Jesper Fast has been one of the most versatile, quietly-get-the-job-done, quality players in recent memory for the Rangers. He’s one of the best fourth line players you can ask for, a bottom-six monster, and a guy who you can move up into the top nine for small spurts when needed.
Thanks to his defensive abilities, Fast was an Alain Vigneault favorite — but in a way that seems to soil his perception. There’s anger when Fast is placed on the top line (although he produced there down the home stretch this season), and confusion when he’s moved up in favor of other skilled players, but that, my friends, falls on the man calling the shots.
Fast is at his best when given thankless jobs. He was put in a very unforgiving role this year — that of the defensive forward on a team without, you know, an NHL-level defense for most of the year — so his possession statistics took a heavy hit. His Corsi for didn’t even reach the 46 percent, yet somehow it was still just above average relative to his teammates at plus-0.16 percent.His goals for percentage was a different story, however. The Rangers scored just 44 percent of the goals with Fast on the ice, which was minus-2.63 relative to the team; that’s not shocking based on the role he was asked to play, but it isn’t good, either.
Where Fast truly excelled this year was his offensive pop. In his past four (semi) full seasons, Fast has produced 14 points in 58 games (14-15), 30 points in 79 games (15-16), 21 points in 68 games (16-17), and 33 points this past year. His 13-20-33 mark was a career high for goals and points, and tied a career high in assists. When placed on the top line the back stretch of the year Fast didn’t just fit in, he excelled. How much of that was Fast doing the creating or Fast doing the benefiting? That’s up for debate as well.
As much as I may criticize Fast’s top-six usage, I like Fast a lot. I often refer to him on the podcast as a Swiss Army Knife, in that you can use him for almost any situation. But the same way that the plastic tweezers in the Swiss Army Knife isn’t really good at getting out splinters, Fast “worked” during his stint on the top line, but that didn’t mean there weren’t better options.
That said, none of that is Fast’s fault. He did the job he was asked, did it well, and continues to be a very good utility player for this team. I do wonder how much better he will look when he’s used properly, but that’s a different discussion for a different day. So is the fact that Fast is what I think people think Jimmy Vesey is, but that too is a different discussion for another day.
Fast is a key player for the Rangers, and will continue to be. Plus, he has a great cap hit, to boot.
Final Grade: B
Fast did the job that was asked of him and did it well. It’s hard to give a player like Fast an “A” but you really couldn’t ask for all that much more out of him.
2018 Report Cards: Marc Staal / Mats Zuccarello / Ryan Spooner / Rob O’Gara / Jimmy Vesey / Brendan Smith / Vladislav Namestnikov / Brady Skjei / Steven Kampfer