Coming into the season, Phil Di Giuseppe had 150 NHL games to his name, including 24 the prior season for the Carolina Hurricanes and Nashville Predators. Yet, he had never spent a full season on an NHL roster. The Rangers brought him in understanding that he’d compete for a job and maybe earn some NHL games, but it would be a stretch to call that an “expectation.” Ultimately, the Rangers would have been content if Di Giuseppe thrived in a top-six role for the Hartford Wolf Pack and helped the organization’s AHL team reach the playoffs for the first time since 2015.
Di Giuseppe got demoted to Hartford at the start of the season and patiently waited while others got their NHL opportunities. Lias Andersson, Greg McKegg, Micheal Haley, Tim Gettinger, Boo Nieves, and Steve Fogarty all got chances.
Di Giuseppe, meanwhile, played an integral role for a Hartford team that sat comfortably in a playoff spot. And he got better as the season went on. From December onwards, he registered nine goals and 17 assists in 22 games fo the Wolf Pack.
Finally, he got his chance after many failed before him. He got his first game with the Rangers on February 3rd and stayed in the lineup most games until the pandemic ended the season. His counting stats were uninspiring, sure, with just one goal and three assists in 20 games played (plus no points in the three play-in games against Carolina).
What he did provide, that many others failed to prior, was stability and competence as part of a five-man unit. Although he has been primarily an offensive driver in his hockey career, Di Giuseppe switched gears and became a strong defensive force for the Rangers. He’s a decent enough skater and showed a willingness to pursue the puck. He became a forechecking presence. He provided the defense with much needed puck support on breakouts.
In fact, per Evolving Hockey, during Di Giuseppe’s span on the NHL roster, he was the best suppressor of expected goals at five-on-five among Rangers’ forwards.
A telling moment of the season was when Ddi Giuseppe moved up the lineup following injuries, including one to Chris Kreider. That could have been a disaster for a team already lacking depth. Instead, Di Giuseppe kept those lines steady and, while he may not have been a big contributor himself, he did not anchor Zibanejad and Buchnevich.
Adam’s Grade: A-
Banter Consensus: B
Maybe Di Giuseppe wasn’t a major difference maker, but that’s not what was asked nor expected of him. The Rangers desperately needed a depth winger to come in and simply do enough for the Rangers to hold serve while he was on the ice. He did exactly that plus more.
The Rangers recently re-signed Di Giuseppe for one year at $700K, which was an incredibly sensible move. On a team facing a tight squeeze on the salary cap and a lack of forward depth, Di Giuseppe is a perfect option to cheaply fill one of the final roster spots. He could very well earn a regular lineup spot and proved that, in a pinch, he can keep his head above water on a top line.