All signs point to Matt Rempe NHL debut for Rangers at Stadium Series

NHL: Preseason-New York Islanders at New York Rangers
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – It’s looking very much like Matt Rempe could make his NHL debut on the biggest stage imaginable, when the New York Rangers face off against the Islanders here at MetLife Stadium in the Stadium Series on Sunday.

“That would be a helluva story,” Rempe said with a grin after the Rangers practiced outdoors Friday.

However, coach Peter Laviolette still has not publicly committed to the towering forward being in the Rangers lineup this weekend. 

“We’re still working through that,” Laviolette said after practice Saturday.

Yet, Rempe practiced for a second straight day on the fourth line with Barclay Goodrow and Adam Edstrom. And that threesome stayed on the ice for extra work together Saturday. This after skating together at MetLife the day before.

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Matt Rempe likely to make NHL debut for Rangers in Stadium Series against Islanders

With Blake Wheeler sidelined after he sustained a season-ending lower-body injury earlier in the week, Jimmy Vesey is moving up to play on the top line with Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider in the Stadium Series. Rempe likely will replace Vesey on the fourth line.

Alex Belzile is the only other forward option. But he’s skated with extra defenseman Zac Jones the past two days at practice and is expected to be scratched Sunday.

So, it appears that Rempe, who confirmed he stands 6-foot-8 (and a half), will play in his first NHL game against the Rangers’ biggest rival and in front of 70,000 fans.

Laviolette believes Rempe deserves that opportunity.

“I’ll tell you why he’s here: he’s played really well, been playing a lot of center recently, can play the wing, face-offs, physical, taking on more minutes and responsibility in Hartford. Certainly his size and presence out there is part of it,” Laviolette explained.

The 21-year-old has eight goals, 12 points and 96 penalty minutes in 43 games with Hartford in the American Hockey League this season. As a rookie pro last season, the 2020 sixth-round pick had six goals, 10 points and 87 PIM in 53 games.

When he was recalled from Hartford, Rempe looked at the schedule and saw the Stadium Series this weekend.

“When I found out, I was like, it’s the outdoor game, that’d be pretty damn cool,” Rempe said, who added that his mother and two sisters will be attending the game.

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Rempe may not have to take his solo rookie lap in front of his family and so many fans Sunday, though. That’s because he took a solo lap at The Garden on Monday ahead of a 2-0 win against the Calgary Flames, a game he ultimately was scratched.

“I was down there and [Jacob Trouba] said, ‘You gotta go!’ So, I said, ‘OK!’ … it was pretty funny.”

Does he think Trouba and Co. will make him do a second solo rookie lap Sunday?

“Maybe I’ll go again. I don’t know,” Rempe said, while laughing.

Rookie lap by himself or not, Rempe is likely looking at making his debut on the massive MetLife Stadium stage this weekend.

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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