The New York Rangers sold at the trade deadline this year and once again continue to get younger.
One of those trades that they made involved a player that has jumped in and is already playing well which is Brendan Lemieux, son of former New Jersey Devils winger Claude Lemieux. The Rangers acquired Lemieux at the deadline as he was part of the return from the Winnipeg Jets for Kevin Hayes.
Lemieux Fitting In Nicely
In the coming weeks, Brendan will look to make his mark as a Ranger. He is thought of as a bottom 6 player that has a good shot and some grit to his game. The Rangers have been lacking grit, so Lemieux fits the bill.
So far, in his short stint, he’s been successful with the Rangers. He’s shown that he has a good shot and has some grit to his game. But, in the past, he was playing bottom line minutes. Prior to the trade, he was logging an average of seven minutes a night. Since coming to Manhattan, he’s averaging twelve minutes a night. He’s earned his twelve minutes a night, but there is concern about how long his success will last. In addition, Rangers fans might begin to worry about what might happen if head coach David Quinn puts the soon to be 23-year-old in his top 6.
When looking to replace a productive offensive talent like Kevin Hayes, you would hope the player you get back has some level of offensive ability that can level the trade out. Being that Lemieux wasn’t the only part of the trade, I don’t expect him to put up the point totals that Hayes did. However, you still want him to grow as an offensive player in a very speed and skill league now.
He had some good numbers when he was playing junior hockey with the Barrie Colts and the Windsor Spitfires of the OHL, with seasons of 27, 41, and 23 goals. However, his AHL numbers didn’t match up to his OHL numbers. During his time with the Jets’ AHL affiliate, the Manitoba Moose, he failed to crack 20 goals at all.
The assist totals will never be great for him as he is more of a true power winger, but the Rangers don’t necessarily need him to put up high assist totals. He was able to total 20 assists twice in his time in the OHL, but like the goal numbers, his assist numbers weren’t too consistent during his time with the Manitoba Moose.
Based on these numbers and what I know of his skills, I think you can expect him to average 3rd line numbers and possibly produce 2nd line numbers.
In The Defensive Zone
In the defensive zone, so far, we’ve seen him be a good enforcer, but not much else.
However, in an analytic era where puck possession numbers are one of the biggest things that separate the good teams from the bad, getting guys off the puck is something that could boost those numbers and obviously hurt your opponent’s, especially when it comes to a playoff series. In addition, you always want guys with that kind of intensity on your team to give a spark, especially in the playoffs. NHL Teams are always keeping an eye on players who can bring the physical fire power for premier match-ups.
There is a reason somebody like Ryan Reaves was acquired by the Vegas Golden Knights at the trade deadline last season and the Nashville Predators brought back somebody like Cody McLeod and it is because of the playoff intensity factor. While Lemieux will probably be better as a skill player than those guys, those tough and intensity-based guys are still a part of a successful playoff team, and that is one thing that can be counted upon him if and when the Rangers make the playoffs in the distant future.
In terms of his raw defense, metrics and corsi statistics show he isn’t bad for a young player. In his time with the Jets, he was averaged a corsi-for percentage (CF%) of 46.3%. But, since he’s joined the Rangers, he’s been averaging a better CF%. Currently, he owns a 50.3 CF%.
The Fenwick numbers when he was with Winnipeg were more concerning, as the team only possessed the puck 45.4% of the time with Lemieux on the ice. Again, that has jumped up in the small sample size with the Rangers to 55.7%, which is impressive considering the other defensive issues the Rangers have had this season. As his awareness goes up, these numbers will too, but he’s likely to make mistakes given his aggressive nature.
Lemieux’s blocked shots have been low. This season, he’s logged 23, yet it’s worth noting that he’s logged 8 in 7 games with the Rangers. Over time, his positioning will need to improve being he is an aggressive player and often times that causes mistakes. However, he is 22 years old and that will come with coaching. The question is, will he truly develop and become a trustworthy player. All-in-all, Rangers fans need to give him time to grow and develop, so fans shouldn’t be concerned quite yet.
Comparing Lemieux To Kreider
So, going back to the original question, what should we expect him to become?
You would hope close to Hayes’ value being that was the original trade, but we shouldn’t expect that since they are two different types of players. A lot of people think he’s similar to Chris Kreider. They see that Kreider and Lemieux both have good size, quality speed, physicality and the ability to crash the net consistently. However, I think that is a bad comparison because Kreider’s passing ability is very impressive for a winger. It likely will be very difficult for Lemieux to develop as a reliable passer like Kreider. He was more likely to be an assist threat in Winnipeg as they have a ton of offensive talent in their locker room.
In terms of overall skill-level, Lemieux reminds me of a slightly better version of Vladislav Namestnikov, who the Rangers got back last year from Tampa Bay Lightning. Like I was saying with Hayes, they are two different styles of player, but the paths are pretty similar. Namestnikov was a high-end prospect who struggled to get it going with Tampa Bay and hardly ever got playing time once Jon Cooper became their coach. Similarly to Lemieux, he struggled to produce good numbers on a loaded offensive team around him. However, I do think Lemieux contributes more on the defensive end though with his physicality and he appears to have much better speed.
Maybe Jesper Fast could be the comparison for him skill-wise, but I think he is tad different from Fast as well, being he’s more of a blocked shot and speed defender, and also a good passer like Kreider.
Overall, I think he will be around the level of third line wingers we have seen in the past for the Rangers, and while they have succeeded with that at times, you would hope for something more than that dealing Kevin Hayes.
stats from hockey-reference.com, NHL.com, eliteprospects.com
featured image photo credit – Nikos Michals