One of the biggest stories of the season for the New York Rangers has been the play of defenseman Ryan McDonagh. Not only has his defensive play been impressive, but also his ability to put the puck in the back of the net. He is amongst the crop of generational elite defensemen alongside names like Alex Pietrangelo, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Erik Karlsson.
McDonagh’s offense has been a big surprise and an even bigger boost to the Rangers this season. He has scored 14 goals and added 29 assists for 43 points, good for fourth overall on the team. His 43 points tie him for 11th overall in scoring by defensemen and his 14 goals are good to be tied for fourth from the blueline. What’s even more radical is that he has three shorthanded goals on the year, which leads the team and is the most by any NHL defenseman this year. While not the most physical player, McDonagh is ranked second on the Rangers in blocked shots with 126 on the season.
Yet stats never tell the entire story in hockey. Just watching McDonagh, anyone can realize just how good he has been for the Rangers this year. This is only McDonagh’s fourth professional season and just his third full year in the NHL, yet he makes it look easy. His poise and control in the defensive zone are very noticeable, as he is always in the right position to take away shooting angles and muscle opponents off of the puck. Don’t forget that McDonagh plays almost 25 minutes a night in all situations including on both the top power play and penalty killing units.
If McDonagh doesn’t win the Norris Trophy this season, then he will at least garner the attention of the league and improve his odds for future seasons. The Rangers haven’t had this good of a defenseman since Brian Leetch, and McDonagh may prove to be that generational talent for New York. Look for McDonagh to wear the ‘C’ sooner than later for the Rangers and have a few trophies on his shelf before he hangs up his skates.