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Brandon Pirri might end up being the steal of the summer

Bobby Bevilacqua

brandon-pirri-profile-10-4

Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

When the Rangers signed Brandon Pirri to a one year, $1.1 million contract this offseason, many fans and blogs covering the team were thrilled. The deal was a bargain and he’s a shifty, smart player with a knack for scoring. Despite bouncing around the league a bit, Pirri has shown flashes of being a really special player.

Initially drafted by Chicago, Pirri really made his mark with the Florida Panthers. In 21 games with them in 2014, he scored seven goals and 14 points. The following season he wound up scoring 22 goals in 49 games, showcasing his elite shooting ability. Prior to the start of this season, Pirri was scoring at a rate of 1.31 goals per 60 minutes, higher than Evgeni Malkin, John Tavares, James Neal, Brad Marchand and Zach Parise over the last three years.

After splitting time between the Panthers and the Ducks last year, Pirri was surprisingly not given a qualifying offer by the Ducks and the Rangers were able to snatch him up. And he’s been a fantastic signing so far.

Pirri led the NHL with four goals in the preseason and earned a roster spot, albeit playing on the fourth line but still getting quality offensive minutes. Pirri scored the game winning goal against the Boston Bruins, a beautiful wrist shot on the power play past rookie Zane McIntyre. He followed that up with his second goal of the game, and his fourth of the season, at the start of the third period to really put it out of reach. He had a three game point streak (3-1-4) before the loss to Carolina last night.

In the preseason, Pirri looked like he truly belonged and could have been on one of the top two lines. Any other season, Pirri would have definitely been a top nine player. But with the addition of Jimmy Vesey and Pavel Buchnevich, Pirri was forced to play the “fourth” line.

Realistically it’s the fourth line in name only. The trio of Michael Grabner, Brandon Pirri and Jesper Fast not only can handle defensive duties and the role of a traditional fourth line, but there’s a lot of speed and the potential for scoring on this line as well. Fast scored 10 goals and 30 points last season and Grabner has had offensive success in the past.

Where Pirri really will leave his mark on the team is on the power play. So far he has two goals on the man advantage, one last night and one in the season opener. It’s been a while since the Rangers have had a shoot-first guy on the power play, and Pirri is exactly that. Sometimes all you need is to just get shots on goal, because they’ll sneak in or create rebound chances for other players. In Pirri’s case, his shot is good enough to go in pretty often.

With the way he’s playing, Pirri has shown that he might be one of the most dangerous offensive players on this team. Granted, there’s also Rick Nash, Chris Kreider, Jimmy Vesey and some others, but Pirri’s pure shooting ability is what sets him apart from others.

Pavel Buchnevich came back against Carolina, but Chris Kreider will still be sidelined with his neck issues. For the time being, I want to see Pirri on the third line. He’s earned it and I would love to see what he can do while playing with skill guys like Kevin Hayes and JT Miller on the third line. When everyone is healthy, Pirri would probably still be the first guy to go back to the fourth line but he needs to be in the lineup regardless.

Pirri has four goals and has shown tremendous offensive upside despite not getting the minutes or opportunities of a top six forward. He’s earned a shot at increased minutes, especially when there are injuries.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he hits 20 goals this season and helps the Rangers power play continue to be a success (6 goals in 7 games). And with Pirri being just 25 and an RFA after this season, he could be a part of the team’s future as well.

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Posted on October 29, 2016, in In the Crease and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. I was surprised Pirri was even available as long as he was. I know AV is probably concerned about his defensive play but I wouldn’t mind seeing Pirri on 3rd line a bit. It’s nice to have enough.skilled guys so that if guys aren’t doing so good while others are hot they could be juggled around a little. The Rangers have been getting a ton of scoring chances, however I do wish they would score on some of them a little more. It feels like they almost score an awful lot. The probables is you can’t win on goals almost scored. I think Pirri is one of the few guys that picks a spot on net to shoot at where as guys like Zibanejad are just shooting for the sake of shooting

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