Matt Rempe needs to learn on ice, not in penalty box for Rangers

NHL: New York Rangers at Philadelphia Flyers
Kyle Ross-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Rempe has quickly caught the eyes of the hockey world since making his New York Rangers and NHL debut in the 2024 Stadium Series against the New York Islanders. In five games, Rempe has one goal and one assist, along with 32 penalty minutes.

Yes, 32. That’s already fifth most on the Rangers this season.

Since making his debut in front of 79,600 fans at MetLife Stadium, the 21-year-old forward has fought three times in five games. And in one game he didn’t have a fight, Rempe was ejected for a match penalty against the New Jersey Devils.

While Rempe’s fighting has brought energy and momentum to the Rangers time and time again, is it really what is best for his development as a hockey player?

Peter Laviolette acknowledged both sides Tuesday.

“I think for sure he brings energy,” Laviolette explained. “He’s a big guy, he skates hard, he gets in on the forecheck. He’s banged a lot of bodies for us.”

While the coach likes what Rempe brings to New York, he also knows that the popular rookie needs to focus on playing hockey as well.

“I think from the rhythm of the game, for him to get into the game by being out on the ice and just continuing to work on the game, I think that’s important,” Laviolette said. “That he’s out there and that he’s playing. He’s not learning in the box.”

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Matt Rempe has been effective player for Rangers when not in penalty box

NHL: Stadium Series-New York Rangers at New York Islanders
Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

When Rempe is on the ice, and not serving majors, he has actually been a very effective fourth-line player. Averaging just four minutes in ice time per game, he has managed to log two points, including the game-winning goal against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday.

A large reason as to why Rempe’s ice time has been limited is simply because he has spent so much time in the penalty box. He has been a good player that has brought a level of physicality to the Rangers that they have lacked this season. Having him on the ice more often would be a benefit.

“He does have a positive influence in the game when he’s finishing hits,” Laviolette said.

That fourth line as a whole has been a positive. Rempe, Adam Edstrom and Barclay Goodrow have been very effective in the five games they have played together. It is another reason why Rempe should try to stay out of the box a little more going forward.

“That line on many occasions have put it behind the defense, turned pucks over, brought pucks to the net, and scored goals,” said Laviolette. “For the amount of time that they’ve gotten, they’ve produced a couple of goals in the last couple games. I think that they’ve done a good job and I do think they bring energy. They’ve had positive influences in the game.”

For Rempe and his development, the goal should be to focus on the value he brings on the ice. A fight can be a good thing every once in a while; what is even better is his ability to forecheck, lay big hits and produce secondary scoring for the team.

We can all see how much of a toll the fighting can take at this frequency, as Rempe currently sports a glaring black eye. Laviolette knows that it is a part of his game. He also knows that his impact on the ice has been noticeable and positive.

“With regard to our team, we want speed, physicality,” explained Laviolette, “We want to generate off the forecheck and in the offensive zone. The players that are consuming a lot of the conversation here, they’re doing that. They’re being physical, and they’re bringing pucks to the net. I think they’re doing a good job.”

When the time comes for Rempe to dial things down, Laviolette will tell him. Ultimately, it is a conversation between player and coach that determines the best course of action. Have the fights helped the team? Yes. Is it sustainable to fight as often as Rempe has? No. Especially after Rempe took a bit of a beating Sunday in his tilt with Columbus Blue Jackets forward Mathieu Olivier.

If Rempe truly wants to learn how to solidify himself as an NHL player, he needs to focus more on the hockey aspect of the game. His play has been solid, but it could be even better if he is not spending quite as much time watching from the penalty box.

Dane Walsh is a life-long fan of the New York Rangers. Growing up in the tri-state area, Dane has... More about Dane Walsh

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