TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- Adam Fox wanted to show he was better than his debut at the 2019 Traverse City NHL Prospects Tournament.
The New York Rangers defenseman accomplished that with a five-point night (two goals, three assists) in a 7-4 victory against the Dallas Stars at Centre Ice Arena on Saturday.
"For me, I was trying to get more pucks on net," said Fox, who has a strong chance to make the Rangers roster this season. "Yesterday, I think maybe I was trying to be a bit too cute with it and make a little extra play. Today, we kept it simple and it worked out."
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Fox was not bad Friday in his tournament debut, a 6-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets. He played top-pair minutes and there were flashes of brilliance throughout the game. But the 21-year-old was neither as sharp nor as consistent as he was billed to be after coming out of Harvard University as one of the best defensemen in NCAA Division I hockey.
On Saturday, he looked more like the player who was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award, given annually to the top men's player in NCAA Division I hockey player. He held the puck, distributed it wisely and showed off a wicked shot.
On the Rangers first goal, his point shot was deflected by forward Karl Hendricksson for a goal. On the next goal, he set up forward Vitali Kravtsov for a dangerous shot and defenseman Yegor Rykov slammed home the rebound.
The first of Fox's two goals came when he had pinched in slightly and received a pass from forward MacAuley Carson near the top of the left face-off circle before crossing over to his right and snapping off a shot that beat Dallas goalie Colton Point cleanly. The second goal was similar, except this time he was alone between the circles and took a feed from behind the net from forward Keith Getson and snapped it home in one fluid motion. Fox ended his night with an assist on an empty-net goal by forward Ryan Dmowski.
"I try to play well as I can every game," Fox said. "Sometimes things go your way more than others, but I think today was good for me. I was able to create some chances and pucks were able to go in. I thought it went pretty well."
So did Kris Knoblauch, coach of Hartford, the Rangers' American Hockey League affiliate, and who is in charge of the prospects this week. He was impressed with the composure Fox has shown with the puck in each of the first two games.
"He never exposes it to get it knocked it away," Knoblauch said. "He protects it very well and knows how to protect it very well to make that next play."
Fox was known for that characteristic in college as he dominated from his freshman season. But there were questions about how it would translate to the pro game as well as concerns about his size (5-foot-11, 180 pounds).
In 97 games with Harvard, Fox had 116 points (21 goals, 95 assists). No Division I defenseman scored more points during that time than Fox, who was drafted by the Calgary Flames in the third round (No. 66) of the 2016 NHL Draft.
His rights were traded to the Carolina Hurricanes in 2018; he was traded to the Rangers for a second-round selection in the 2019 NHL Draft and a conditional third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft on April 30.
Knoblauch says that the intelligence Fox has on the ice has served him well in the defenseman's introduction to the professional game.
"Some guys are so smart; they can read the play and are a step ahead," Knoblauch said. "Fox is definitely one of those guys.
"You'll hear about it with every defenseman … defending, defending. But he is such a smart hockey player, he will make up for it with using his head. He is a little bit of a smaller defenseman, but just exceptional with his smarts."
And while his offense was in the spotlight Saturday, it did not go unnoticed that he spent several shifts on the penalty kill against the Stars.
"I don't want to be a one-dimensional player," Fox said. "I can play in the defensive zone and kind of have a well-rounded game. Showing what I can bring to the team is big for me."
Fox has served as an alternate captain in each of the first two games, bringing another valuable element to his game as he prepares for Rangers training camp, which starts next week.
"It's a big honor. You know, you try to be a leader in any way you can," Fox said. "For the coaches to see that and give me an 'A', that was pretty special."
Photos courtesy: Nick Homler/NYRangers.com