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Rangers now thinking Fast

Right wing big key in New York's recent rise

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Fast gives Rangers lead in 3rd

BOS@NYR: Fast redirects Yandle's shot into the net

1/11/16: Keith Yandle shoots it towards the net, and Jesper Fast tips the puck perfectly for a goal to give the Rangers the lead in the 3rd

  • 00:01:26 •

NEW YORK -- They call him "Quickie" because his game matches his surname. J.T. Miller refers to him as a "waterbug." Derick Brassard says he simply just loves playing with him. 

New York Rangers right wing Jesper Fast has a lot of admirers inside his own dressing room, teammates who appreciate him and need him. It's no different in the coach's office, where words like trust and faith are synonymous with the 24-year-old Swede.

"People should be talking about him," Brassard said. "He's got [guts]." 

Though goalie Henrik Lundqvist is the biggest reason for the Rangers' resurgence in the past three and a half weeks, Fast might be second, even ahead of Miller, who has eight goals in the past nine games. 

Fast has been that good and that important to the Rangers, who have won seven of their past nine games, including four in a row, heading into their game against the Los Angeles Kings at Madison Square Garden on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NHLN-US, FS-W, MSG). 

He has seven points and six assists in the past nine games, including six points in seven games since replacing injured forward Rick Nash (bone bruise) in the top six. But it's less about the production and more about everything else Fast does to fuel the Rangers' forechecking game. 

"He's just like 'vroom,' into the corner," Brassard said. "That's what he does." 

There are many times when Fast is the forward darting into the corners, crashing into the boards, using his surprisingly short stick to dig the puck out, create a turnover, or make a pass that opens a lane to set up a goal. 

If they handed out third assists, Fast would have a lot more than 13 this season. He's a plus-10 in the past nine games. 

"We were just laughing on the bench last game as I'm like, 'Look at this little guy go,'" Miller said." It was the [penalty kill], I think, and he was on the forecheck, and he was just so fast and just a hassle for everybody else. 

"He's not a big guy, but he's quick and he plays like he's 6-6. He's fearless. He's smart." 

Coach Alain Vigneault is always lauding Fast's hockey IQ. It's the reason he feels comfortable moving him into a top-six role when the Rangers lose one of their regular top six forwards to injury, like Nash now and Mats Zuccarello in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season. 

For Vigneault, the best part about Fast's game is it doesn't change, regardless of his linemates. He played the same way on the fourth line earlier this season as he is on the first line now. He's producing more on the first line, as players typically do, but he's just playing his game. 

The same thing happened in the playoffs last season, when Fast moved onto a line with Derek Stepan and Chris Kreider after Zuccarello was injured in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference First Round against the Pittsburgh Penguins. 

"He knows what to do when he has the puck, those high-percentage plays you need to make and the good plays he needs to make when he doesn't have it," Vigneault said. 

Vigneault was asked if he believes Fast should be or could be a regular top-six forward. 

"I think he's a top nine forward and if somebody in your top six is not doing it, then he can move up and he can do it because his hockey smarts permit him to do it," Vigneault said. "It's a good card to have for a coach." 

For Fast, goals are a bonus, almost like extra credit for the hard work he puts in to help everybody else. He has eight of them in 52 games this season. 

"I can't say I'm the most skilled guy," Fast said, "but my game is just hard work, competing, win my battles out there and create space for my linemates."

He talks about how he used to score more, like the 17 goals he had in 48 games with Hartford of the American Hockey League in 2013-14, or the 18 he scored in 47 games during his final season in the Swedish Elite League. He once scored 23 goals in 37 games as a junior in Sweden.

"Of course I want to score," Fast said. "Maybe when I played in Sweden some years ago I was the guy who scored a lot, but here you've got to know your role. The role I have suits the way I play."

It suits the Rangers for how they need to play to be successful.

Fast.

"You win with guys like him," Brassard said.

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