Jimmy Vesey or Tyler Pitlick: Who is a better Rangers 4th line fit?

Building a strong fourth line is essential to the New York Rangers success this season, especially because depth scoring is so important. When compared to Tyler Pitlick, Jimmy Vesey’s presence on the fourth line with Stanley Cup champions Barclay Goodrow and Nick Bonino creates a more offensively focused unit. But on opening night against the Buffalo Sabres, it was Pitlick who played ahead of Vesey.

Heading into Saturday’s matchup in Columbus against the Blue Jackets, coach Peter Laviolette would not confirm if there would be any lineup changes.

So, what do each of these players bring to the fourth line, and how do they compare?

Related: Rangers dominate season opener

Jimmy Vesey’s Offensive Upside

Vesey’s presence on the fourth line brings a combination of talent and toughness. His time at Harvard, when he won the Hobey Baker Award, previously demonstrated his scoring prowess. He has shown mobility, excellent sense for open ice and ability to expose defenses at times in the NHL. As a member of the Blueshirts’ fourth line last year, Vesey registered 11 goals and 14 assists for 25 points, earning himself a two-year contract.

More time and opportunities in the attacking zone may result from pairing him alongside Goodrow, who can play on the wing and center, and Bonino, two players who are skilled at forechecking and causing turnovers. Vesey’s ability to exploit defensive weaknesses and get to loose pucks could provide the offensive boost the fourth line needs.

Despite everything that he can bring to the lineup, Vesey was scratched in favor of Pitlick against the Sabres, which was a difficult decision for head coach Peter Laviolette.

“That decision was not an easy decision,” Laviolette said. “I’m sure I’ll have to make a bunch of decisions this year, but that one was not easy because I think that Jimmy Vesey had a good camp. I thought it got better as it went on and he was effective inside the games.”

Tyler Pitlick’s Skillset

NHL: New York Rangers at Buffalo Sabres
Oct 12, 2023; Buffalo, New York, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Mattias Samuelsson (23) blocks a shot by New York Rangers center Tyler Pitlick (71) during the second period at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Pitlick has his own set of strengths, even though he may not be as offensively talented as Vesey. He is a tough, gritty player who is renowned for his physicality, unwavering work ethic, and ability to disrupt plays. Pitlick is the kind of player that can wear down the opposition by making it challenging for them each time they approach the zone. This grinding approach is quite useful, particularly in close games where causing turmoil can result in high danger scoring chances.

The Versatility Factor

The versatility that Vesey and Pitlick offer to the Rangers makes having them both in the lineup appealing. Laviolette has the option of relying on Vesey when offense is required and using Pitlick when the team has to suffocate the opposition or keep a lead depending on the game situation. Both players are also valuable on the penalty kill. When a game or playoff series is on the line, this level of strategic depth can be the difference between being eliminated early or winning a Stanley Cup.

Peter Laviolette’s Fourth Line Philosophy

Throughout his coaching tenure, Laviolette has repeatedly demonstrated his commitment to rotating all four lines. He anticipates his fourth line to make a difference rather than merely take up game time. It’s about energy, shifting momentum and adding offense to the score sheet. Laviolette is aware of how crucial depth is in today’s game. He can create a fourth line that not only threatens but also neutralizes by having players like Vesey and Pitlick at his disposal, transforming a conventional “depth line” into an offensive weapon.

Vesey said he’s focusing on the big picture and what is best for the team to succeed this season.

“We’re all here because we want to win the Stanley Cup, and to do that it takes a lot of guys,” Vesey told the NY Post. “Everyone’s going to be called upon this year to go in and play and contribute, and I’m no different. Everyone wants to be in the lineup and I’m just going to keep working hard in practice. When I get in the lineup, I’ll be ready.”

Vesey and Pitlick contribute key qualities to the Rangers’ fourth line, while Vesey might have a more immediate offensive upside. No matter which winger plays on a particular night, and each will get his chance, expect the fourth line to be more than just an afterthought under Laviolette.