Scouting the Pack: Vinni Lettieri heating up in Hartford
With a strong 2018-19 season that saw him start in New York before joining the Wolf Pack and recording 48 points (23G, 25A) despite only playing in 48 games, many thought that Vinni Lettieri would finally push himself over that hump from being a borderline NHL player to being a sure bet on a Rangers roster. Unfortunately for Lettieri, he found himself to be one of the last players to be sent down to Hartford. With the likes of Greg McKegg and Micheal Haley having made the Rangers over him while in the middle of a rebuild, it seemed clear that Vinni Lettieri would come into this season having to prove himself once again while also showing the Rangers that he deserved to be in the NHL.
After starting the season with a respectable nine points (3G, 6A) in his first nine games, Lettieri would hit a stretch where he would only pick up three assists in the following seven games and seeing his production only reach six goals and nine assists through the end of November. All was made even more evident as players like Tim Gettinger and Steven Fogarty had seen their play improve after the recall of Filip Chytil to New York and Vitaly Kravtsov leaving the organization to return to the KHL.
Could this start have been due to adjusting to the new coaching staff, a turned-over roster from the prior season, and just lacking chemistry? Regardless of what the reasons were, the numbers didn’t lie, and Lettieri knew he needed to find his game and quickly.
New line mates
In early December, head coach Kris Knoblauch had placed Vinni Lettieri on a line with Matt Beleskey at right-wing, Lettieri at left wing and Steven Fogarty in the middle. Since then, and even despite Steven Fogarty having spent significant time with the Rangers, Vinni Lettieri began to find his game and show off who he is, a sniper capable of sneaking into the open areas, finding the back of the net from impossible angles and sharing the wealth with his teammates. December saw Vinni Lettieri nearly match his goal totals through the first two months of the season, netting five goals and adding four assists for nine points.
As the calendar turned to January, Lettieri continued to increase his production and has seen his best stretch of the season. Vinni has picked up points in six of the eight games the Wolf Pack has played this month – including a goal in each of the first four games. In those eight games, Lettieri has seven goals and four assists to bring his season totals to 35 points (18G, 17A) in 42 games to lead the Pack in goals and points. While only good enough for 16th in the AHL in points, his 35 points are tied with 2020 All-Stars such as Owen Tippett of the Springfield Thunderbirds and better than those of Lucas Elvenes (33 points). While his numbers weren’t quite enough to warrant being named an All-Star, Vinni Lettieri’s recent stretch of games could put him among the short list of alternates to go to Ontario should players have to miss the All-Star Classic due to injury or recall to their NHL clubs.
While the numbers and improved play of Vinni Lettieri have put him in such conversations here in the AHL, the bigger question that could be asked is whether or not the numbers that Vinni Lettieri put up thus far been good enough to deserve a look by David Quinn and the Rangers? In my humble opinion, yes. While it has been more difficult for Lettieri to make the Rangers roster with the signing of Artemiy Panarin during free agency and drafting Kaapo Kakko this past June, Vinni Lettieri has proven himself here in Hartford but has been overlooked in favor of Boo Nieves, Steven Fogarty and even limited time in New York for Tim Gettinger and Phil di Giuseppe.
Perhaps Vinni Lettieri doesn’t have a future in the organization past this current season. Perhaps he is re-signed this coming offseason over the likes of Greg McKegg and Micheal Haley and finds himself in a better position for a roster spot next season. No one knows what their own future holds, not even professional hockey players and teams, but Vinni Lettieri, provided that he can stay at or near his current production here in Hartford, has the opportunity to make his future a good one.