Adam Fox may only be in his third NHL season, but winning the Norris Trophy after his sophomore campaign naturally made the young Rangers defenseman a player to know around the league.
Plus, signing one of the most lucrative deals of the season so far — at $9.5 million per over the next seven years — after starting off the 2021-22 season on the trajectory of potentially another top defenseman award certainly made Fox an even bigger name.
“Everybody knows who Adam Fox is now,” head coach Gerard Gallant said after practice Saturday.
It’s become apparent that opponents are identifying the 23-year-old, and his defensive partner Ryan Lindgren, whenever they are on the ice. Fox hasn’t been able to carve up the opposition’s structure nearly as much as he did last season, though he’s still managed to do it a handful of times.
Teams have also made a point to play Fox a bit more physically than in the past, often giving him an extra whack with a stick or ensuring they finish their checks on him along the boards. Fox said he hasn’t necessarily noticed it all that much, but even so, it doesn’t change how he approaches the game.
“I think teams play a certain way against certain teams, certain players,” he said. “I think it’s different for everyone. Obviously now, as opposed to two years ago, maybe guys know me a little more and the way I play.
“But it doesn’t change anything for me. I think you still try and play the same way, I think you still try and make plays, play well defensively. Maybe, but it doesn’t change much for the way I play.”
The Jericho, N.Y., native added that, if anything, players have focused more on taking away his time and space. Still, Fox’s 16 points through 17 games entered Saturday tied with the Predators’ Roman Josi for the NHL lead among defensemen. His 12 assists were also tied with the Blackhawks’ Seth Jones for the second most among NHL defensemen.
Fox is also averaging just under a point per game (0.94).
The Rangers’ defense as a whole, however, has come a long way from the first few games, according to Fox. He believes they’ve improved their positioning in order to limit shots from the slot, which is something they struggled with earlier in the season.
“I think we’ve done a good job of limiting a lot more Grade A’s than we were giving up earlier in the year,” Fox said. “If they do get some O-zone time, obviously a team like Toronto has a lot of great players, they’re going to be in the offensive zone, just keep them to the perimeter more than Grade A’s from the slot like last time.”
Other NHL teams may have changed the way they play Fox, but No. 23 is still leading the Rangers defense like he has since he was a rookie.
“I think he certainly drew a lot of attention last year, I mean, playing the same teams over and over,” Chris Kreider said. “They knew what he was bringing every single night. But that’s something that I think you’ve seen over the course of his career. Teams are definitely trying to figure out ways to contain him, trying to play him physical.
“There’s definitely an emphasis, as there should be because he’s the best defenseman in the league. But I’m just glad he’s on our team, I wouldn’t know how to defend him.”