By Alex Weinstein on April 1, 2014
The New York Rangers are on the verge of clinching a playoff spot, and have been led by a multitude of players. Every team has players who are expected to lead, and then there are others who step up to the occasion. While Derek Stepan and Rick Nash are expected to lead, these five forwards have surprised. Some have had a positive impact, while others haven't been as good. Here are the top five surprise forwards from this season.
Dominic Moore took the entire 2012-13 season off due to issues in his personal life. However, he has overcome that, and has been nominated for the Bill Masterson Memorial Trophy as a player who best exemplifies perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to the game of hockey. He has been a steady presence on the penalty kill and chips in with the occasional goal to aid the Rangers' success this year.
Everyone expected Chris Kreider to make the NHL squad, yet he went above and beyond expectations this season. Though he suffered an injury that has prematurely ended his year, he played on the top line and made a great combination with Derek Stepan and Rick Nash. He scored 17 goals and added 20 assists, both very respectable numbers for a player in his first year.
Look for him to build on that next year as he adjusts to the top level.
Ryan Callahan is the only negative on this list, though it's only partially his fault. Callahan struggled to adjust to the new system in place and could not adapt and succeed. His style of play and the team's philosophy did not mesh, and he was moved for a player who Glen Sather thought would have a better impact.
Callahan currently has five goals and nine points in 13 games as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Derick Brassard put big expectations on his shoulders last year in the postseason, and has not disappointed this year. After a rough start with the rest of the team, Brassard found his groove and has been a huge contributor at even strength and on the powerplay. His skill and offensive IQ have been his main weapons, as he is close to his career high. Brassard is only 26 and has time to continue surprising with the Rangers.
Mats Zuccarello finally got a chance to show off his skill under Alain Vigneault, and he ran with the opportunity. He is tied for the lead in points for the Rangers and is second on the team in assists. This is his first full NHL season, and posting 53 points is a great feat for a player who has bounced between the KHL and the minors. If he did not break his hand during the Olympics, he could have had an even higher total come season's end.
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