As time passes, and we avidly follow our favorite sports teams, many players come and go. While we may recall them during their time with the team, some slip through the crevices of our memory, only to resurface through a nostalgic memory or an old piece of media, causing us to reconnect their faces and names with the iconic Rangers uniform.
Among the hallowed names like Messier, Leetch, Giacomin, Lundqvist, and others, there are those more unknown Rangers, such as Eric Reitz, Matt Gilroy, Ales Kotalik, Chris Higgins, and others who may have faded from our recollection. As we traverse the regular season, we’ll delve into a few of these “Forgotten Rangers.”
In this edition, we look at one guy who wore number 36 before Zuccarello and the other who I thought was going to be a solid depth piece for a few seasons and would have if it wasn’t for that meddling Vigneault.
Benn Ferriero, Right Wing
Time with Rangers: 4 games with New York, 23 games with CT in 2012-13
Hailing from the San Jose Sharks and WBS Penguins, Benn Ferriero brought a gritty, fourth-line presence and made a notable early impact in his career. When the Rangers acquired him from the AHL in exchange for Chad Kolarik, they promptly called him up to the big league, where he appeared to give his all.
The issue was that his productivity was lacking, and his stay with the main squad was rather brief. To the best of my recollection, he was initially expected to be an energetic contributor, but that role seemed to fade after just a game or two under the coaching of John Tortorella.
With only one assist to his name in the NHL, he was sent back down to the Rangers’ AHL affiliate in Connecticut. During his time there, he played a combined 23 games for the Whale before venturing to other teams, including Vancouver, Utica, Providence, and Chicago, as well as a stint overseas. Notably, he’s the last player I remember wearing the number 36 before Mats Zuccarello.
I had high hopes that Benn Ferriero would become a pivotal piece for the Rangers, but as the saying goes, hindsight is 20/20, and I find myself typing this reflection rather than occupying a cushy chair in the Rangers’ front office.
James Sheppard, Center
Time with Rangers: 14 games during the 2014-15 season, 13 in playoffs.
Before delving further into this topic, it’s worth acknowledging that during Alain Vigneault’s tenure, several players were arguably driven out of town under unfair circumstances. James Sheppard stands out as one of those players, alongside Keith Yandle.
It’s essential to note that Sheppard was an active, engaged, and competent center. However, AV had a history of deploying players in positions that didn’t necessarily maximize their potential. Moreover, the decision to scratch Sheppard in favor of Tanner Glass was particularly frustrating, given that Glen Sather had acquired Sheppard to bolster the Rangers’ center depth, which was lacking at the time.
James Sheppard was originally selected 9th overall by the Minnesota Wild in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He had a consistent track record of being a 40-plus point player, even tallying 30-plus goals in his final two seasons in junior hockey. Unfortunately, that scoring touch didn’t seamlessly transition to the NHL, but he performed adequately as a bottom-tier center for the Wild and the San Jose Sharks.
During one of the Rangers’ numerous playoff pushes, they acquired Sheppard in the 2014-15 season in exchange for a fourth-round draft pick. Whenever he took to the ice, it appeared that the team generated more offense from its third and fourth lines.
In my perspective, James Sheppard was fitting in well and consistently delivering strong performances. Regrettably, he found himself scratched from the lineup on several occasions, often in favor of Tanner Glass. Whenever Sheppard did get a chance to play, he made his presence known, at least from my viewpoint.
Sheppard contributed in 13 games for the Rangers during that playoff run before eventually parting ways with the team. If there was a depth player who seemed to harmonize with the squad and would have been a valuable addition for the following season, it was James Sheppard.
Unfortunately, the Rangers chose not to re-sign him. Subsequently, he embarked on tryouts with the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Vancouver Canucks before venturing to Europe, where he played in Austria and Germany. As of now, Sheppard continues his professional hockey career with the Vienna Capitals in the ICE Hockey League in Europe.