Jesper Fast smiles when he is asked about good friend and fellow Swede Oscar Lindberg's bid to make the team this fall. He certainly understands what Lindberg is going through in trying to impress the coaches and management, while adjusting himself to to the NHL game, because up until this season Fast was in the same exact position.
So in a sense this training camp has been different for Fast from the previous two he attended in 2013 and 2014. That's because he solidified a spot on the Rangers with his responsible and solid play last season and during the playoffs last spring.
"Of course I feel a little bit different coming into this year, but at the same time I want to prove I'm getting better and that my mindset is the same--I'm here to impress the coaches and the management and show them I can take that next step," Fast told BlueshirtsUnited.com following the team's morning skate Monday at Madison Square Garden.
After splitting most of the 2013-14 campaign between the Rangers and Hartford Wolf Pack--appearing in 11 regular season games and another three in the playoffs for New York, Fast spent most of the 2014-15 season in the NHL. Fast played in 58 games with the Rangers a year ago, and it would have been more if not for a knee injury he suffered in the second half of the year.
Fast became a trusted favorite of head coach Alain Vigneault for his smarts, grit, defensive awareness, and penalty killing skills. Fast also scored the first six goals and 14 points of his NHL career.
In the spring Fast appeared in all 19 post-season games the Rangers played. He scored three goals, including a pair down in Tampa during Game Three of the Eastern Conference Final.
"It helps my confidence a lot to know I had a good end to the season and I want to build on that," explained Fast. "I am coming in with a good feeling this year."
During the playoffs Fast played many different roles with the team, moving from line to line for various reasons, including injuries to other forwards. What never changed, though, was Fast's tremendous work ethic and high-end defensive play.
This season he wants to be even better in those areas, while also showing more of his offensive game.
"I want (Vigneault) to trust me all the time, but this year I also want to take the next step and be more of a threat in the offensive zone, and have more impact in that end of the game," offered Fast, who scored 17 goals and totaled 34 points in 48 games with Hartford two seasons ago.
As for his friend Lindberg, Fast is quite proud of how well his fellow Swede has played thus far in training camp while trying to earn a spot on the Rangers opening night roster.
"Oscar has had an amazing camp and he's really been one of the standout guys , so far," stated Fast. "I'm really glad he's got this opportunity here and that he's really taking advantage of that."
Fast will be in the lineup again on Monday when the Rangers host the Flyers in pre-season action at MSG. He will skate on a line with Viktor Stalberg and Kevin Hayes.