The 2019-20 season for the New York Rangers has been defined by unparalleled stars playing on the Madison Square Garden ice that fans haven’t had the chance to experience in arguably over a decade. Even though the current season might come to an official end, the NHL continues to explore possible ways to resume the season.
And if the season does, in fact, reach its abrupt end, New York fans will reminisce dazzling winger Artemi Panarin and red-hot center Mika Zibanejad. Fans will remember how they single-handedly buoyed the Rangers’ season, stole the show every game and almost pushed the team back to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. But which members haven’t necessarily received the most recognition for their play? Let’s take a look at some of the most underappreciated players for New York this season.
It seems as though Jesper Fast is on the Rangers’ under-appreciated list every season. And there’s good reason for that. He is not the flashiest of players. He doesn’t score highlight-reel goals or thread the needle on power play passes, but Fast has shown that he is more than capable of being a reliable hockey player.
The 28-year-old winger is seeing one of his best seasons at the NHL level being played out with 29 points in 69 games. It may not seem like much, but Fast was closely creeping up towards his career-high of 33 points. He is one of the most consistent Rangers every game and steps into just about every situation. He’s a penalty killer, a forechecker and a very reliable piece on the roster. The Swede has been a nice piece for the Rangers for over four seasons and it’s under-valued players like Fast that must be re-signed after this year.
Marc Staal is one of the most tenured Rangers still on the roster. Staal, Fast, Chris Kreider and Henrik Lundqvist are the only Blueshirts that remain from the shell of the 2013-14 roster. Staal has been ridiculed for his slow and inconsistent play the past few years by the fanbase. However, the veteran proved his worth to the team this season.
With young defensemen coming in from all angles into New York’s organization, Staal needed to have a bounce-back year to retain his position on the left side. The former first-round pick picked up his game and fortified the left side with some consistency and strong defensive play.
This then allowed his right-side partner Tony DeAngelo to put up a career-high in points. While donning the “A”, Staal has proven this season that he still has some game left in him as he approaches the twilight of his career.
This selection is probably surprising to some, if not most of you, assuming you have watched and admired the play of Adam Fox this season. If it weren’t for Panarin and Zibanjead stealing the spotlight, Fox should be receiving a ton of praise for just how good he’s been in his rookie season.
Fox is currently 15th in the NHL for points by a defenseman with 42 points in 70 games played. The Long Island native also ranks third for defenseman under 22 years old in the NHL. Fox is sound defensively and sees the ice beautifully on a consistent basis. His play this season was beyond exceptional and he deserves more praise.
The 2019-20 season for New York saw a clear trickle-down effect for points. With the stellar play from Panarin and Zibanejad, players like Fox, Pavel Buchnevich and Fast were all able to contribute much more offensively. The future is bright for the Rangers, but for every star on an NHL roster, there is a role player.
To be successful in the seasons to come, these role players need to continue to produce on both ends of the ice to help propel Broadway back to the playoffs.
Sophomore journalism major at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland. Business director and play-by-play broadcaster for WMUC Sports. Former intern for the Anton Media Group.