New York Rangers, Mats Zuccarello
Photo by Bergen Record

With so many questions marks regarding the New York Rangers defensive corps,  Ryan McDonagh needs to have a career year if the Blueshirts want any chance of competing this year.

Ever since Ryan McDonagh arrived in New York in one for the best trades in Rangers history, expectations have been sky high for the former 2007 12th overall pick. People expected him to be a number one defenseman who would be able to put up 60 points a year, be able to kill penalties, and stop any forward, anywhere on the ice.

McDonagh hasn’t necessarily lived up to those expectations yet.

He is a premier penalty killing defenseman who can take the puck away from the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, but he’s still waiting for the offensive side of his game to come around.

The Rangers need an explosion from McDonagh this year, especially offensively.

If you go through his career numbers, they certainly aren’t bad. He put up 43 points back in 2013-2014 and he has put up point totals of 33 and 34 in his last two seasons. Once again it’s nothing to lose sleep about, but many expected more by now from the 25-year-old.

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Bigger responsibility could help out McDonagh’s production offensively. With Keith Yandle being traded to Florida, McDonagh will likely take over on the first power play unit. He had 9 points on the man advantage last year in limited appearances, considering he was on the second unit. Barring a late offseason trade, McDonagh’s role at the point of the PP will definitely be expanded, leading to an increase in point production.

One could make an argument that McDonagh was hindered by the Rangers inability to create odd man rushes. The captain’s speed and puck handling ability were put to no use, as the Rangers tried to slow down the game.

This year could see a change in mindset, however.

The acquisition of Mika Zibanejad and the long term signing of Chris Kreider shows the direction that the Rangers are going in. It appears that Jeff Gorton and Alain Vigneault want players that are fast and willing to get down and dirty, just like they did during their cup run.

McDonagh fits this bill perfectly.

McDonagh has incredible speed for a defenseman and he uses his body exceptionally to knock opposing players off the puck. His ability to block shots (138 last year) shows that he’s ready to do whatever it takes to win, just as a captain should.

The Rangers need McDonagh now more than ever. The departure of The aforementioned Yandle to Florida certainly doesn’t help, and with so many question marks regarding whether this defensive corps has what it takes to compete has put a big burden on the shoulders of the Blueshirt’s number one defenseman in this upcoming season.

It’s not like McDonagh doesn’t have the capability to have a huge season because he does, but this year he has to put it together. He has been the Rangers best defenseman and in the playoffs, especially during their run to the Stanley Cup Finals (17 points in 25 games), has been one of the NHL’s best defensemen.

But if the Rangers want any chance of competing, this guy is going to turn in to the star that everyone knows he is capable of.

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