New York Rangers: Additions to the bottom six are stepping up

Production from the bottom six forwards thus far this season has arguably been the best the team has seen in years.

And it doesn’t seem like too many people are talking about it.

After the 6 -1 victory over the Eastern Conference rival Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday night, speed and finesse were displayed on all four lines – but production didn’t come from the top two lines as it has in seasons prior.

Though this season is still in the very early stages, points are coming from every line the Rangers put on the ice.

The Third Line

According to, right now the line leading the team in Goals For is the Grabner-Miller-Hayes line who generally compose the third line (4). (This probably has something to do with the hat trick that Grabner scored last night).

Grabner has been a great pick up for the Rangers, and currently leads the team with five goals (again, thanks to that hat trick). The former Islander’s size and speed make him a dangerous asset in the bottom six – he can skate, stick handle and shoot, which has led to him having many breakaway opportunities that he has cashed in on up to this point.

The addition of Jimmy Vesey to the roster has been a positive for the Rangers in various regards. Not only has his speed and vision helped on the second line, but it  has also allowed the team to bump J.T. Miller down a line (true since Kreider has been out of the lineup, but in general). Miller who had his breakout season last year has notched nine points in nine games. Currently, he is just three points behind league leaders Connor McDavid and Claude Giroux (12)… and he typically plays on the Rangers’ third line.

Kevin Hayes, who has remained a part of the bottom six, has finally shown some life after being nearly invisible on the Rangers offense last season. On Sunday night, Hayes had three assists – one of which came off an unbelievable spin pass to get around Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman to secure Grabner’s hat trick goal.


The Fourth Line

Beyond this, improvements to the fourth line have meant added speed and depth that the Rangers’ have been missing in the past few seasons.

Jesper Fast, now in his fourth season (but really more like his third season, playing only 11 games in 2013-14), has managed to find a sweet spot between the third and fourth lines.

The most productive combinations including Fast have been when playing with Grabner and Hayes or Grabner and Brandon Pirri (two goals, 15 shots for and one goal, nine shots for respectively). Though Fast has yet to score his first goal of the season, he has had four assists and is +5. He continues to make things happen on the ice – between his skating and sense – and is strong on the forecheck.

Brandon Pirri has been another great addition to the roster. Similar to Grabner, he has been a dangerous addition to the fourth line. Pirri has four goals and two assists for six points in just nine games. He had a big night against the Bruins on Oct. 26 scoring the go-ahead/game-winning-goal which he followed up with an additional insurance goal.

Since Josh Jooris was sidelined indefinitely after suffering a separated shoulder in this Oct. 26 game against the Bruins, Oscar Lindberg was on the ice for the Rangers last night. He has played in only four of the nine games this season but was a solid fourth line center for the Rangers last season with 13 goals and 15 assists for 28 points. The team announced today that upon the return of Chris Kreider on Tuesday against St. Louis, Lindberg will be a healthy scratch.

Looking Ahead

A team where all four lines are able to produce have historically been the most threatening in the league. At this point, it seems like the Rangers have figured out a way to have players every line represented on the stat sheet.

Though it is early, it is exciting.

If the Rangers continue to skate with speed and knock teams on their heels on all four lines, there is no question that their promising start will become a successful season.