Does Matt Rempe Belong in the NHL?

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Every kid playing hockey, whether in the streets of sunny Florida or the freezing rinks of Toronto, shares the same dream: to one day play in the NHL. Matt Rempe, growing up in Calgary, Alberta shared that same dream, and in recent weeks has been given the opportunity to live that dream out.

Rempe played in the WHL for the Seattle Thunderbirds and was drafted in the sixth round of the 2020 NHL draft by the New York Rangers. The forward was never considered superstar material and was initially passed up in the 2018 WHL Bantam Draft and cut by the Thunderbirds during training camp. The following year, he made the team but dealt with an injury that had him miss time at the beginning of the season. He was invited to Rangers training camp three years in a row and was assigned to the AHL affiliate Hartford Wolf Pack for the 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 seasons. Then his chance came when the Rangers, bitten by the injury bug, needed a forward to fill in their bottom six.

Rempe began his journey to the NHL as a lanky kid with some raw talent. As he’s dealt with setbacks, he’s committed to growing and making the changes he needed to make to find success. He began seriously training in the gym to bulk up a bit more, working on his on-ice skills and honing his ability to generate offense. He began to impress not only his WHL and AHL coaches and mentors but also NHL scouts. The Rangers saw his potential and his ability to learn and grow as a player.

In his brief time in the NHL, Rempe has garnered a reputation as a fighter, but that hasn’t always been his role. He had participated in about 25 fights in total during his five WHL/AHL seasons. His play had focused more on creating opportunities for his teammates and protecting the puck with his size. But Rempe is aware that he’s no Connor Bedard or Macklin Celebrini, it’s not a given that he would ever be on an NHL roster or that he’ll continue to be on one. Like he’s proven in the past, he’s willing to change his game if it means he’ll make the cut. Rempe’s felt pressure to be the physical, tough guy for the Rangers in fear that that’s the only role for him on the team.

Within his first week of NHL games, many criticized Rempe’s play and if the Rangers were possibly encouraging the 21-year-old to repeatedly engage in potentially dangerous physical actions. Rangers head coach Peter Laviolette has said that the coaching staff has taken an approach of teaching Rempe how to effectively use his size while honing the other elements of his game. Given that Rempe is leaning into a more physical approach to the game than what he’s previously displayed, there’s been a learning curve for him on what’s acceptable and what’s crossing the line.

The March 11th match-up against the rival New Jersey Devils saw Rempe serve an elbow to the head of Devils defenseman Jonas Seigenthaler. The hit cost Rempe a four-game suspension. For a player hoping to stay in the lineup for the rest of the season and potentially the playoffs, that’s not an ideal scenario. Should the Rangers play well without Rempe, his time in The Show could be up.

It’s of note that Rempe is debuting in a unique market and situation. His first NHL game was the Stadium Series match-up against the Islanders with an audience of 70,000. He’s trying to make it on a professional sports team in New York City, a feat that is not easy. There’s been much media and fan attention on him, both positive and negative. Up to this point, Matt Rempe has faced numerous challenges in his hockey career and his personal life, losing his father unexpectedly in 2018. He has risen to every challenge and he feels he has come out stronger because of it. He faces a new challenge, addressing what kind of hockey player he will be. Will he become the instigator and the villain who toes the line of what’s legal? Will he work with the talents he has and improve where he’s able to become a better skater, playmaker, and scorer?

Rempe’s captivated the hearts of Rangers fans, not because he’s exceptionally skilled, but because he’s different. He’s large, but he can score. He’s able to knock anyone out, but he also loves to read fantasy books. He’s been undrafted and overlooked, but he keeps up with elite talent on the ice. He gives hope to players who don’t exactly fit the hockey superstar mold: players who don’t have access to the most elite leagues, kids who may be smaller, taller, or shorter than what’s considered average, those who have been told no or cut from teams before. Rempe has chosen to do what he needs to do to create opportunities for himself and now he has to make the most important choice of his career. He can give up the gooning and make the most of the chance he’s been given. He can prove to those who think he’s nothing but a sideshow that he is an NHL-caliber player. Some say Rempe doesn’t belong in the NHL, I think that’s exactly why he does.  

In this week's episode we talk about Schnieder, Lindgren's future with NYR, and with Drury seemingly done with off seaon moves the outlook of this team.How to support us and our sponsors:Columbia Sports ApparelESPN+ SubscriptionFanaticsDraft Kings – CODE ITRThanks for listening! Please rate and review our show on your favorite listening platform. Check out our partner's website at www.insidetherink.com for all your latest hockey news.
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4 thoughts on “Does Matt Rempe Belong in the NHL?

  1. I don’t think it’s a question of whether or not he belongs in the NHL. He has proven in the few games he’s played that he can handle the big stage. He provides a lot of energy that the entire team feeds off each game.
    There are two things working against him… 1) his size and 2) his inexperience. Being 6’8″ and 280 lbs means he towers over most people on the ice. He does not appear to be a malicious player, such as the Matt Cooke or Raffi Tores. He goes out there and tries to use his body as an advantage but I don’t get the impression he’s looking to injure players intentionally. This is where his inexperience comes into the conversation. He needs to learn how to control his body and be effective without crossing the line. This is on the coaching staff to help his as well. If Rempe can become more responsible with his size, then he will continue to be a valuable member of the team; otherwise, he will become a liability on a team that has Stanley Cup aspirations and find himself in the press box during the playoffs.

  2. This kid intentionally took 2 players from his teams Rival out for the season. There is NO way he belongs in this league. They have moved on from this kind of thing so much respect lost to the Rangers for being sneaky and bringing it back. The team in first place doesn’t need this, they’ve been a laughing stock in the NHL for over a century…now they are losing the respect of other teams. I would hope most the players are mad at him. Now they are targets.

    1. Looks like you are a typical Devils fan… always bitter towards the NY Rangers. Didn’t the Devils get an enforcer to get back at everyone that has been pummeling them? Kid comes into the league and from his first game everyone wants to fight him from warm-ups till the end of the game. Now that is ridiculous. The hit against Bastian was a good hit that is why he didn’t get any calls from the NHL, his arms were down, shoulder down, that was like a Mini Cooper having a head on collision with a semi-truck… and Bastian is not a small guy. Second hit, yes not a good hit (chicken wings) but I believe he had no intention of actually hurting the player. Lesson learned move on! Laughingstock in the NHL for over a century? The Rangers are not even 100 years old. As I said before typical Devils fan!

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