Fourth Line and “Black Aces” Season Recap and Grades

USA Today

The Rangers fourth line was unique this season for the Blueshirts. The line had constants in Jesper Fast and Oscar Lindberg, but the third spot saw a constant rotation. The spot was occupied by Russian rookie Pavel Buchnevich, journeymen Brandon Pirri, Tanner Glass and Matt Puempel, and Hartford Wolfpack call-up Nicklas Jensen. No matter who was on the line, the unit played with grit and an unwavering work ethic that was always much appreciated by the coaches and the Blueshirt faithful.

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Jesper Fast – He doesn’t put up the points to make him an invaluable member of the team, but Jesper Fast’s contributions are paramount to the team’s success. His tireless work in the corners, never giving up on loose pucks and making it tough for the opposition. Fast is one of those players who knows his role and executes it about as flawlessly as one could hope. His 21 points don’t tell the whole story of why he is someone that is necessary for the success of this team. And it is that work ethic that possibly makes him attractive to George McPhee and the Golden Knights.Grade: B

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Oscar Lindberg – Lindberg possesses many of the same positive attributes that his Swedish linemate has. He is a tireless worker, looks to grind the opposition down in the corners, and has the ability to make plays with the puck, as evidenced by his beautiful goal against the Bruins. Like Fast and Grabner, Lindberg is a prime candidate for Vegas in the expansion draft. Personally, unless they take Antti Raanta, Lindberg would be my choice for a skater. Grade: B

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Pavel Buchnevich – After the Rangers announced they were bringing the Russian forward across the ocean, there were some pretty big expectations levied on the 21-year-old. He got off to a good start, picking up eight points in his first month in the NHL, but was sidelined with back spasms for eight weeks between November 12th and January 13th. And when Buchnevich came back, he was not the same. Yes, he had twelve of his twenty points after returning from injury, but it took him a while before looking like the player he was to start the season. Buchnevich was in and out of the lineup during the postseason, with head coach Alain Vigneault mixing and matching his lines throughout the spring season. Buchnevich suffered from missing a big portion of the season, which did not allow the coaching staff to develop more confidence in him. He has the makings of a top six forward; now he has to stay on the ice to become one. Grade: C+

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Brandon Pirri – When Jeff Gorton signed Brandon Pirri, the thought process was that he would come in and be the “heavy shot” on the Rangers power play. But Pirri’s inability to play in his own zone and lack of contributions at even strength kept him out of the lineup. It was a low-risk signing for the Blueshirts, with Pirri only on a one year deal, and seeing that he didn’t contribute much to this year’s team, don’t expect to see him back on Broadway next season. Grade: D

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Tanner Glass – Though he is a fan favorite for his hard work and physicality, Glass spent 85 percent of the season down in Hartford with the Wolfpack. But upon being recalled in early March, Glass infused the Rangers with a new energy that became contagious in the final two months of the Rangers season. Glass won’t have the longevity of which to be given a real “grade” for this season, but there is no denying that he made an impact in his short time back on Broadway. Grade: C

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Matt Puempel – After being claimed off waivers from the Ottawa Senators in the middle of November, Puempel was brought in to bring some offense in the absences of Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich. He played sporadically after the turn of the new year but didn’t look out of place when asked to fill in for a game or two. Puempel scored his first NHL hat trick this season when he tallied three goals against the Arizona Coyotes at the end of December. Puempel is a restricted free agent this offseason, but don’t be shocked if the Rangers don’t re-sign the 24-year-old forward. Grade: C

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Nicklas Jensen – The Rangers called up Danish winger Nicklas Jensen for a brief stint on Broadway between December 8th and January 7th. Jensen has been showing signs of progress, playing well in the defensive zone, getting in on the forecheck and playing at full speed every time he was on the ice. With the Rangers in a small transition period, seeing Jensen and some of the other younger guys come up and compete for spots in training camp should be fun to watch. Grade: C