Energetic. Tenacious. Quick.
The New York Rangers' leading scorer? Not Scott Gomez. Nope, not Chris Drury, either.
Meet Brandon Dubinsky, a 22-year-old center in his second NHL season who has been the catalyst for the New York Rangers through their first five games, all victories. The Rangers—off to their first 5-0 start since 1983—can owe much of their early season success to this budding star.
Dubinksy spent most of the 2007-2008 campaign playing alongside future hall of famer Jaromir Jagr. Critics wondered if Dubinsky could handle playing with such a grizzly old vet.
Dubinsky proved that and much more.
He developed great chemistry with Jagr and morphed into one of the league's top rookies. During last year's NHL All-Star Weekend, Dubinsky earned MVP honors in the Young Stars Game. It was clear then that this kid was for real. He finished his first full season with 14 goals and 26 assists.
There were many questions about how Dubinsky would fare this season, with Jagr making the transition across the pond to play in Russia. Dubinsky and his linemates Aaron Voros and Nicholai Zherdev, both new to the Ranger organization, are the top three scorers on the team. Dubinsky is also tied for the lead in penalty minutes.
He has shown a maturity well beyond his years. Playing with guys like Jagr and Brendan Shanahan clearly had an affect on him, which is evident in how he plays the game. He gives 110 percent effort during every shift. He goes hard into the corners or goes end to end on a rush to score a goal.
He'll even take on the other team's captain or tough guy in a fight if he has to. A prime example was on Saturday. With the Rangers leading the Flyers 4-0, Flyers captain Mike Richards was looking for a way to energize his team and he went looking for a scrap. Dubinsky was there at center ice to honor the request. They went toe to toe like two heavyweights in a ring.
The fight reminded every Rangers fan of the night at the Garden in December of 2006, when Brendan Shanahan was looking to spark his Rangers team through what had been a lackluster effort against the Washington Capitals.
Shanahan did just that, taking on Washington tough guy Donald Brashear in a similar center ice fight. The Rangers ended up winning that game on Marek Malik's circus shot between his legs in a shootout.
Whether it is fighting or scoring, it is clear that Dubinsky attended every class of "Rookie 101." The way he plays the game is the way Head Coach Tom Renney teaches it, and the way his former teammates helped nurture him along in his first year.
Dubinsky has even already taken on that roll of "teacher" himself.
Linemate Nicholai Zherdev came to New York in a trade earlier this year. He came with the reputation of a guy who showed up one night but not the next. To date, we haven't seen that guy play for the Rangers.
Instead, Zherdev has been spectacular. Much of that comes from playing with Dubinsky.
Playing in New York is clearly different than playing in Columbus, and it looks like Zherdev is just a guy who wants to fit in. It has been said that Dubinsky spends time with him off the ice, showing him around New York and inviting him over for dinner.
Clearly, Dubinsky has the makings of leader. Remember, this Rangers roster is fairly young. Of course, you have Drury, Gomez, and new Ranger Wade Redden. But much of the team's players have under three years of NHL experience. Dubinsky will play a key role in helping the young guys adjust to the NHL and to New York.
While off the ice you see a baby-faced kid, on the ice is a young man who plays the game with great energy and passion. When he scores a goal or sets up a teammate's goal, he has the expression of a youth hockey player who just scored his first goal.
He will mix it up with the rough stuff as well, protecting his teammates when needed. He plays on the power play and the penalty kill.
This kid is a star in the making, and the Garden Faithful have quickly recognized that. "Dubi" is clearly a fan favorite. This is shaping up to be a big year for Dubinsky, and maybe a big year for the Rangers, too.