Defense wins championships.
Ryan McDonagh has been one of, if not the best Rangers defensemen in recent games. Last night on the Versus telecast of the Rangers dropping yet another 1 goal game, Pierre Macguire was drooling all over McDonagh the whole night, and for good reason. McDonagh is the kind of dman that won’t wow you with his offensive prowess, but more likely then not you’ll never see him be nervous with the puck in his own end. And more often then not you’ll never have to single him out for being the key component in a defensive breakdown. McDonagh was the silver lining in the trade that sent Gomez to the Canadiens, and if his career plays out like it’s projected to, hopefully he’s a Ranger for a very long time.
Weight: 213 lbs
Drafted: 1st round (12th overall) in 2007 by the Montreal Canadiens
Contract: $1.3 million (including $425K in bonuses) through the 2012-2013 season. RFA following
NHL Experience: Rookie
Before the NHL:
Another US native on the Rangers roster, McDonagh decided to stay within the country to develop his game as a Dman by taking his talents to Wisconsin to play for the Badgers. McDonagh had a phenomenal career with the Badgers that was higlighted by a 2nd place finish in the 2009-2010 season with fellow Ranger Derek Stepan, as they lost to BC and Chris Kreider in the championship. McDonagh was one of the captains of the Badgers that season and was influential in taking them to the championship game. His +22 that season highlighted statistics of 18 points in 43 games to round out a career of 46 points in 119 appearances for the Badgers.
After battling for a position on the Rangers blueline in training camp, a spot on the team I believed he won, McDonagh was sent to the AHL to learn the pro game a little more. It was not long into the season that McDonagh would be recalled by the Rangers to allow fellow young dman Michael Del Zotto the ability to go to the AHL and hone his craft. McDonagh has appeared in 38 games for the CT Whale this season recording 8 points and a +1. He has cited the work of Wade Redden, his defense partner, in his quick transformation to the professional game.
Although only 21 years of age, McDonagh has twice represented the United States at the World Junior Championships. Once with the U-18 team where he recorded 3 assists in 7 games. And once with the U-20 team in 08-09 where he was able to record 3 assists again, but this time in 6 games. McDonagh was over the age limit in the 09-10 season where Derek Stepan led team USA to a gold medal.
I wouldn’t discount McDonagh’s future in American international hockey as he will represent the US in either the World Championships or Olympic games at some point in his career.
Outlook 2010 – 2011 and Beyond (again skipping the NHL success section):
First off I want to give the respect to Glen Sather on this one. We may not agree with all of his free agent signings, but it has to be said that Sather has been a trade wizard in recent years, and this trade may be his best ever. The trade sent Gomez, Tom Pyatt, and Mike Busto to Montreal in return for Chris Higgins, Doug Janik, Pavel Valentenko (another great D prospect), and of course Ryan McDonagh. The trade freed up the cap space necessary to sign Marian Gaborik in the off-season and begin the transformation of the New York Rangers.
Although McDonagh did not make the team the year he was dealt for and instead opted to return to Wisconsin, he was well worth the wait.
After being called up to the Rangers 15 games ago McDonagh has played in all 15 of these contests. Despite only recording 1 assist in these 15 games, McDonagh has been a staple on the Rangers blueline. He and new defense partner Mike Sauer have been the Rangers best defensive pairing in recent games, and their play has been rewarded with ice time. Averaging 15:47 time on ice for the season, in the past 9 games McDonagh has seen more then this 15:47 in 8 of those games including 4 appearances of over 20 minutes of ice time. Even with his increased work load and responsibility McDonagh has remained a + on the season, sitting at +1 currently.
The reason why McDonagh excites me so much as a Rangers fan is the potential that he possesses. The numbers (1 assist) do not entirely show McDonagh’s style of play. He’s an extremely fluid skater who as he gets more comfortable at the NHL game in his own zone should begin to add more offense to his repertoire. In fact in recent games we are starting to see him get more comfortable in knowing when and when not to join or rush or pinch along the boards. I believe as the Rangers begin to find their game again, McDonagh will be a key component of the offense from the blueline.
There’s a reason why McDonagh was taken with a top 15 pick in the entry draft and the Rangers are lucky enough to develop and reap the benefits of this first rounder.
Both Eddie Olczyk and Macguire last night had no hesitation in discussing the fact that McDonagh will and should be a Ranger for the next decade as a top 4 dman.
Even with the occurring log jam at defense for the Rangers, and how young the Rangers D is right now and how young it’s going to remain through the next few years, McDonagh has the skill to maintain a spot game in and game out.
Admitting the fact that I was nervous when the Rangers traded away Rozsival for Wolski (more on that next week) due to how young the Rangers defense then became, I have to say that most of my apprehensions have dissolved with the emergence of these young dmen, and McDonagh has played a huge part in that fact.
Now, would I be opposed to the Rangers acquiring a veteran blueliner to take some of the burden off of these young guys? Absolutely not, but not at the expense of selling the future…
Staal – Girardi
McDonagh – Sauer
Del Zotto – McIlrath
It’s going to be beautiful.
About the Author
Written by Adam Gavriel