Matt Puempel departed from Ottawa last season to join the Rangers, and while his production improved -- he managed nine points in 27 games with New York after collecting just six over the course of 52 career games as a Senator -- he still played fourth-line minutes, which projects to once again be the case in 2017-18. The 24-year-old also picked up a couple concussions, giving prospective fantasy owners extra cause for concern, though he appears to be healthy heading into the season.
Puempel said he wants "to play harder, be more physical" this season, which includes fighting more, the New York Post reports. The 24-year-old forward suffered a pair of concussions last season, which he said prevented him from dropping the gloves much last season, but Puempel liked to mix it up in the AHL, and he fought the Devils' Nick Lappin in Wednesday's preseason game. That approach should net him some more PIM this season, but despite Puempel's first-round pedigree and minor-league success, he's never been able to win himself a significant NHL role, resulting in last season's nine points (in 40 games) representing his career high to this point.
Puempel agreed to terms on a one-year contract with the Rangers on Wednesday, Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post reports. Puempel's deal will help New York meet the forward exposure requirements for the Vegas expansion draft, although considering he managed a mere nine points in his 40 appearances this season, it seems unlikely that the 24-year-old will be selected by the Golden Knights. Until the winger can secure regular minutes, he will continue to be a bottom-end fantasy option.
Puempel recorded three shots on goal in Wednesday's loss to Washington. It took Puempel 9:53 of ice time to register those three shots. He has suited up in three of the past four games for the Rangers, recording one assist in the process. In his first full-time NHL season, Puempel has registered nine points (six goals, three assists) in 39 total games played -- 26 with New York, 13 with Ottawa. However, all of his points have come with the Rangers while serving as added depth on the Rangers' fourth line.
Puempel suited up for the first time in five games Thursday, skating 7:58 without a shot or a point in a loss to the Islanders. His only marks on the stat sheet were a blocked shot and a minus-1 rating. Puempel's long since recovered from his concussion, but the Rangers have little room for him in the lineup, leaving him in the press box most nights; the only reason he was in Thursday was that Pavel Buchnevich traded places with him. It won't be surprising if Puempel goes back to being a healthy scratch when the Rangers are next in action Sunday versus Washington.
Puempel (concussion) has been cleared to play, but won't suit up for Sunday's showdown in Detroit, Steve Zipay of Newsday reports. Additionally, Puempel is no longer listed on injured reserve, per the NHL's official media site. While Puempel appears destined to watch Sunday's game from the press box, his removal from IR suggests that the team may be ready to bring him back for Monday's game against the Kings after an eight-game absence. However, keep in mind that concussions are notoriously tricky injuries to come back from and the young winger has already suffered two this season, so it's hard to pin down exactly when he'll be ready.
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