Jesper Fast can and will fill Carl Hagelin’s role for the Rangers

Bobby Bevilacqua

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Following his first full season in professional hockey, Jesper Fast will play a bigger role next season, and he’ll help fill the void left by Carl Hagelin. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

We are beginning to approach a slow time for hockey and hockey related news. There isn’t really much to cover after the first few days of free agency, and right now, the Rangers are just waiting to re-sign their RFAs.

So while every hockey blogger continues to struggle for article ideas, you’ll hear a lot of the same things. For me, I like to think about how the Rangers can replace the players that they lost in the offseason. One of those players is Carl Hagelin, who was traded to the Anaheim Ducks for Emerson Etem, as well as swapping draft picks so the Rangers could select Ryan Gropp with the 41st pick of the NHL Entry Draft.

Hagelin has been a very steady 30-point per season kind of player that can open up the ice with his speed, and play strong defense when in his own zone. A well-rounded player with blazing speed is hard to find, and Hagelin was an important part of the team.

But Alain Vigneault and the Rangers happen to have another Swede on the wing that happens to play very similarly to Hagelin, and his name is Jesper Fast.

Fast is a 2010 sixth round draft pick by the Rangers who solidified his spot in the lineup this season. He started the season with the Rangers, and spent most of his time on the fourth line, jumping up to the third line during the regular season, and even pairing with Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan in the playoffs.

Fast played 11 games in the 2013-14 season, as well as three playoff games, but this was the year where he really showed his strengths and that he can be a capable NHL forward. In 58 games, he finished with 14 points (6-8-14) while playing mostly on the fourth line. In 19 playoff games, he tallied six points, including three goals, as well as his first career multi-goal game coming in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

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Jesper Fast had a great showing in the playoffs, combining with Chris Kreider to create a dynamic second line. Photo courtesy of MSG Photos.

Like many of the Swedish hockey players in the NHL, Fast possesses a very high hockey IQ. He knows the intricacies of the game well, and rarely makes mistakes, making him someone that you can count on when he’s put on the ice. He makes smart decisions, positions himself well, and makes his teammates better.

He also has two skills that Hagelin has; speed and defensive prowess. Now obviously he isn’t as fast as Hagelin; there are a select few guys that can actually challenge him in that category. But Fast is quick enoughto create chances and back off the opposition. Also, don’t be surprised if Vigneault sends out Dominic Moore and Fast to start the penalty kill. He’s an excellent defensive forward, and he was excellent on the penalty kill.

Although he only scored six goals in the regular season, Fast showed a lot of promise in the goal scoring department. Off the top of my head, his first career goal, which came against the Flyers at Madison Square Garden, came off of a wicked wrister that beat Ray Emery top shelf (VIDEO). And in Carolina, he scored a fantastic spinning goal off of a feed from Kevin Hayes (VIDEO). That’s not even including his two goal game against the Lightning in Game 3.

The skills are there, and he has shown that he can score spectacular goals and generate offense. He just has to work on his finishing and utilizing his good hands around the net. Once he gets placed with skilled offensive players (AKA not Tanner Glass), I think we will see him blossom into a better player with the puck. I’ve seen enough to tell me that he has what it takes to be a very solid two zone player as a bottom six forward, with potential to jump onto the second line when needed.

When he was put on the second line in the playoffs, Fast sparked an anemic Rangers offense in the series against the Capitals. His speed added a new dynamic with Kreider and Stepan, and he helped carry the Rangers out of their 3-1 rut, including pushing the puck back to Keith Yandle off the faceoff to help set up Derek Stepan’s Game 7 overtime winner.

I think that next year, we could very well see Jesper Fast turn into a 10 goal, 25 point player when paired with Dominic Moore and, hopefully, Viktor Stalberg. He’ll get chances in the top nine for sure, and I think that Fast will turn into a player that can do exactly what Carl Hagelin did for the team.

Posted on July 9, 2015, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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