New York Rangers’ Vinni Lettieri has confidence in his game. Since his call-up on Dec. 27, he has added life to a lifeless team. Can he help the team find their winning ways?
The 22-year-old from Excelsior, Minnesota, Vinni Lettieri signed with the New York Rangers last March as an undrafted free agent after the conclusion of his collegiate career at the University of Minnesota. Lettieri had his best year with Minnesota in his senior year as he scored 19 goals. In his previous three years combined he scored 18 goals.
He had an excellent training camp with the Rangers as he showed he can skate and shoot with the big boys of the NHL. Lettieri was sent to the AHL Hartford Wolf Pack toward the end of training camp. The decision was not so much that he wasn’t ready for the hard playing NHL, but more of the fact that the Rangers had decided to go with 18-year old Filip Chytil. Chytil has since been sent down to the Wolf Pack and was a teammate of Lettieri.
With the Wolf Pack Lettieri had recorded 21 points, 12 goals with nine assists in 31 games.
The announcement of Chris Kreider‘s blood clot situation, which will keep Kreider out of the lineup indefinitely, led to the recall of Lettieri. He wasted no time showing what he can do as he scored in his first professional hockey game as the Rangers battled the Detroit Red Wings in Detroit, which ended in a 3-2 shootout loss.
In his NHL debut, Lettieri had 10 minutes of ice time including three minutes on the power play. He also recorded three shots on goal, but his energy is what the team recognized right away. Lettieri said of his NHL debut to the Associated Press in a piece appearing on New York Daily News, “The skill level here is incredible for every player, and you really have to stay focused,” Lettieri said. “I was nervous on my first couple shifts, but I settled down after that.”
Lettieri didn’t play in the next Rangers game, the Winter Classic, as Jesper Fast made his return to the lineup. The good news for him was that the Rangers decided not to send him back to the Hartford Wolf Pack. He did not dress in the next game against the Blackhawks at MSG but he did play in the two games out west against the Arizona Coyotes and the Las Vegas Golden Knights. Against the Coyotes Lettieri recorded 14 minutes 22 seconds of ice time and in Vegas, he had an assist with 13 minutes of ice time. He has seemed to gain the trust of the coaching staff in a short period of time.
The Rangers sent him back to Hartford following the Vegas Golden Knights game so that he could continue to play as the Rangers were off for the whole week. He was once again recalled prior to the Rangers-Islanders game on Saturday.
Vinni Lettieri’s attitude has not changed since his initial recall. He told Larry Brooks of the New York Post regarding his style of play:
“I’m going to take what I did in Hartford, not change anything, and keep shooting the puck.” He went on to say, “You never know what happens. Just shooting the puck has been a major difference, I think. If I didn’t take as many shots, I don’t think I would be as successful.”
The attitude is refreshing especially now where there is so much uncertainty surrounding the team. He is a kid who loves to shoot the puck, hits, and skates hard. On a team that has been lacking energy and excitement, he might be one of the players who can jump start this team.
As always only time will tell, but the kid from Minnesota has the potential to make the Rangers his own.