New York Rangers Prospect Jesper Fast Transitioning Well to North American Hockey
Jesper Fast was the New York Rangers‘ sixth round pick, 157th overall, in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. Going into the draft, he was a key player on Swedish club HV71‘s under-20 team, scoring 23 goals and 49 points in 37 games while also making an appearance in two games for the top professional team in the Swedish Elite League. Known for his strong two-way play and good speed, Fast played two more seasons in Sweden for HV71 where he showed a lot of promise. Though hampered by a fractured ankle that cost him half of the 2011-12 season, he has since come back from that to produce both at the top level in Sweden and now as a member of the Hartford Wolfpack of the AHL. Fast’s play is very north-south and fits the typical North American style due to smaller rink sizes. The Rangers might have found a steal in the late rounds of the entry draft that could have an impact for their NHL team.
2013-14 is Fast’s first season in North America. Due to several injuries at the NHL level to Ryan Callahan and Carl Hagelin, Fast got to play eight games with the Rangers to start the season before being sent down to Hartford. While he did not score in those games, he was only given limited minutes and looked strong on the defensive side of the puck. Seeing his abilities on the defensive side of the puck should reassure of his two-way ability and NHL potential. Fast has shown his offensive touch with the Wolfpack since returning from an ankle injury as he has scored nine goals and 20 points in 29 games. Alongside teammates JT Miller and Oscar Lindberg, Fast has taken on the offensive burden of the struggling AHL club. Hartford is currently tied for the least points in the entire league, but the team has gone on hot streaks to try and get out of that slump. They have a unique combination of prospects and AHL veterans such as TJ Hensick, Aaron Johnson and Danny Syvret on their squad. Having veterans on the development teams has had a huge impact as Rangers star Ryan McDonagh credits ex-Ranger Wade Redden for his quick development while in Hartford.
Fast can have an NHL impact as soon as next season. He provides good two-way play and can contribute both offensively and defensively. He is the type of player who can fit right on a team’s third line that is expected to be a complementary piece on offense while being able to shut down opposing teams’ top players. Similar to Chicago Blackhawks forward Marcus Kruger, Fast can make a name for himself on the penalty kill while slowly taking on more offensive responsibility. Kruger was a 5th round pick in 2009 and has developed well into a more expansive role with Chicago. If Fast can replicate that kind of development, the Rangers staff will be very happy with their pick.