Defenseman Battles

The Rangers defense is the strength of the team. The top five are set. Composed of Captain Ryan McDonagh, Dan Girardi, Marc Staal, Keith Yandle, and Kevin Klein the Rangers still own one of the top defensive rotations in the league. The much maligned Dan Boyle maybe the only returning starter in danger of his starting spot. The biggest battle will be for the 7th and 8th defense spot. That is a nice problem to have.

Calle Andersson

Certainly the least known player in the group, Anderson comes to the Ranger via the Swedish leagues. He skated for the Rangers in the recent Traverse City Tournament.

Elite prospects describes him as an “all-around, two way defenseman.” Will that translate well to the NHL? Who knows? But he will get the chance to prove his case during camp and then the AHL.

Prediction: AHL all the way

Dan Boyle

Boyle may have had his worst year of his long NHL career last season. He totaled just 20 pts in 65 games. Boyle does not play good enough defense to accumulate only 20 points.

In hindsight The Rangers could have saved the money and used John Moore all season, or maybe came up with a little more money for Anton Straalman.

Instead the Rangers got minimal production and were forced to pay a hefty price to acquire Yandle at the deadline in hopes he could do what Boyle could not. Fix the power play.

At this point in his career there seems to be little chance to rebound. Any increase in production will be minimal.

Prediction: Boyle will get the benefit of the doubt and earn the sixth defensive spot out of camp. But the leash will be shorter this year.

Raphael Diaz

The last time Diaz was on the Rangers roster the Rangers were in the Stanley Cup Finals. He was brought back this season for some depth during camp, and to challenge for the seventh defensive spot.

Diaz makes a good candidate for the 7h spot because he knows the system and would not be better suited playing in Hartford like some of the others.

If one of the younger defenseman in camp step up, Diaz’s role comes into question. But if none show enough to make it to Broadway, Diaz may actually make this team.

Prediction: Seventh defenseman, healthy scratch.

Dylan McIlrath

This is the year for McIlrath. The year he either makes the Rangers or moves on. The one time first round draft has failed to impress in his time with the Rangers.

While physically imposing, he is slow of foot and does not move the puck very well. He is probably a better fit for the NHL of yesteryear than the NHL today.

Getting drafted in the first round was certainly a stretch, but that was not McIlrath’s fault. He did not draft himself, but unfortunately for him he has late round ability, but will always be compared to first round type talent.

At the time he was drafted, Glen Sather knew McIlrath was high risk, high reward. At the time the Rangers sported a very passive group of defenseman. Sather may have made a reactionary pick just because he was sick of watching other teams forwards manhandle his Rangers defense.

McIlrath is out of options. He makes the team, or goes on waivers. Ranger fans hope he makes the team, but the magic 8 ball says otherwise.

Prediction: 8th Defenseman. But may be out of town by the start of the season.

Brady Skjei

Skjei is the most exciting player of the group. The first round pick (28th overall) in the 2012 draft was a standout for the University of Minnesota and his fine play continued in the Traverse City tournament.

He is a solid defender, and a good decision maker. He will probably need time to adjust to the speed of the pro game, but very well could push Dan Boyle and possibly Kevin Klein for the fifth or sixth defensive spot.

But that would take a very strong camp. If Yandle can be the player the Rangers hope in regards to the power play, then Skjei’s skill set will work out extremely well.

Predictions: Starting in the AHL. But could find himself with the Rangers by November.

Chris Summers

Summers was the other guy acquired in the Yandle deal. He stuck with the Rangers with a role of “healthy scratch.” Summers did find himself in two games but never was a serious threat to break into the lineup.

Summers should be viewed solely as depth. Things would have to go very badly for the Rangers for Summers to stick with the big club.  Summers is another guy who is out of options. If he does not make the team, he must clear through waivers.

Predictions: Chris Summers will be the forgotten man in the Yandle deal. AHL, but maybe not Hartford.