By signing Kevin Shattenkirk, the New York Rangers may have just made Brady Skjei and Ryan McDonagh better players for this upcoming season.
The New York Rangers signed defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk to a four-year contract to give them an offensive defenseman, especially one who can play on the power play. That’s exactly what they got in Shattenkirk as he directly fits the bill for the player the Rangers need.
He has at least 25 power play points in each of the past four seasons, with at least 19 power play assists in each of those seasons. He should be an important piece for the Rangers given their seemingly endless struggles on the power play.
The Rangers weren’t necessarily bad on the power play last year…they executed 20.2 percent of power plays, good for 11th in the league. While that isn’t bad, it certainly isn’t great by any stretch.
Additionally, the Rangers were carried by their forward group on the power play last season while the team struggled to generate any points from their defense. Their forward group played well enough to cover the defense last season but that isn’t something that a team can count on repeating on a yearly basis.
The Rangers top two offensive defensemen were Ryan McDonagh and Brady Skjei. However, neither stud was able to claim much success on the power play, with McDonagh collecting 15 points and Skjei collecting seven on the season.
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McDonagh is an incredible defenseman, who should put up even better numbers playing alongside veteran Shattenkirk as opposed to Dan Girardi, who he played with last season. In fact, McDonagh should have his best season playing alongside Shattenkirk.
McDonagh was never a bad player with Girardi but with the addition of Shattenkirk, he’ll make a bigger impact. However, there is one knock against him, and it’s relatively fair. He isn’t great at quarterbacking a power play. He’s never really produced a ton with the man advantage, having only one season where he hit 15 points on the power play, which transpired in this past season.
The team was hoping that veteran free agent signing Dan Boyle could help McDonagh figure out how to quarterback the power play, but simply that didn’t work out quite as well as they were hoping. Boyle struggled and McDongah didn’t improve any more in that area.
It’s not even that McDonagh struggles on the power play because he doesn’t; he just doesn’t excel in that part of the game. With how good he is as an all-around defensemen, not excelling can be mistaken as showing signs of struggle. Ideally, thought, teams want the defenseman on the top power play unit to excel.
Skjei also failed to produce on the powerplay, although he still did far more than most rookie defensemen do. 39 points as a rookie on the blueline is amazing, and seven power play points is nothing to sneeze at, especially as a first-year player.
However, the Rangers want to win now. In order to achieve that, they must get more production from their top power play defenseman. Shattenkirk will help them there individually but as a veteran teammate, he can also help Skjei improve his own skills on the power play.
Young defensemen don’t often enter the league dominating on the power play. They generally need a veteran to show them the ropes, which is again part of the reason why the Rangers got Boyle, in order to help set the stage for McDonagh to learn to run the play.
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Shattenkirk can help Skjei with that aspect of his game. Shattenkirk is a defensive juggernaut and Skjei is quickly on his way to becoming a top offensive defenseman. And it will only be a matter of time until he figures out how to dominate the power play under the guidance of Shattenkirk.
Having a great power play specialist here will help Skjei hit that level sooner. He can learn the tricks of where to put the puck and when to go coast-to-coast from one of the best in the business over the past decade.
Shattenkirk’s only role won’t be helping Skjei. It’s likely he’ll be asked to play top pair minutes and lead the first power play unit. However, his biggest role will be serving as a mentor for Skjei as he continues to develop his game.
Skjei has the talent to be a great power play piece for the Rangers. McDonagh has the leadership qualities to become a great leader in the power play. Shattenkirk can help both of them unlock that potential.