All Hail Adam Fox

Imagine Carolina wasn’t essentially forced to trade Adam Fox and instead had him in their D corps with Hamilton, Slavin, Pesce, Gardiner…they’d be a goalie away from a dynasty. Poor Canes.

That’s the allure of the New York Rangers though. Regardless of their level of success, guys wanna play here. Hayes & Vesey are perfect examples – but Fox could be the ultimate catch. His situation was a little different in that the Blueshirts didn’t wait to scoop up the Harvard kid for nothing in free agency. They ponied up a pair of second-rounders so he could be in their lineup immediately. Everyone knew he was gonna be excellent. I’m just not sure anyone saw THIS coming.

The offense is no surprise. His vision, passing, puck-handling & decision-making were all the things that made hockey fans drool over his scouting report. As a rookie in the NHL, he makes effortlessly fantastic plays multiple times a night. He’s never in trouble. Whether it be the confidence in hanging onto the puck for an extra second or feathering a tape-to-tape pass that most defenders wouldn’t even have seen, his skill level is already elite. After going scoreless in his first 7 games, he’s scored at a 50-point pace & could fairly easily have more if Tony D wasn’t (deservedly) dominating PP1 time.

Fox’s impact on this young squad has been felt most though defensively. Despite an aging Staal, underwhelming Skjei & Trouba adjusting to $8M expectations the Rangers back end has improved significantly overall over their last 20 games or so. Yeah, Shesterkin has had to spin back-to-back 42-save gems but if you look at the analytics for that span they’ve gone from “absolute worst” to “respectably average” in controlling the opposition. Credit in large part has to go to Fox as no other player in the league has a better relative Corsi% & CA/60 – which essentially means he’s the league’s most valuable player to his team in terms of puck possession & shot suppression. There’s no panic in his game. Every single thing he does has purpose as opposed to the d-zone chaos fans are used to seeing. If he doesn’t have the puck? Well, he gets it regardless of the circumstances.

Only Jaccob Slavin is a better takeaway artist than Fox has been this season. As exemplified by thwarting that 3-on-1 with ease, the LI kid is an absolute freak when it comes to hockey IQ. He’s habitually a step or two ahead of everyone else on the ice & supports that level of anticipation with a great stick and calm hands. Everything he’s shown so far ticks all metrics in terms of today’s shutdown defender. Foxy will never be a banger – but he’s the ultimate hybrid of everything else. He’ll find the puck. Take the puck. Push the puck to safety. Then make sure that puck does something dangerous in the offensive zone before taking a breather & doing it all over again next shift. Quinn has begun relying on him more and more as evidenced by clocking the second-most ice time (20:30) over the Rangers last nine games. Only Trouba has skated more due to PK minutes – which I’ve been clamoring for Fox to get forever. He put on a shorthanded clinic with Trouba in the box last night, so perhaps that’s coming.

Speaking of Trouba, the emergence of Fox & DeAngelo on the right side makes for an interesting conversation. You could easily argue Fox is their best all-around defender already and is only going to get better. He’s still got two years left on his ELC. Tony has proven to be an offensive dynamo who’s gonna cost a pretty penny to lock up, but nowhere near a Trouba-like price tag. Not to mention their top prospect (sorry Kravtsov) is yet another right-shot D in Nils Lundkvist. Joey Keane is thriving as well. I’m not sure what the market would even be but Rangers brass at least has to entertain a Trouba deal before his no-move kicks in this summer, right? If Fox & DeAngelo had these seasons before the Trouba acquisition would they have still gone after him? I doubt it. I don’t have a definitive idea of what they should do but, like I said, it’s certainly an interesting conversation.

Anyway, the point of the blog is this: all hail Adam Fox. Throughout this rebuild there hasn’t been too many immediate home runs. Lias isn’t even in the country. Chytil is just beginning to blossom while Kakko & Kravtsov have ways to go to meet their sky-high potential. But Fox (with Igor right behind him) has kicked down the door and exceeded some pretty lofty expectations. He won’t get the shine kids like Makar & Quinn Hughes are basking in but make no mistake about it – if their debuts are a sign of things to come, all three could be sharing a Norris ballot someday.