjei for St. Louis and Boyle might make the Blueshirts better right now.
Playoff hockey begins (for real) today. Forget about Wednesday, we’re all waiting for today and the Pens vs. Rangers series opener. Let’s have a muse to kick the playoffs off shall we?
Is it me or have an unusually high amount of teams got serious injury headaches this spring? The Rangers can consider themselves relatively lucky that they will enter the Pens series ‘only’ missing Kevin Klein. You look at an offensively shallow Montreal Canadiens squad missing their top scorer (Pacioretty) or the Penguins who are practically missing an entire D. The Rangers enter the playoffs healthy and that’s a huge bonus.
Player I’m rooting for: Martin St Louis. Has had a lot of criticism this year (some of it deservedly). He could be a huge difference maker for the Rangers.
To go on a playoff run, a team needs solid goaltending first and foremost. It needs to stay healthy, and a good bit of luck. And it needs contributions from up and down the lineup.When the game inevitably tightens up in crunch time, the snipers and playmaking artists are often mitigated in favor of greasy goals with traffic in front of the net. They tend to come from unlikely sources – cement-handed Brian Boyle was among New York’s most dependable postseason scorers in recent years.
So who are the candidates to become overnight heroes this spring? Ignoring the top offensive guys – and that now most certainly includes J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes – here are the cases for the grinders:
James Sheppard – GM Glen Sather made a point of noting Sheppard’s performance in last year’s playoffs when he scored six points in seven games against the eventual champion Kings. Sheppard has a nose for the net, which works to his advantage this time of year. The biggest thing working against Becky’s latest crush is his spot on the depth chart – there’s no guarantee he’ll even dress for many games.
Rick Nash – just kidding (kind of).
Three cap saving moves made by the New York Rangers. Three moves that, at the start (or middle, depending on when the player came into the lineup) of the season, were met with more questions than answers. But here we are in March, and all three have prominent roles with the Rangers. All three are solidifying the forward depth. All three have one thing in common: Speed.
Under Alain Vigneault, the Rangers have moved from a game anchored around defense and north-south skating to an east-west, counter attack style of play. Vigneault has molded the Rangers using their best asset, their skating ability. It has been the club’s philosophy –for the most part– when drafting and targeting free agents. It is their biggest strength, and as we’ve seen all year, it’s giving opponents fits.
In case you missed it, Jesper Fast is currently skating in a non-contact jersey at practice. While there is no timetable for his return, it is always promising to see someone with a knee injury skating again. Eventually he will return to the lineup, and at that point, the Rangers will have a bunch of lineup questions that will need to be answered.
Do you break up Hagelin-Hayes-Miller?
Prior to his injury, Fast was skating with Carl Hagelin and Kevin Hayes. The line was solid, albeit unspectacular. When Fast went down on February 8, J.T. Miller took his spot on that line, playing the off-wing, and the results have been fantastic. In those seven games, Hayes has a line of 4-2-6. Hagelin has a line of 3-3-6, and now has his first career 20-goal season in his sights. Miller has a line of 0-3-3, but has been willing to go to the corners, be in hard on the forecheck, and has been averaging close to 60% SAT%/CF%.
For the first time all season, the Rangers have a third line that is a legitimate scoring threat. This line took over the secondary scoring role when the Chris Kreider-Derek Stepan-Martin-St. Louis line was slumping. Now the line provides tertiary scoring, with Hayes and Miller playing on PP2.
An update on the Jesper Fast injury has come in, courtesy of Andrew Gross, and it is not that good. Fast will be out 2-3 weeks with a first degree knee sprain. The rookie winger was hitting his stride with the Rangers, rotating between third and fourth line RW duties and playing a critical role on the penalty kill. Fast left the game against Nashville with the injury in the third period.
New York Rangers trade rumor season is upon us. This morning, Kevin looked at possible trade scenarios with the Arizona
Cardinals Coyotes (I make that mistake way too much). Suit looked at the Rangers trade deadline strategy, which is likely about adding depth on the blue line. The Rangers have already been linked to Mike Santorelli and Antoine Vermette as well. Oh happy days.
No matter who the Rangers are linked to, they will need to identify the tradeable assets within the organization. That’s not an easy feat, as the salary cap looms, and the Canadian Dollar, which was supposed to be around .85 USD, is tanking hard to around .60. Acquiring someone with a large cap hit into next season isn’t doable unless salary goes the other way.
Continuing on with the mid-season report card, this is my take on the Rangers bottom six forwards. Dave covered the goaltending and coaches and Chris wrote about the top-six forwards previously, so be sure to check them out.
(ALL STATS ARE 5v5 UNLESS NOTED OTHERWISE)
- GP: 43
- TOI/Gm: 12.7
- CF/60: 51.3 (8 fwd)
- CA/60: 49.2 (2 fwd)
- RelCF%: 2.0 (4 fwd)
- P/60: 1.4 (10 fwd)
- SHCF%: 11.0 (TOI/Gm – 2.1)
Hagelin’s speed keeps opposing teams honest. He’s been very reliable defensively, a dangerous part of the penalty kill and has big playmaking potential 5v5 on the offensive side of things. Keep your eye on his name in trade rumors. He’s a free agent at the end of the year and with cap space tight after Marc Staal’s extension he could be a cap casualty. Hagelin has been a big part of the bottom six and will continue to be moving into the 2nd half of the season.