So who exactly is this Colin Blackwell guy?
"I’ve kind of been a Swiss Army Knife the last several years of my career,’’ Blackwell, 27, said in a Zoom call with reporters Monday. "I think last year [with Nashville] was a good experience for me because I got to play kind of up and down the lineup. For a long period of time, I was kind of playing like a fourth-line role and playing that kind of gritty, grindy, sandpaper type of game. And then there are some other nights where I got to play with some high-end players.’’
It was Blackwell who set up Alexis Lafreniere’s first NHL goal, which beat the Buffalo Sabres in overtime on Thursday and ended the Rangers’ four-game losing streak. But on Friday afternoon, he didn’t appear on the Rangers’ roster, or on the team’s stat page. If he had appeared on the stat page, he would have been tied with Filip Chytil for fifth on the team in scoring with three points (1-2-3).
It was only Sunday that the 5-9, 190-pound Blackwell was called up from the practice squad to play that night against the Penguins in Pittsburgh. He scored a goal that night in his Rangers debut and had an assist in each of the next two games. Coach David Quinn noted that Blackwell has seven points in his last seven NHL games dating to last season.
Quinn knew a little about Blackwell, having faced him in college when the coach was at Boston University and Blackwell was playing for Harvard. Quinn clearly has been impressed by what he’s seen from him with the Rangers. Blackwell’s ice time has gone up in each game, from 8:59 to 12:43 to 15:53.
"You’ve got to let the eye test determine who plays hockey, not where they were drafted, not their resume,’’ Quinn said after Thursday’s game. "This kid deserves to be out there.’’
Blackwell, a seventh-round draft pick by the San Jose Sharks in 2011, has been shuttling back and forth between the active roster and the taxi squad in what amounts to paper transactions on days between games. Because players on the taxi squad don’t count against a team’s salary cap, moving a player to the taxi squad on non-game days is an easy way to save a little money on the team’s daily cap hit.
When the Rangers host Pittsburgh at the Garden on Saturday, Blackwell likely will be on the second line, with Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome, in the spot vacated when Jesper Fast left in the offseason as a free agent. Blackwell seems suited to do some of the work along the boards, in front of the net and on the defensive end that Fast used to provide.
Blackwell’s first goal as a Ranger came on a tip-in of a shot from the point by Adam Fox, a fellow Harvard product. The two weren’t at Harvard at the same time but knew each other before Blackwell signed with the Rangers as a free agent in October.
"I missed him by a year,’’ Blackwell said. "But we have a ton of mutual friends, and right when I signed here, he was probably one of the first people that I texted.’’