What to expect from James Sheppard

Sheppard set to impress (Getty)

Sheppard set to impress (Getty)

James Sheppard will make his debut for the Rangers tonight in Detroit. The 26 year old forward from San Jose replace Lee Stempniak in the lineup and he adds more size and grit to a “soft” group of Rangers forwards.

Now that Jesper Fast is healthy, this move could see Tanner Glass benched in order to keep the 3rd line of Kevin Hayes with Carl Hagelin and JT Miller intact. Alain Vigneault recently said of Tanner’s play:

[su_quote cite=”Larry Brooks” url=”https://nypost.com/2015/03/04/how-james-sheppards-rangers-arrival-hurts-gritty-tanner-glass/”]I think Tanner has played well in his role,” Vigneault said following Tuesday’s practice. “The dynamics that he brings to our group, I would say the last little while he has played the exact type of hockey we expected; the physicality, being a deterrent against the other team’s physicality. I think he’s done that.”[/su_quote]

Still, is it enough to scratch Jesper Fast who just returned from a knee sprain? Or does JT Miller sit again? We just don’t see it, plus Sheppard could provide a little of that grit Glass is expected to inject into the lineup when he’s in. Vigneault certainly is looking forward to having him play as well.

[su_quote cite=”Larry Brooks” url=”https://nypost.com/2015/03/04/how-james-sheppards-rangers-arrival-hurts-gritty-tanner-glass/”]“I remember him a lot from Minnesota where he started off as a young player,” Vigneault said of Sheppard, who was selected ninth overall by the Wild in the 2006 Entry Draft but has never recorded more than five goals, 19 assists or 26 points in a season. “From my understanding, he is a smart player who can play a pretty good two-way game, and is versatile. “He can play all three forward positions. I think for our bottom six, depending on how he plays, he’ll get an opportunity and see where he fits in.”[/su_quote]

Sheppard is a big boy at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds. His game is about using the body and creating turnovers on the forecheck. He is an “energy” guy and will play it rough if need be. Plus his 50% on draws on a team that currently ranks 29th on face-offs won’t hurt.

[su_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XoX7qzSTQ4c”]

Vincent Delillo recently wrote here that Sheppard and his potential line mates of Dom Moore and Jesper Fast could create one of the most formidable shut down lines in all of the NHL. He also believes this will end up being one of the better value trades down the stretch.  Sheppard will provide defensive stability in the bottom-six, and while his offensive numbers are nothing to write home about, his defensive contributions should keep him firmly entrenched in the lineup.

[su_quote cite=”Rick Carpiniello” url=”https://www.lohud.com/story/sports/2015/03/03/rangers-options-sheppard/24324991/”]”We have (discussed the role), and I want to find something I can do and do it right,” Sheppard said. “Pretty much whatever I’m asked to do, I want to do my job right whenever the opportunity comes. And hopefully put a couple of pucks in the back of the net at the same time.”[/su_quote]

So tonight, James Sheppard starts his career in Rangers blue. His current cap hit is 1.2M and he is an unrestricted free-agent at the age of 27. There is no doubt that this is a lengthy audition to show he belongs on Broadway.

For now, we will wait and see what this new Ranger can do for our Stanley Cup dreams. By the way, he scored against the Kings in last year’s playoffs, so I like him already.

[su_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8L2DohNPJ9s”]

Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore