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At 23, Rangers defenseman Adam Fox is stepping into a veteran's role

The Rangers' Adam Fox celebrates his third-period shorthanded

The Rangers' Adam Fox celebrates his third-period shorthanded goal against the Penguins in an NHL game on April 6, 2021. Credit: AP/Bruce Bennett

It’s easy to forget that Adam Fox is one of the young guys, too.

The Rangers’ No. 1 defenseman was tied for the scoring lead among defensemen in the NHL entering play Friday with 42 points on five goals and a league-high 37 assists. And on a nightly basis, he makes so many plays that show off his incredible vision on the ice, and touch on the puck.

Yet the pride of Jericho, Long Island, is only 23, and in his second professional season. He’s one of four 23-year-olds who are playing every night for the Rangers, and one of nine players in Thursday’s lineup against the Philadelphia Flyers who were 23 or under.

Now, in addition to everything he’s done on the ice for the Rangers in his two seasons, he is being asked to do more. As the games get bigger and the team gets younger — with the recent addition of 21-year-old Vitali Kravtsov and 20-year-old Zac Jones — Fox is now adding the role of team spokesmen to his player profile.

In the era of the Zoom post-practice and postgame media availability, Fox has more and more been one of the players the Rangers are putting in front of the cameras after games to talk about what the team did, or didn’t do well that night.

After the devastating 3-2 loss to the Flyers on Thursday at the Garden, he was the first player to address the media on the postgame Zoom call. He spoke about the fact that the Rangers took too many penalties that night, talked about how the team "definitely wasted an opportunity,’’ and said the Rangers, as a group, need to "be a little smarter.’’

He also, in the most delicate way possible, admitted to seeing the handwriting on the wall as far as the Rangers’ attempt to stay in the playoff race.

"We know what’s at stake every game, at this point,’’ he said, sounding like a veteran. "There’s only so many games left.’’

Beginning with Friday’s matchup against the Flyers at the Garden, the Rangers had nine games remaining, and were eight points back of the Boston Bruins, who held the fourth and final playoff spot in the East Division. Boston had 11 remaining, beginning with their game Friday vs. Buffalo.

"I think we’ll just keep fighting and take it game by game,’’ Fox said.

Fox, who put together an 11-point scoring streak earlier this month, had people talking around the New York area about him deserving to be considered for the Norris Trophy, as the top defenseman in the league. Winning that trophy seems unlikely, given the setup of the league this season, where teams only played games within their division, three-quarters of the league hasn’t gotten a chance to see Fox play live. Most voters will likely go with a player they know better than a second-year guy in New York they haven’t seen this season.

But the way Fox has played suggests a Norris Trophy might not be out of reach in his future.

Rangers GM Jeff Gortonwas asked last week if he knew when he traded to get Fox from Carolina in April 2019, how special the defenseman was. Gorton admitted he did not.

"I’m not that smart,’’ he said with a laugh.

"We’re proud of where he’s at, and I believe he can get better,’’ Gorton said. "For us to have him, and at his age, I’m just excited what the ceiling could be for him.’’

During his point streak, people around here were comparing Fox to Brian Leetch. This week, defenseman Brendan Smith compared Jones, who made his NHL debut Thursday, to Fox. According to Smith, Jones has "a little Foxy skill.’’

Now Fox is showing it’s not just skill he has. It’s leadership, too.

New York Sports