Rangers’ Playoff Journey is Fueled by Undrafted Forwards

The New York Rangers are full of star power, new additions, and young talent. This season the team looks to make a postseason dash for the first time since the 2016-17 season, with the rebuilding pieces the organization acquired. While every Rangers player’s journey to the Big Apple is unique, several forwards landed within one of the league’s most historic franchises. Those names are Artemi Panarin, Barclay Goodrow, Dryden Hunt, and Kevin Rooney.

Each of these undrafted forwards serves a different purpose for the team between goal setups, special teams work, and providing some extra bite. The duality of the team having several early-round draft selections as of recent (including a first and second overall) with a handful of undrafted forwards is something interesting to note. With that, here are the undrafted forwards of the Rangers, who, collectively became something of a spectacle to watch.

Barclay Goodrow, New York Rangers
Barclay Goodrow, two-time Stanley Cup Champion and current member of the New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

While it is not typical for a team to possess a couple of undrafted players the role that each of these players has to the team all impacts the other teammates and is always a topic to take interest in. Other than Panarin, this forward bunch spent a chunk of time with American Hockey League affiliate teams but now carved out a solid place on the team, who can make a legitimate run for the Stanley Cup this season.

Artemi Panarin

By far the most known undrafted Blueshirt is Panarin, who leads his team in points (71) and assists (55). Of course, Panarin did not begin his career on Broadway, yet the 30-year-old winger is enjoying a wonderfully successful extension of his career since he came to New York.

In 488 career games, Panarin racked up 544 points, split as 181 goals and 363 assists. The former Calder Trophy winner is on a slower pace compared to his debut season as a Ranger, but there is still the remainder of the season, and given the team continues their success, the postseason to go as well.

The incredibly crafty playmaker is an integral part of the top-six for the team, quarterbacking many of the crucial situations for the Rangers, including the top power-play unit and tends to be an early rounder for the shootout. The extra attacker advantage is key for the team, they claim the second-top power play in the league, right behind the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Related: Rangers Need to Upgrade Panarin’s Winger

He recently came off a five-point game against the Dallas Stars and a three-point match last night, showcasing how important he is to the collective. One of his points from last night’s game against the Anaheim Ducks was the overtime goal set up for defenseman, Adam Fox to win the game. Panarin’s individual impact on the team is something beyond words, from his on-ice performance to his presence in the locker room.

Barclay Goodrow

The former two-time Stanley Cup champion came to New York with grit, depth, and experience. The San Jose Sharks signed Goodrow initially in March 2014 before he moved on to join the Tampa Bay Lightning. He then inked a six-year contract last summer with the Rangers and serves in all situations for his team. His versatility allows him to play up and down the lineup and become a cornerstone of the penalty kill. Though the team dipped down to ninth place in penalty kill percentage (PK%) they are still effective in shutting the opponent down and Goodrow is a large contributor to that.

The 29-year-old is currently tied for his career-high in points (24) and already surpassed his personal record for goals (13) in one season. Again, production was not Goodrow’s selling point, and the special teams have proved incredibly important to the success of the Blueshirts this season, along with Igor Shesterkin’s brilliance in net.

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There is no secret Goodrow was key in Tampa’s Cup journey and in fact, 11 of his 45 career goals were game-winning goals. Among the span of his 387 game span, he collected 72 assists for a total of 117 points. It is clear he revels in his role here as a Ranger and provides depth to a team that has been missing it for so long.

Dryden Hunt

The youngest of the list, 26-year-old Hunt started with the Florida Panthers after he agreed upon a contract in March 2016. The winger only skated in 144 games where he collected 37 points, 10 goals, and 27 assists. For his debut season with the Rangers, he has set career highs across the board with 14 points, four goals, and 10 assists in 55 games played. Another depth player, he is inked with the Rangers through the end of the 2022-23 season.

He recently registered three assists in the win over the Stars. Hunt’s performance was a byproduct of a line promotion, as he was slotted with Panarin. The victory resulted in the second multi-point game of the season for Hunt, who collected one goal and four assists in seven games since the begging of this month. Similar to Goodrow, Hunt is also able to perform in the midst of line shuffles, which is what you must ask of a depth player.

Dryden Hunt, New York Rangers
Dryden Hunt, a winger for the New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The winger is also a provider of grit and is not afraid to work in the dirty areas of the ice. He is a tough player and definitely fits the bill for the grit that the team sought after. The team will rely on their full lines as they fight amongst the other teams clawing for a playoff invite. Hunt is in an extremely favorable position to make a real impact right now.

Kevin Rooney

The former New Jersey Devil is currently out on injured reserve, but recently skated in his 200th career game. Rooney, who plays center, began his first NHL career with the Devils after he inked a contract with the team as an undrafted free agent in Feb. 2017. He was on pace to break his own personal numbers this season prior to the injury. Rooney joined the Blueshirts as a free agent in the fall of 2020 and now sits at 11 points (six goals, five assists) as a core member of the bottom six and the penalty kill squad.

Though his contributions to the team seem more understated, the team has less flexibility with depth changes. The 28-year-old forward is not very close to a return, but due to a solid farm system in the AHL, the Rangers were able to recall Jonny Brodzinski, who also scored last night, and Morgan Barron or Tim Gettinger on occasion. The team must rely on Brodzinski to fill Rooney’s penalty kill duties.

Kevin Rooney New York Rangers
Kevin Rooney, a former rival player who now plays for the New York Rangers (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Because of how head coach Gerard Gallant manages his bench, he prefers to utilize Brodzinski in Rooney’s place but upon Rooney’s return, it should revert.

“He’s a big loss,” Gallant said. “He’s played well, he kills penalties for us. But it gives somebody else a chance to step in and do the job. He’ll be back sooner than later” stated the coach. (From ‘Rangers will be without Kevin Rooney for at least a week’, New York Post, 3/3/22)

He was a solid candidate to thrive under Gallant and while his skillset did improve in some areas and the coach thinks highly of Rooney, it still appears he could find that spark still to begin steadier production. His contract carries through the end of this season.

With a 38-17-5 record and second in the Metropolitan Division, the Rangers are performing above expectations due to a variety of factors. While their depth could still be improved, the team made strides compared to previous seasons towards being a complete squad. Their next game is a must-win important divisional matchup against the New York Islanders on Thursday.

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