Jesper Fast, the Rangers 21 year-old rookie from Sweden, said he slept quite well last night, belying any nerves he may have been feeling on the eve of his National Hockey League debut. This morning he woke to a string of text messaages on his phone, well wishes from his homeland, and he knew this would most definitely be a unique day.
"It was a special feeling to wake up today," said Fast. "I had texts from back home saying Good Luck. I play my whole life and have these dreams to play in the NHL, so it's a big day."
A sixth round pick by the Rangers in the 2010 NHL Draft, Fast has impressed his new coach and teammates with his intelligence, maturity, and skill--assets that helped him earn a spot on the team's opening night roster. An 18-goal scorer last year with HV71 in the Swedish Elite League, Fast is as adept in the offensive end as he is backchecking in his own end of the ice--an ability that will serve him well in the NHL.
Fast admitted Thursday morning that he is still adapting to the smaller ice surface in North America, though he was pleased how the transition went for him in training camp and during the pre-season.
"It feels good out there, and it shouldn't be any problem," stated Fast. "Of course I am still adjusting, and it will take even more games to feel comfortable, but I feel good right now playing on the smaller rink."
Alain Vigneault will have Fast begin his NHL career skating on the team's third line tonight, alongside veterans Taylor Pyatt and Brian Boyle. Fast stated that the two more experienced players communicate well with him on and off the ice and have made life easier for him when he is playing.
For his part, Boyle is already quite impressed with the youngster.
"His maturity level, his whole demanor, how he takes things in stride, he's pretty much the same kid all the time," Boyle said of Fast. "I was a helluva' lot more nervous my first four years probably than he is now. He's handled everything unbelievably so far. And on the ice he's impressive to watch."
With Ryan Callahan's return to the lineup imminent, and Carl Hagelin due back later in the month, Fast will need to make a quick impression on the coaching staff---similar to the nickname of "Quickie" slapped on him by Vigneault earlier in camp. That process begins tonight for the young Swede.