Coming into the 2016-17 season, the New York Rangers had a spot on their fourth-line up for grabs following the departure of veteran center Dominic Moore. A quarter of the way through the season Josh Jooris seems to have grabbed the job and at the very least, should stay with the team for the foreseeable future.
Coming into camp this was no guarantee as the Rangers had a glut of forwards. To this point, the fourth-line center role has been held by Brandon Pirri, Oscar Lindberg and of course Jooris. With Lindberg a healthy scratch the past few games and Pirri bouncing around the lineup, it looks like Jooris has made his impression felt with the Rangers’ coaching staff, so I think it’s safe to go out and grab your Jooris jerseys.
Grinding Them Down
Jooris has brought a grinding element to the team that they’ve otherwise lacked. The center from Burlington, Ontario has done a great job of pressuring the puck and playing a tight-checking game by getting into the corners and chasing down opponents on the backcheck. The rugged-yet-responsible style seems to have taken a toll on the forward himself, as Jooris battled injuries in the preseason and suffered a separated shoulder early in the regular season, limiting him to only 10 games. Despite paying a physical price, Jooris has continued to be a physical presence who does the little things well; he’s 51 percent on faceoffs, is averaging 1.6 hits per game and is trying to get the puck to the net every chance he has.
As good as Pirri and Lindberg have been in the fourth-line spot, they simply don’t have that belligerent style when they play, and if there’s one element that separates Jooris from his teammates, it’s that “run through a brick wall” style.
Doing It All
The book on Jooris coming into the season suggested that he’s a smart player with great energy and a bit of bite to his game, but what has surprised me is his ability to make some plays with the puck. A play that comes to mind is his goal against the Arizona Coyotes earlier in the year. Jooris does a good job of getting behind the coverage, then he gets the puck and rather than just stuff it into the sprawled out goaltender, he hangs on, finds a hole and tucks it in.
He’s making good clean passes more often and showing that there’s another element to his game that allows him to find some space in the offensive zone. Don’t expect him to light the lamp too often, but look out for him to pop in the odd goal.
Coming into the season I saw Jooris as the 13th man, but he’s been excellent and has earned a spot on the club by outplaying Lindberg. I predicted that Lindberg would take the fourth line role when he returned from his own injury, but that hasn’t been the case. Lindberg missed training camp with a hip issue, and even after returning he’s looked a step behind the play. Right now Jooris brings that mixture of speed and sandpaper that this Rangers’ team lacks, and with Mika Zibanejad out for the foreseeable future, it’s understandable that the team would go with the quicker and more defensive-minded player. After all, Zibanejad takes a ton of defensive responsibilities.
Jooris could quickly lose the spot with a few bad games, but with his level of work ethic, I don’t see him coming out unless the team needs a shake up.