Jesper Fast, possibly the most underrated player in the NHL, is finally getting recognition amongst the fan base for things he’s been doing for years.
If any coach could draw up the perfect bottom six player, that player would be Jesper Fast.
Fast is currently in his fifth year in the NHL and is such an important piece to this New York Rangers team. He missed the first five games of the regular season while recovering from hip surgery in the offseason. In his absence, the Rangers went 1-4-0.
Despite not being a superstar, Fast might have been able to make some small, game-changing plays that could have altered the outcome of the four early losses.
Where Fast makes his money is what the Rangers have seen from him all throughout his career. He is a solid, dependable, all-around player whose biggest strength might be his penalty kill prowess.
In those five games that Fast missed, the Rangers were killing penalties at a 68 percent clip. That simply wasn’t cutting it and his return to the lineup was much anticipated. Since his return, the Rangers have killed penalties at a much higher rate, at 84 percent. Some of that was a result of better goaltending, but Fast also played a major part. Fast’s game is similar to that of Ryan Callahan’s where he’s not afraid of blocking shots and doing the dirty work.
“Quickie,” as head coach Alain Vigneault calls Fast, is the type of player that does all of the little things that may go unnoticed. He rarely makes a mistake and when he does, you sit there and scratch your head. It’s just a rare occasion for Fast.
Fast quickly became a favorite of Alain Vigneault, who isn’t afraid to use him in any spot in the Rangers lineup. There was a stretch during the 2014-15 postseason where Vigneault had Fast playing with Chris Kreider and Derek Stepan, the Rangers top line that postseason. Kreider was still learning how to play at the NHL level and having Fast as a reliable defenseman allowed Vigneault to trust that line.
The flexibility that Vigneault has with Fast is probably what makes him a favorite of the fifth-year Rangers coach. When top six players struggle, Vigneault usually goes with Fast as a way to balance his lines out.
Scoring goals haven’t been a major part of Fast’s game in his first five seasons with the Rangers. Whatever scoring contributions that you could get from Fast you take because they are so rare. He had a career-high 10 goals in the 2015-16 season and is already on pace to break that in 2017-18. He’s netted seven goals and it doesn’t appear that he’s slowing down.
When a player starts to rack up goals, then they start to get recognized. In terms of Fast, all of the good that he brings is nothing new; he has been bestowing great play on the team since he was called up in the 2013-14 season.
What fans forget when it comes to Jesper Fast is that he’s just 26 years old. With him still at a relatively young age, Fast has more room to grow as a player. We’ve seen it already with his increased scoring ability this year. Outside of that, what more can you ask for from him? The answer is simple: not much.
Fast has been the most consistent Ranger in the last five years and is just now starting to get the recognition he deserves.