Matt Puempel has been making a name for himself in New York. The 23-year old and former 24th overall pick in the 2011 National Hockey League Entry Draft has tallied five goals and an assist in 13 games as a Blueshirt. In the same amount of games with the Ottawa Senators this season, Puempel had zero points, thus leading to his placement on the waiver wire and eventual arrival with the New York Rangers.
Matt Puempel Finding His Groove With The New York Rangers
Fighting for a Roster Spot
Injuries have been an issue for the Rangers so far in the 2016-17 season. Forwards Mika Zibanejad, Rick Nash, and Pavel Buchnevich have all missed time due to injury. With these players’ absence, the Rangers needed to find a player fast. When Puempel was picked up and signed by the New York Rangers in late November, the purpose was for him to serve as a bottom line, fill-in player to help add depth to the injury-riddled Rangers. Puempel has done just that and more-he is producing significant points for a fourth line player.
Puempel has netted a total of five goals, and scored his first ever career hat trick on Dec. 29 when the Rangers decimated the Arizona Coyotes 6-3. All three of Puempel’s goals came on the power-play, with the third tally being in the dying minute of the game. Puempel’s role on the man-advantage with the Rangers has been a significant one. With all of the offensive talent in guys like J.T. Miller, Mats Zuccarello, Derek Stepan, and Rick Nash, just to a name a few, it is a good sign to see a bottom line player like Puempel see time.
Perhaps Head Coach Alain Vigneault sees Puempel has a fourth line, specialist player. One that grinds it out and plays his role with the team and fills in on special teams, like Sam Gagner on the Blue Jackets. Let it be noted that 4:05 of his 12:20 of ice time against the Coyotes was all on special teams and in that frame he scored three goals.
Puempel has definitely defined his role with the Rangers. He’s an excellent bottom line player who can serve as a valuable asset on special teams. He has great speed that blends into the Rangers’ face paced, hard nose offense. Most importantly, Puempel is not afraid to get in front of the net. The turning of the new year sparks a critical time for all hockey teams. The Rangers have not have had an easy road this year, and the competition is tough, especially in the Metropolitan Division. The Blueshirts offense needs to remain hot if they seek a playoff berth and another shot at the Stanley Cup.
Soon, however, Zibanejad returns from his broken leg, and after him, Buchnevich is set to return soon. That is two player right there back into the lineup. So what with Puempel? Alain Vigneault will most likely scratch Puempel and will use him as a fill in player whether it be for injuries, the rare suspension, or if another player just can’t seem to get it going.
Vigneault told the New York Daily News,
“He’s working extremely hard. There’s no doubt that he’s got an offensive knack there. He knows where to go, and hopefully a game like tonight will give him more confidence and he’ll be able to help us out moving forward.”
All in all, Puempel turned nothing with the Senators into something with the Rangers. He had a total of four goals in 52 total games played with Ottawa, scoring more than that in just the 13 games. The former Kitchener Ranger has played an impressive game and seems to fill in well with the team’s offense and style of playing. It remains up in the air of whether or not he will receive a contract at the end of the season, but for the time being, the best for for Puempel to do is to keep playing his game and racking up as many points as possible.