Wednesday Night Hockey: Blackwell’s development a needed surprise for Rangers

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020-21 NHL season continues with the Wednesday Night Hockey matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers and New York Rangers. Pre-game coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

With just 33 games of NHL experience before joining the Rangers, Colin Blackwell‘s signing this offseason didn’t make a ton of noise.

He’s played just eight games with New York so far, so it’s not time to put him in the Hall of Fame or anything, but his production has been a pleasant surprise in a season where the Rangers will take whatever they can get.

His five points — made up of three goals and two assists — aren’t wildly outstanding but it’s still steady production for a 27-year-old who hasn’t had the chance to blossom yet at the NHL level. He’s already matched his goal total from his 27 games with Nashville last season, too.

It’s still a small sample size, but Blackwell is second on the Rangers in xGF percent at 67.99 and second on the club with a Corsi for percentage of 59.04. Pretty impressive for a player likely no one projected to crack the top five in those metrics.

Like any other projected depth player, Blackwell’s signing went way under the radar this fall. Maybe that shouldn’t have been the case, though; he’s produced everywhere he’s been. The Methuen, Massachusetts native posted 58 career points in 94 games at Harvard, which isn’t world changing but it is solid. He posted 45 points with AHL Rochester one season as well; again, not stunning but still proof he could produce at a tougher level.

Even last year with the Predators in limited time, he finished 11th with 0.62 goals per 60 minutes. Still, a short sample size but a bit larger than the one with the Rangers, and it tracks historically, too.

[PRE-GAME COVERAGE BEGINS AT 6 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

“I’ve kind of been a Swiss Army Knife the last several years of my career,’’ Blackwell said to reporters in January. “I think last year  was a good experience for me because I got to play kind of up and down the lineup. For a long period of time, I was kind of playing like a fourth line role and playing that kind of gritty, grindy, sandpaper type of game, and then there are some other nights where I got to play with some high-end players.’’

The Rangers haven’t exactly been an offensive juggernaut this year, their 40 goals tied for the fifth fewest in the league, and that seems like it could get rougher with Kaapo Kakko in Covid protocol and Artemi Panarin taking a leave of absence.

They’re going to take offense from wherever they can get it — especially too with Mika Zibanejad‘s drop off in production (four points in 16 games) — and Blackwell has brought some spark. He’s behind Chris Kreider‘s six points by just one entering Wednesday and second among centers in points.

His shooting percentage is at 30%; that’s not sustainable and consistent players aren’t always on a torrid pace like this. But for a team that needs some sort of a punch, Blackwell has a history of adding some scoring depth, and that’s exactly what they need for now,

Of course, there’s always the chance a small sample size leads to overreaction and then exposure, but Blackwell’s handled himself before; it seems the Rangers have themselves a steal.

Marisa Ingemi is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop her a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow her on Twitter @Marisa_Ingemi.

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