I think it’s safe to say this. All together now. We were wrong.
It’s not that we were wrong about Jesper Fast and his usefulness, but we were wrong about where he should be in the lineup. For the past few seasons, the perfect world has been Fast on the fourth line. He’s excellent there. But if he were ever in the top-nine, there would be lineup questions abound.
Now Fast is on the top line and has found instant chemistry with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider. Yet Fast isn’t an elite talent. He’s not at the same skill level as Zibanejad and Kreider. But here we are, talking about how good that line has looked.
For Fast, it’s about the constant improvement from his rookie year to now. His primary points rate has steadily increased every year, and with that his usage has gone from fourth liner to consistent middle-six presence. His minutes per game has steadily increased from 11 minutes per game to 17 minutes per game, a sign of trust from the coaching staff. Something he’s earned.
Fast’s involvement and progress is not about his elite talent, but his ability to complement any duo on a line. Need someone to go retrieve the puck (basically what he does with Kreider/Buchnevich)? Fast can do it. Need someone to help the cycle and get to the front of the net? Fast can do it.
Fast’s greatest value to the team is his flexibility. It’s what makes the Rangers lineup so fluid, as Fast can be the third to any duo the team has to offer. Certainly makes David Quinn’s job easier, and gives the kids an opportunity to be eased into the lineup. In a rebuild, that’s a best case scenario.