Adam Fox has turn out to be an essential constructing block within the reconstruction of the Rangers
NBC’s coverage of the 2020-21 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the New York Rangers. The streaming coverage of Penguins Rangers begins at 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
When you think of the current New York Rangers remodel, the first two names that come to mind are likely Alex Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko. As the top 2 picks in each of the last two drafts, they’ll get top reckoning even if the numbers and immediate implications aren’t quite there. Their potential remains high, and if they do, they could be the kind of impact any competing team needs.
What makes the Rangers’ long-term prospects so tempting is that it’s not just Lafreniere and Kakko that give them hope. They have put together a whole bunch of young talent who are on the ice in every position. At the top of that list is sophomore defender Adam Fox, who has quickly become a key player on the roster and an important part of that rebuilding process. Competing teams not only need multiple all-stars as strikers, they also need a defender to play that # 1 role and help set the pace of the game. Every competing team has one, and it can be a remarkably difficult position to find.
The Rangers may have found it in Fox.
It was easy for him to get lost in the shuffle at the Calder Race a year ago due to the incredible numbers on Colorado’s Cale Makar and Vancouver’s Quinn Hughes, but Fox was spot on in terms of overall impact.
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He didn’t really step back in the second year of his career.
If anything, the Rangers have relied on him even more as he has quickly become their top defender. He will face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday (7:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN) as the top defensive option for Rangers coach David Quinn. When there’s a big job, Fox gets it. He plays an average of more than 24 minutes per game, which is currently three minutes more than any other defender on the squad (Jacob Trouba, who is currently out due to injury, is second on the team). Coupled with the lead in the Ice Age, no Rangers defender had seen a higher percentage of their shifts in the defensive zone, while being the best option for the blue line in both power play and penalty shootouts.
It’s not just important that he gets these assignments. With only 94 games (including playoffs) NHL experience, he handles it very well for a sophomore year professional.
No Rangers defender has done a better job this season at suppressing scoring opportunities and expected goals, while the Rangers only allow 1.92 goals per 60 minutes of 5v5 play with him on the ice. Not only is this one of the top grades with the Rangers, it’s also one of the top grades in the league among all defenders. Add that to the fact that as a defender, he’s scored nearly 50 points in each of his first two seasons, and you have a rising defensive star.
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When you return to the start of the 2019-20 season, you’ll really get a feel for just how impactful Fox has been.
With an average of 0.61 points per game during this time, he ranks 16th among all defenders who have appeared in at least 80 games. He’s also in the top 50 defenders (out of 200 who have played at least 500 minutes of 5v5 Ice Age) for limiting opponent’s chances of scoring, expected goals, and actual goals of 60 minutes.
We are again talking about a 22-year-old with only one and a half years of NHL experience who is already playing like a bonafid top pairing defender.
This season hasn’t gone quite as the Rangers had hoped overall, especially after taking such a big step in the second half of the 2019-20 season. But the talent on this team is very real and the long-term prospects remain strong as they have potential stars in attacking, defending and scoring. Not everyone has played at this level yet, but Adam Fox is already there. Better yet, his best days are ahead of him.
NBC Sports celebrates Hockey Day in America, presented by Discover® this Sunday with a quadruple NHL header on NBC and NBCSN, as well as a collection of stories and features exploring the impact and influence of hockey in the United States . The day is a highlight from NBC Sports. March NHL coverage that spanned 30 games over 30 nights.
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk for NBC Sports. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.