Prust's speciality; something he did very often and very well. (www.newsday.com)

Grading The Rangers: Brandon Prust

Rangers fan certainly embraced Brandon Prust with open arms once he solidified himself as a Ranger. (www.thehockeynews.com)

It wasn’t the flashiest of trades when it happened on February 1, 2010. In fact, the deal that saw Ales Kotalik and Chris Higgins go to Calgary in exchange for Olli Jokinen was good as it was for Rangers fans; seeing 2 bitterly disappointing first-year players leave. Calgary decided to sweeten the deal for the Rangers and threw in Brandon Prust to make it an even 2-for-2 trade. Known for his tenacity and fighting ability, Prust coming to New York really didn’t mean much at first glance. The trade was more so to address the Rangers’ other needs. In the 26 games played with New York, Prust showed his teammates and fans the heavyweight reputation that preceded him (despite being 6′ 2” 192lbs). Little did they know that the following season, Prust would exemplify what it means to not only be an excellent teammate but a New York Ranger as well.

Let’s examine Brandon Prust’s 2010-2011 season:

What We Expected

The Rangers knew what they were getting when they acquired Brandon Prust; a 4th-line grinding pugilist afraid of no one. However, a goal scorer he was not. Prior to his arrival on Broadway, the former 3rd-round draft pick never scored more than 3 points in a season. During his 2009-2010 season with Calgary, he had 5 points (1g, 4a) in 43 games before the trade, a slight improvement. It’s possible the trade breathed new life in to Prust’s offensive game, scoring 9 points (4g, 5a) in 26 games. On the other hand, Prust did have the talented Artem Anisimov feeding him pucks on the Rangers “4th line” at the end of the 09-10 season. Ideally, the Rangers wanted Prust to provide energy and grit whenever called upon while playing solidly in his own end.

How He Did

Out of all the forwards who had very good seasons for the Rangers, Brandon Prust might have had the best considering he wasn’t expected to contribute much. While providing his usual energy and gritty play, Prust was able to add several new dimensions to his game. Forming a great alliance with Brian Boyle, he and Prust were the most relied upon forwards 5-on-5 and shorthanded not named Ryan Callahan and Brandon Dubinsky.

One of the new facets Prust was able to add was a scoring threat. He set career highs in goals (13), assists (16) and points (29) and games played (82). Prust was able to carry over his newfound scoring abilities on the penalty kill too (no, that’s not a typo!). Prust finished the regular season with 5 shorthanded goals, good for 3rd in the NHL behind the Islanders’ Frans Neilsen (7) and Michael Grabner (6). All of this while cultivating his defensive game, finishing 4th on the Rangers with 155 hits and countless blocked shots

The other facet Prust was able to execute very well was embodying what it means to be a Ranger. We all know Ryan Callahan IS the New York Rangers model player, but Brandon Prust would be a close second. Prust battled through several injuries all season long to not only fight nearly every night, not only block any shot he could, but to grind night in and night out without

ANY excuses. His first full season with the Rangers was one of the finest a player of his stature could ask for.

Final Grade: A

Had Brandon Prust not roughed himself up from playing recklessly with his body, he might have cracked the 20-goal mark; that’s how great of a 1st half of a season he had. Prust quickly became a fan favorite with his daily effort and his high threshold for pain, coining what should be the Rangers future motto considering how appropriate it is “It’s Just Pain.” And the fans rewarded the feisty forward with his 1st Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award, going to the player who goes above and beyond the call of duty on and off the ice, dethroning the incumbent Ryan Callahan. Finding out he needed offseason surgery for a torn labrum makes him season more remarkable considering he more than likely played with it for quite some time. What’s encouraging is that Prust is only 27 years old and can not only build upon his career year but is capable of better ones in the future.

Going Forward

Brandon Prust is signed through the 2011-2012 season after agreeing to his 2-year deal, $1.6 million deal back in the offseason last summer. If he has another season like this past one, Prust will be due (and deserve) a significant raise next offseason. Should you go into next season thinking Prust could crack the 30-point plateau? It’s not out of the realm of possibility. If the rumors of Prust possibly training with Barbara Underhill this summer are true, who knows how much he can improve his game.

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Tags: Ales Kotalik Artem Anisimov Brain Boyle Brandon Dubinsky Brandon Prust New York Rangers Olli Jokinen Ryan Callahan Shorthanded

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