Dryden Hunt was an under the radar signing for the Rangers compared to the rest of their moves. Hunt, 25, plays both wings and comes with a very cheap cap hit of $762,500 over the next two seasons. When the Rangers made this signing, they were looking to replace Colin Blackwell, lost to expansion to Seattle. Hunt is primarily a bottom six winger who plays a solid defensive game. He’s a good skater who can move the puck and is tenacious on the forecheck. With the emphasis on being more aggressive in the offensive and neutral zone forecheck, Hunt checks a lot of boxes for the Rangers to round out that bottom six.
Better than Blackwell?
This may be blasphemy, because Colin Blackwell was a fan favorite in his short time with the Rangers. However there is a solid case that Hunt may actually be a better player and fit for this year’s version of the Rangers.
A grain of salt is required here, as Blackwell was severely miscast as a second liner after he started scoring last season. The Rangers won’t have that problem with Hunt, as there are way too many wingers with scoring upside ahead of him on the depth chart. Instead, Hunt is likely competing with Julien Gauthier, Ryan Reaves, Sammy Blais, and possibly Lauri Pajuniemi for a 4RW spot. Given that Hunt plays both wings, he’s also competing for the 4LW spot, one that right now is wide open.
Focusing solely on the numbers, Hunt put up far better numbers across the board –save for GF/60– than Blackwell. The aforementioned second line issue impacted Blackwell’s performance, as did the overall awfulness of the Rangers defensively last season. It’s not like Arizona was good though, so perhaps this balances out? Either way, this paints a nice picture for Hunt heading into this season.
Gerard Gallant ran an aggressive 1-2-2 while in Florida/Vegas, relying heavily on a forecheck in the offensive zone and limiting time and space in the neutral zone. With the defense stepping up at the blue line, the opposition isn’t given much room to maneuver. Hunt fits that role more than Gauthier or Pajuniemi, at least from what we’ve seen thus far. At even strength, Hunt appears to be a better option than most of the other bottom six players at wing.
The one concern with Hunt is that he doesn’t play on the penalty kill. Given expected player roles, that may prevent him from being a regular in the lineup. Of course nothing stops a 25 year old winger from learning a new skill, and perhaps the new coaching staff will put him on the PK early on. After all, quick feet and quick decision making are two skills needed for a penalty killer, and Hunt has both.
The Rangers added some solid depth when they signed Dryden Hunt. They also wouldn’t have given him two years if they didn’t see a use for him outside of injury depth. Expect him to be in it for a bottom six roster spot. Perhaps a fourth line of Hunt-Kevin Rooney-Sammy Blais/Ryan Reaves is in the works for opening night.