Brandon Prust is one cool dude. The man is buff. You might even say the guy is damn macho. He is also an unrestricted free agent after this season. Despite off-season surgery which saw him go under the knife to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder, Prust has picked up right where he left off after his breakout season in 2010-11 where he scored 13 goals (including 5 shorthanded) and 16 assists. Despite some highly publicized time riding the bench after a careless penalty Tuesday night in Vancouver, Prust has been a force for the Rangers since they arrived back in North America after their exhausting European vacation that began their regular season. The Rangers 3rd line winger has amassed 2goals and 2 assists just 5 games into this young season, including a huge shorthanded goal in the Rangers 3-2 overtime thriller against the Calgary Flames in Calgary on Thursday night.
Prust, just entering his prime at 27 years old, had a journeyman NHL career before being acquired by the Rangers on February 1, 2010 along with Olli Jokinen for Ales Kotalik and Chris Higgins. Prust bounced around after he was drafted 70th overall in the 2004 NHL entry draft by the Flames. At one point he was dealt to the Phoenix Coyotes only to be reacquired a few months later by Calgary. He was actually considered a throw in to the deal where the Rangers had targeted the forgettable Jokinen to fill their vacant 2nd line center role at the tail end of the 2009-2010 season. Now, Prust’s acquisition looks to be one of General Manager Glen Sather’s best moves of his 11 year tenure as the big boss of the Rangers front office.
Everyone knew Prust could fight; in the last two seasons combined the NHL tough guy has accumulated a total of 43 fighting majors, leading the league in that span. Besides his pugnacity, what we have found out is that this guy can play the game as well. Prust has an unrelenting style of play which often times sets the tone for the Rangers forechecking game. His tenacity during the penalty kill has now led to 6 career shorthanded goals as a Ranger. Prust has proven to be the essence of durability, despite suffering the torn labrum in a fight midway through the 2010-11 schedule. Even though he was aware he needed offseason surgery, Prust did not miss a game all season and played all 87 Ranger games including the playoffs. Time will tell if the lingering effects of the shoulder surgery will cause Prust to drops the gloves less this season (he has just one fighting major thus far in the first 5 games) but it’s obvious his game has not suffered one bit.
The past offseason free agent market was a boon for many players who luckily found themselves an unrestricted free agents this past July 1st. NHL wingers like Ville Leino, Tomas Fleischmann, Brooks Laich and Erik Cole all signed new deals well over 4 million dollars per year. A pending UFA on July 1st, 2012 himself, Brandon Prust may be on the verge of becoming a very rich man after the season. A tough, character guy who can put the puck in the net is a valuable asset in today’s NHL. If the Rangers don’t make an offer before that July 1st date, Prust and his agent can certainly expect that free agent phone to be ringing off the hook in an effort by other teams to get him signed to their dotted line. Don’t wait too long, Slats
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