Alex Wennberg ready to play shutdown role, do ‘what is best’ for Rangers

NHL: Philadelphia Flyers at Seattle Kraken
Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Wennberg arrived in New York on Thursday knowing exactly what his role will be with the Rangers.

A defensive specialist with the Seattle Kraken, who dealt him to the Rangers on Wednesday for two draft picks, including a 2024 second rounder, Wennberg quickly assumed the same role at Blueshirts practice less than 24 hours after the trade.

Wennberg will center the third line, which will be even more of a checking unit against the opposition’s top forwards now that the 29-year-old is on it.

“It’s really important to have a player or a line like that, that can be put together and do a specific job,” coach Peter Laviolette explained.

Laviolette added that with Wennberg now anchoring a checking third line, it’ll free Mika Zibanejad and his linemates from excessive defensive duties.

The coach also stated that Wennberg will play an important role on New York’s penalty kill, one that he filled with the Kraken and before that, the Columbus Blue Jackets. He’ll be one of six forwards on the PK for the Rangers, joining Zibanejad, Chris Kreider, Barclay Goodrow, Jimmy Vesey and Vincent Trocheck.

All of this emphasis on a defensive role is perfectly fine with Wennberg.

“Obviously, [the Rangers] have the firepower really offensively, so for me coming in as a third-line center I think is perfect,” Wennberg said Thursday. “I can play both sides, so if it’s to play a 200-foot game or the PK, I’m ready for it.”

Related: Alex Wennberg reconnects with childhood friends from Sweden on Rangers

Alex Wennberg promises to do ‘what is best’ for Rangers

NHL: New York Islanders at Seattle Kraken
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports Credit: Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

During his first practice with the Rangers, Wennberg, who took a redeye flight with his family from Seattle to New York overnight, skated with several of the bottom-six forwards. He eventually settled in with Will Cuylle and Jimmy Vesey.

“I feel like my game right now has been mostly defensively. My role in Seattle was more to be a guy to shut down the first line,” Wennberg explained. “Obviously, I feel like I have that offensive play in me, as well, but it’s a team sport. You have to do what is best for the team. We’ll look at the points later and look at the team [now].”

Wennberg has 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) in 60 games this season. He’s never scored more than 17 goals in 10 NHL seasons after the Blue Jackets selected him No. 14 overall in the 2013 NHL Draft.

In Seattle, he was playing in the top six, though with more of a focus on the defensive side of the puck. He’s averaging an NHL career-high 18:49 in ice time this season.

Wennberg helped the Kraken reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season for the first time. He had seven points (two goals, five assists) in 14 games before the Kraken were eliminated in seven games by the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference second round.

Things are not going as well this season for the Kraken, who are six points out of a wild card spot in the West. So, Wennberg is thrilled to now be on a serious Stanley Cup contender in New York.

“First of all, it’s a dream come true to play for the Rangers for me,” Wennberg said. “Then, also, in this position, pushing for the playoffs. For me, going from Seattle, we’ve been fighting to get in, and now instead I feel like I can help this team push for the playoffs.

“I want to win the Cup as well.”

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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