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Fox impressing, living out dream playing for Rangers

Rookie defenseman set to lead childhood team into Thanksgiving Showdown against Bruins

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

NEW YORK -- It's good to be Adam Fox.

The 21-year old is living out the ultimate dream for an athlete. 

Fox is a rookie defenseman for the New York Rangers, his favorite team while growing up in Jericho, New York, a community on the North Shore of Long Island about 30 miles from Madison Square Garden. He now calls the famous arena his home rink after years of going to games there as a fan with his parents, Bruce and Tammy.

If that's not enough, Fox is five classes away from graduating Harvard University with a degree in psychology. He said he will get it.

"Sometimes I look up into the stands and I think, 'This is pretty crazy,' " Fox said. "It definitely is special to be on the ice here [at Madison Square Garden]."

Video: CAR@NYR: Fox tips Panarin's shot home from the slot

Fox is earning it, showing the potential through 23 games that convinced the Rangers to trade a second-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and a conditional third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft to the Carolina Hurricanes to get him on April 30.

He's running the first power-play unit, playing almost 18 minutes per game, has 13 points (four goals, nine assists) and impressing everyone around him . 

"This is a guy that is taking bigger players on, closing on them quickly," coach David Quinn said. "He has great hockey strength. His anticipation is really good. He's got a good stick. He's made the transition to the National Hockey League look a little bit easier than it should be."

Fox had one assist and scored the game-winning goal in a 3-2 victory against the Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday for the Rangers (12-9-2), who have won four of their past five games heading into the 2019 NHL Thanksgiving Showdown against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Friday (1 p.m. ET; NBC).

"You have to have is confidence in yourself to know that you should be here and to play to what got you here," defenseman Brady Skjei said. "He's doing that and then some. He's playing with a ton of confidence. He has shown he definitely belongs."

Fox had zero doubt that he'd be able to show he was as a cerebral, skilled offensive defenseman who doesn't cheat defensively or sacrifice that aspect of the game for his offense. 

"I was confident that I would be able to compete and play 'D' at this level," he said.

The Rangers weren't sure he could do it this quickly.

"I thought there was a chance it could happen sooner rather than later," said Quinn, who knew Fox from coaching against him in college from 2016-18. "But I would not have been surprised if it was going to take him a month or two in Hartford [of the American Hockey League] to do what he's doing."

Quinn, in his second season with the Rangers after coaching at Boston University for five seasons, was unsure because the jump from college to the NHL is big enough, and he wondered if Fox would be able to take on the League the way he took on college hockey.

Fox had 116 points (21 goals, 95 assists) in 97 career college games. He led all NCAA defensemen in assists and points in his three seasons at Harvard, getting 17 more points and 19 more assists than anyone else playing his position.

"I mean, this is a guy who had the puck all the time, never really had to defend," Quinn said. "A great way to defend is having the puck all the time, but I knew he wasn't going to have it as much here as he did there. So he had that challenge. 

"And he played so many minutes that his pace wasn't what I knew it was going to have to be at this level. I knew he could do both those things, the question was how quickly was he going to be able to do them both."

Video: PIT@NYR: Fox roofs wrist shot from the circle

Fox began proving himself for the United States at the 2019 IIHF World Championship, where he played eight games, had an assist and reaffirmed his belief that he could play with the pros.

"I understood if I fell out of place there it would be tough," Fox said. "The first practice I felt comfortable and then I felt good in the first game. Right there I got confidence."

Fox now exudes it nightly in the NHL, but there's still a part of him in that pinch-me phase.

His dad used to show him clips of former Rangers defenseman and now Hockey Hall of Famers Brian Leetch and Sergei Zubov. He used to love coming to the Garden to see Jaromir Jagr play for the Rangers. 

Fox vividly recalls being in the stands for Game 3 of the 2014 Stanley Cup Final against the Los Angeles Kings, then as a 16-year-old playing for the Long Island Gulls and preparing to go to Ann Arbor, Michigan, to play in the USA Hockey National Team Development Program.

"They lost 3-0," Fox said. "I didn't get to celebrate any goals, but it was awesome for me, just the atmosphere. The best games I always came to were the playoff games."

Soon he might be in one of those Stanley Cup Playoff games with Bruce, Tammy and his older brother Andrew, 24, an investment banker in New York, in the stands cheering for him instead of with him.

"I'd be lying if I told you I thought I'd be here and playing for the Rangers when I used to come here," Fox said. "I was just a fan. I loved hockey and really enjoyed going to games. I wasn't envisioning myself wearing the Rangers sweater, but it was a dream. It's great to live it." 

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