PHILADELPHIA -- After a sparkling start to his Rangers’ tenure last season, Derick Brassard wasn’t quite sure what to expect heading into camp this fall.
Though he emerged as one of the bright spots of the Rangers' disappointing playoff run with 12 points in 12 games last spring, Brassard came to New York knowing there would be a new coach, new system and plenty of new faces on the team.
From the looks of it Tuesday night, the 25-year-old center is poised to build on last season’s success.
In leading the Rangers to a 3-2 win over the Flyers in Philadelphia (and the first under new coach Alain Vigneault), Brassard finished with a goal, an assist and what appeared to be some pretty good chemistry with linemates Benoit Pouliot and Mats Zuccarello.
“I was pretty pleased with how our line played tonight,” said Brassard, who earned first-star honors for the night.
He admittedly did not have to do much to notch his first goal of the preseason. Zuccarello made a beautiful behind-the-net feed right to Brassard’s tape. Brassard roofed it from the right circle to beat Flyers goaltender Steve Mason and give the Rangers a 1-0 lead just 1:10 into play in the second period.
“Zuke, honestly, I got to know him a lot and he’s a special player. When you look at him, he’s not big but he’s really shifty. He sees the ice really well,” Brassard said. “All credit to him, I didn’t do too much.”
Brassard picked up an assist later in the game when he scooped a rebound and dished off to Pouliot, who darted to the crease for the go-ahead goal that snapped a 2-2 draw in the second period.
“It’s a little confidence-booster to score a goal, whenever it is,” Pouliot said.
Though Pouliot has never played with Brassard outside of training camp, he’s played against him enough to know what type of skill he possesses.
“For him, when he gets the puck, he’s real dangerous,” Pouliot said. “If you play against him, you don’t want him to have the puck down low. He’s shifty, he’s quick ... he’ll make that sauce pass. That tough one that’s hard to make, he’ll make it.”
On a night where he could have identified a lot that he’d like to tweak or fix, Vigneault was encouraged to see that sort of production and play from Brassard’s line.
"There seems to be a little bit of chemistry there, and hopefully it’s going to continue to improve," Vigneault said.
The Rangers are hoping that Brassard will continue to develop like he did toward the end of last season, when he was traded to New York at the deadline and gave his new team a much-needed offensive jolt.
Considering the Rangers are still without Derek Stepan, who has missed training camp while locked in a contract stalemate with the club, there is some significant pressure for Brassard to provide that depth and production down the middle.
“I know last year I had another level in my game that I wanted to show," he said. "Maybe I showed it, but now it’s a new season, only one game, one preseason game.”