Matt Rempe fan favorite

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Matt Rempe was having dinner at The Cheesecake Factory on Monday when he was approached by New York Rangers fans hoping to get a photo with the towering forward and emerging cult hero.

It'd be surprising if 10 days ago those same fans would have recognized Rempe, all 6 feet, 7 inches and 241 pounds of him. Who knows if they would have had any clue at all that he was a professional hockey player and a member of the Rangers organization unless they were die-hards who followed Hartford in the American Hockey League too?

Getting recognized in public and being asked for photos? That's never happened to Rempe before. But it's an example of the status that’s come his way five games, 12 crunching hits, one goal, one assist, four fights and 20:01 of ice time into his NHL career.

"It's been awesome," Rempe said. "I'm getting to live my dream playing in the NHL. Got a goal, got an assist, winning hockey games, had some good fights and I'm just playing hard. It's been good."

Most importantly, Rempe has made an impact on the fourth line with Barclay Goodrow and Adam Edstrom beyond just a couple of memorable tilts and hits.

He's also been aggressive on the forecheck, banging bodies, turning over pucks and helping his line funnel them to the net, where he is a presence to say the least.

He is becoming a presence off the ice, too.

On Tuesday, Rempe was talking while sitting down in his dressing-room stall. In front of him after practice was arguably the largest media scrum any player has had this season.

Turn on NHL Network, ESPN, TNT, Sportsnet, TSN, TVA and you'll hear about Rempe. Turn on radio stations, local and national, and Rempe is a topic.

He's become a phenomenon less than two weeks removed from being a regular with Hartford -- on the Rangers' radar, no doubt, but nowhere near a household name in the hockey world.

The 21-year-old was a sixth-round pick (No. 165) in the 2020 NHL Draft. He had 12 points (eight goals, four assists) in 43 games with Hartford this season after having 10 points (six goals, four assists) in 53 AHL games last season.

"You see a guy like that, he's living his dream, as we all are," Goodrow said. "He comes in, first game is the outdoor game and he just kind of blows the doors off things. He's a fun guy to be around."

Rempe's NHL debut came in the 2024 Navy Federal Credit Union NHL Stadium Series against the New York Islanders at MetLife Stadium, a nationally televised game in the U.S. and Canada, on Feb. 18. His dustup with Matt Martin before his first NHL shift got the crowd of more than 79,000 fans going in a 6-5 overtime victory.

He followed that with seven hits in 5:01 of ice time in his second game, a 3-1 win against the Dallas Stars at Madison Square Garden on Monday.

Rempe delivered a big hit in his third game, against Nathan Bastian, drawing a match penalty 2:25 into the first period of a 5-1 win at the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.

His fourth NHL game was perhaps his best: He scored the game-winning goal Saturday in a 2-1 victory against the Philadelphia Flyers, which included a first-period brawl with Nicolas Deslauriers, again in front of a national TV audience in the U.S.

NYR@PHI: Rempe deflects in his first NHL goal to take the lead

The next night, he fought with Columbus Blue Jackets forward Mathieu Olivier 2:12 into the first period, then had an assist on Edstrom's goal 11:11 into the second period of 4-2 loss at Nationwide Arena.

The Rangers play the Blue Jackets again at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday (7 p.m. ET; BSOH, MSG, TVAS).

"It's going to be wicked, going to be awesome," Rempe said. "Love it."

Rempe speaks with the same type of energy and enthusiasm he has brought to the Rangers.

"It's been fun for everyone in here," forward Jimmy Vesey said. "He's a throwback-style player and I think everyone loves it. He's up here to be himself and do what he has to do, and he's not backing down from anyone. His presence in the lineup is exactly that, it's a presence."

Rempe said he's trying to keep a level head and steer clear of the media attention he's been getting.

"I love reading books," he said. "I'm a big fantasy book guy, so I like to read my books. I go home, read my books, talk to my family, do that type of stuff, play my guitar."

Still, Rempe can't stop himself from enjoying the attention, like getting recognized at The Cheesecake Factory.

"It's cool," Rempe added said with a big smile on his face. "You get lots of messages, lots of stuff, it's awesome and I appreciate all the support."

He's done a lot in just over 20 minutes of NHL action.

"I think I've gotten in some excellent shifts," Rempe said. "I've got two points, been playing hard, fast, skating well, physical, getting to the net, lots of chances. And you know when you fight you create space for yourself as well. You get a reputation and you're going to create space for yourself and help my teammates, create more space for them. It is what it is. I've got no problem with it.

"I want to continue to show my skill set. I know that I can skate good, I can get in there, I can protect pucks and get to the net. I want to continue to bring that every night."

If he does, Rempe may force his way into the Rangers' postseason plans too.

"I'm going to play my heart out every time, every practice, every game," Rempe said. "I love this game. I think it's so fun. I love getting better. I love practice. I love it all."