New York Rangers forward Jesper Fast is more than just a 4th line player — he may just be the most relied upon player on the team.
First, the Rangers learned of Henrik Lundqvist’s knee injury suffered at the World Championships. As if things weren’t bad enough, it was then announced that Jesper Fast had left hip surgery and would be out of action for approximately five months.
A terrible way to start off the summer indeed.
This was devastating news to the team and came as a surprise to many. It was never mentioned previously that Fast was battling any kind of injury nor did it show during the Ottawa playoff series. Fast is heavily relied on by head coach Alain Vigneault in every game. The coach tends to move Fast to other lines in the third period when the Rangers are involved in close games and his defensive style makes him one of the best players in the lineup.
Fast, 25 years old, skated in 68 regular-season games last season, scoring six goals with 15 assists. Fast also had three goals and three assists in 12 playoff games. He was selected for the Blueshirts’ Players’ Player Award for the second consecutive season.
— Matt Calamia (@MattCalamia) September 6, 2017
Fast told NYRangers.com he had felt discomfort in his hip for several years but was able to play through the injury. After last season, though, he felt it was the right time to remedy the injury.
“It’s been something that’s been bothering me for a while,” he said. “Even years ago a little bit, then it starts progressing and bothering me more and more. It was something that I felt had to be done. If I want to play for another 10 years, I think it was a pretty good time to do it now.”
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Fast is one of the team’s best penalty killers, as he skated regularly with Michael Grabner last season. His speed and finesse make him the perfect penalty killer as he is able to make the great clearing pass to get the team out of trouble or he can thread the needle to hit a teammate on the fly for the big short-handed breakaway. Fast can do some of those things you can’t teach a player to do. He has great instincts for game situations. Not having him in the Rangers lineup for an extended period of time could cost the team points in the standings that they can not afford to lose.
Fast’s injury caused a dilemma off the ice, too. With the Rangers preparing their list of available players for the upcoming NHL Expansion Draft for the Las Vegas Golden Knights, they were forced to protect him, not knowing for sure if he would have been protected if healthy. That all but guaranteed the team would lose Oscar Lindberg to the Golden Knights, which is exactly what happened.
As the Rangers began informal skating in early September, it was reported that Fast was skating with his teammates at these sessions. It was a great surprise to see Fast back on the ice three months after surgery. As is always the case with Fast, he will take it day by day until he can get back in the lineup. Just last week, Alain Vigneault gave an update of Fast’s return.
AV said he hoped Jesper Fast (hip surgery in June) can be skating with the team in 14 days, but out till late October
— Steve Zipay (@stevezipay) September 22, 2017
Indirectly, his injury actually helped the Rangers out a little bit. With training camp in progress, the Rangers have been able to give other players a longer look. Since he will be out at least five weeks after the season begins, the Rangers will have the option to keep some players up on the team for the beginning of the regular season. In the long run, the coaching staff will be able to better evaluate these rookies in real game action as the team waits for Fast to return.
Ultimately, though, the Rangers need Fast in uniform and on the ice where he belongs. His progress recuperating from his injured hip has been a little faster than anticipated but the Rangers need to be cautious. Lindberg had the same procedure done on both hips at the same time and when he did return, he had a tough time catching up. I would anticipate the Rangers giving Fast the proper rest and rehabilitation prior to his return.
Once Fast gets back to the Rangers, the team will be ready for any opposition they face. Then Fast can do what he does best, which is about anything the head coach asks of him.