Coming over from Winnipeg in the trade for Kevin Hayes, New York Rangers youngster Brendan Lemieux has proved to be better than expected.
The New York Rangers have suited up four times since the trade deadline and Brendan Lemieux is showing flashes of excellence. At 22-years-old, Lemieux is a perfect acquisition for not only his age, but his tenacity on the ice.
The Rangers dealt their previous enforcer, Cody McLeod, a few days before the deadline. Since then, there has been a bit of a lapse in grittiness and physicality with this younger and more skillful team.
Lemieux shares something with his father Claude Lemieux, which is a passion for winning. Claude, who spent 21 seasons with six teams, hoisted the Stanley Cup four times in his career. Brendan spoke on his perception of winning, after scoring his first goal with the Rangers against the Montreal Canadiens, via Colin Stephenson of Newsday.
“It doesn’t mean anything, you know? It’s obviously cool to get one, but it’s about winning hockey games. It’s not about individual anything.’’
At the end of this season, Lemieux’s entry-level contract expires and he will become a free agent. Obviously, after only four games with the Rangers, it is still far too early to tell how much he is worth. But, losing Kevin Hayes for him and a first-round draft pick in 2019, should warrant the amount of confidence that the Rangers have in him staying around for next season.
It isn’t 100 percent confirmed that Lemieux will come back next season, but it would certainly seem that way. Head Coach David Quinn is pleased with his arrival and is behind his style of play, per Larry Brooks of the New York Post.
“I think he’s going to fit in fine with that aspect of the game,” Quinn said “Again, it’s not about doing it irresponsibly. It’s about playing the right way and if you do that, you’re going to piss people off. And I think that comes naturally to him.”
This team needs a player to get under the skin of the opposition. There is enough skill, but not enough grit. Especially with a division full of guys that excel at that. Washington has Tom Wilson, the Islanders have Matt Martin and New Jersey has Blake Coleman.
Each of those three are forwards that have the offensive skill and can still be a nuisance on the ice. Lemieux has shown that ability to fluster the other team and maintain a solid offensive game.
As the season is drawing closer and closer to its end, the Rangers front office have a lot to discuss over the summer. The goaltending back-up battle will be the most interesting of all, and there is also the Entry Draft in June. But, there is now a healthy amount of young forwards that are starting to come into their own.
Filip Chytil has performed well as a whole this season. Lias Andersson still needs work but is getting better. Brett Howden is currently fighting for his spot next season in New York, and not in Hartford. And Pavel Buchnevich, who has battled both injury and scratches, will be an important part of coming out of this rebuild.
Lemieux is now included in this group. He is still just as young as Chytil, Andersson, Howden and Buchnevich. Having the chemistry build in the worst of times will help them when it is the best of times. Each of these players will get better as the years pass on, and new expectations will be given to them.
As young and inexperienced as the Rangers are, there is excitement with each game. Even in losing efforts, witnessing the growth of each of those players is a pleasure. The growing pains will continue, but it will become fewer and fewer with each passing game.
The Rangers are the fourth worst team in all of the National Hockey League when it comes to getting shots on net. This has been a trend over the past three seasons, as the Rangers have failed to make it out of the bottom 10 in terms of shots. Lemieux has helped in that department. In his four games with the Blueshirts, he has registered 12 shots. Getting an average of three shots on net per game is huge considering his limited amount of time on the ice.
All in all, Lemieux is proving his worth with each game. He came to New York with the biggest expectation out of all returns from the trade deadline, and he has lived up to them. Losing Hayes was a tough thing, but it wasn’t for nothing. These last 16 games will be a crucial time for the Rangers.
There are a lot of players that are playing for their position for next season, but Lemieux shouldn’t be one of them. For him, this is a preview of what fans can expect from him. This is what his next contract should be worth.
And, ultimately, this is where he will fit inside and outside of this rebuild.