New York Rangers head coach David Quinn will help the team get the most out of young defenseman Anthony DeAngelo in 2018-19 and beyond.
New York Rangers defenseman Anthony DeAngelo had a trying season in 2017-18. He scored only eight points in 32 games, struggled defensively, could never seem to get out of Alain Vigneault’s doghouse, and spent a good chunk of the season in the AHL.
While he suffered an injury towards the end of the season that robbed him of needed experience, Rangers management and fans shouldn’t give up on the offensive-minded defenseman just yet. Natural growth and new coach David Quinn will help him become a strong NHL defenseman.
DeAngelo’s struggles last season were notable. He gave the puck away 29 times and was a minus-18. While +/- is a somewhat flawed stat, his advanced stats were not much better. His CF percentage was 53.7 percent, meaning the team possessed the puck more often than not while he was on the ice. However, he was shielded, seeing 68.2 percent of his starts in the offensive zone, a sign that the coaching staff didn’t trust him defensively.
He showed that there was good cause for that concern, as the Rangers on-ice save percentage while he was on the ice was a very poor 88.4 percent. Simply put, while he was able to possess the puck more often than not, the team was giving up too many high-quality scoring chances while he was on the ice.
Whether viewed through the traditional or advanced lenses, Deangelo struggled last season. So why hold out hope he will be better in 2018? There are a few reasons.
First up is his pedigree. He turns 23 in October and was the 19th overall pick in 2014. He would have been drafted higher had it not been for discipline and attitude concerns that lowered his draft stock and have been talked about ad infinitum, and issues that he has seemingly corrected.
DeAngelo has played 71 NHL games, which for any player, especially a defenseman, is an extremely small sample size. He’s also very young for an NHL defenseman to have sustained success. Ryan Ellis, Jake Gardiner, and Mark Giordano are all defensemen who didn’t break out until they were in their late 20’s, or 30 in Giordano’s case.
Secondly, DeAngelo is an amazingly fast and skilled defenseman. He can skate with anybody in the league, and he has amazing vision. He struggles with turnovers because he’s yet to adjust to NHL opponents. The risks that he got away with taking in junior hockey won’t work in the NHL, and he hasn’t gotten away with them at the pro level.
As a young player, his defense has lagged behind. While that is not uncommon, even for a defenseman, his issues were placed under a microscope due to the Rangers’ overall defensive struggles.
He’s struggled to react to the speed of opposing forwards. He couldn’t process how offenses were attacking him, he found himself too concerned with making the difficult play to get the puck out of the zone and starting a counter-attack. It’s not an uncommon issue for young defensemen, especially when they were drafted for their offensive ability.
This is where David Quinn can help him. At Boston University as an assistant, and later as a head coach, he was instrumental in developing young defensemen and getting them ready for the pro level.
He knows Kevin Shattenkirk from his days as an assistant coach at BU. Shattenkirk, speaking to MSG, referenced that when he got to college he was all offense and had no real interest in defending, nor did he have the confidence to do so successfully. He also worked with Charlie McAvoy, who is quickly establishing himself as one of the best young defensemen in the NHL.
Quinn took Shattenkirk and turned him into a passable defensive player, which is fine considering his offensive skill set. DeAngelo is a similar offensive player to Shattenkirk.
DeAngelo has the mindset and speed to be a passable defensive player. While passable may not sound great, keep in mind two key facts. He will be a great offensive player, and the Rangers don’t need him to be a shutdown defender.
The Rangers goalie is future Hall of Famer Henrik Lundqvist, and the heir apparent, Igor Shestyorkin, has been dominating the KHL for the past two seasons. These are goalies that are good enough that they will make it work with passable defensive players.
DeAngelo simply has too much talent for the Rangers to give up on just yet. The point of hiring Quinn was that he is a coach who excels at player development. It’s time to let him do what he was hired for with the very talented young defenseman.