When Jesper Fast signed his 3-year deal with the Hurricanes on October 10th, 2020, many fans did not know what to expect, especially considering this was the only main roster player the Hurricanes brought in during the incredibly slow 2020 offseason. Fast recently played his 100th game as a Hurricane, which has only added to the incredible season he is having. In this article, we are going to break down what has made “Quickie” so important to the lineup.
Jesper Fast got the ball rolling early in the 2021-22 season. Although it already feels like ages ago, the first month of the season was huge for Jesper, as well as the team. The Canes opened the year with a 9 game winning streak, and depth scoring across the board is what fueled the team to such heights.
During the first 10 games of the season, the Swedish forward put up an impressive 5 goals and 1 assist for a total of 6 points, all of which were at even-strength. Although his production has faltered since his red-hot start, his usefulness has arguably only grown since.
What Jesper is best known for is his ability to play on both sides of the ice, and help linemates Jordan Staal and Nino Niederreiter shut down other teams’ top lines. According to Hockey Reference, Jesper starts 53% of his shifts in the defensive zone. Despite this, his Corsi for percentage is an impressive 52.6%, meaning when he is on the ice the Hurricanes control the puck more than the opponent.
Along with his stingy defensive play at even-strength, Fast is a part of the Hurricanes’ league-leading penalty kill and averages 1:41 in shorthanded time on ice per game. Jesper’s shorthanded time on ice is more than any other winger on the team and just goes to show how relied upon he is by Tim Gleason and Rod Brind’amour.
In mid-December of 2021, the Hurricanes were one of the many teams hit hard with COVID-19, and they were forced to play two games without players up and down the lineup. While most people were going into these matchups not expecting much, the Canes were able to defeat the Detroit Red Wings and Los Angeles Kings by a combined score of 10-4, despite having a lineup full of AHL call-ups.
Jesper made the most of his opportunity, in the 2 games played with this COVID-riddled lineup, Jesper Fast recorded 1 goal and 3 assists. This small stretch of offensive production shows us that when called upon, Fast really knows how to turn his game up.
Coach Rod Brind’amour is infamous for switching up his line combinations often, but one that has been a fixture is the combination of Jordan Staal, Nino Niederreiter, and of course, Jesper Fast. According to Money Puck, this line is the only one on the team to play at least 150 minutes together so far this season. The Canes’ third line is particularly used as a checking line, and the trio excels at this.
In their 288 minutes together they have scored 21 goals while only surrendering 5, an 80.8% goal for percentage. Out of Jesper’s 21 points, 19 of them are at even-strength. One underrated stat for Fast is that he only has 4 PIM on the year, for a team that takes as many penalties as the Hurricanes do, this is an extremely welcome change of pace. Out of all players who have played 15 games or more for the Canes, Fast has only taken 2 penalties all year, which is the lowest on the squad.
Although he may not get a lot of praise, Jesper Fast has proven all year that he is a very big piece of the puzzle for the 2021-22 Hurricanes team, in more ways than just his production. Depth has been a problem for the Carolina organization over the years, but finding Fast for only $2 million annually has proven to be a masterclass move by the Canes front office. The team will continue to lean on Jesper down the stretch and into the playoffs, and I for one am willing to bet he is up to the challenge.