Ryan McDonagh has been a major piece to the New York Rangers defensive corps. The six-foot-one, 216-pound, left-handed defenseman currently has scored two goals but has tallied 23 assists giving him a total of 25 points this season. While providing a bit of offensive flair to the Rangers’ blueline, McDonagh plays sound defense and takes on some of the National Hockey League’s best skaters. He is in his third season as the Rangers captain and is the go to leader on the team. His ability to make quick decisions and big time plays helps make him the best defenseman on the squad.
For the second straight year now, McDonagh has been named to the NHL’s All-Star game. Last year he was the lone Rangers representative and he will repeat that once again this season. He will be suiting up with fellow Metropolitan Division defensemen Justin Faulk (Carolina Hurricanes) and Seth Jones (Columbus Blue Jackets). Like all the other players selected this year, McDonagh has done more than just earn his role on the Metro team. Behind Pittsburgh Penguins Kris Letang, McDonagh is second in the Metropolitan Division in time-on-ice per game (24:09). He leads all all Metro D-men in assists with 23. He is also one of only four defensemen with assists in at least 18 games this season.
McDonagh has been stellar for the Rangers. Is he perfect? No, he is not, but he is good enough for the Rangers and for the All-Star game. The Rangers are treading water right now. From the outside it may look okay for them, as they sit in sixth place in the entire NHL, but out of the five teams above them, three are in the Metropolitan Division. Needless to say, the division is dangerous and full of spectacular teams. And to top it off, the Rangers have been sluggish as of late December. They cannot afford to fall off the train and risk either earning a low seed in the playoffs or missing them altogether.
This time of the year is very critical and teams rely on winning to help them climb the standings. If the Rangers want to do that, they need to rely on their players, more specifically the defense. The Rangers offense is explosive and can score, but the defense needs to be able to hold their own and halt other teams from putting the puck in the net.
McDonagh will be the main key to making sure the Rangers stay hot. He is the captain and has a voice in the room, but is also the Rangers’ top-pair defensemen. Recently, coach Alain Vigneault decided to shake up the lines and drop Dan Girardi, who was originally paired with McDonagh and raise Brady Skjei to play alongside McDonagh. The move was made in hopes that the youth and talent of Skjei will help blend with McDonagh’s style of play, all while dropping Girardi off the line (considered to be declining).
Another thing to note, McDonagh currently sits at 25 points. The Rangers have played exactly 41 games- marking the halfway point of the 2016-17 season. If McDonagh stays on track, he is set to score a career-high 50 points (His most coming in 2013-14, when NYR went to the Stanley Cup Final, when he had 43 points). He is just nine away from tying last season’s point count. With the year he is having, as long as he stays healthy and plays hard, he is arguably a potential Norris Trophy darkhorse this season.