Kevin Shattenkirk at 2018 Winter Classic
(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

After only playing in 46 games last season, Kevin Shattenkirk has quite a bit to prove this upcoming season. After a year plagued with injuries, the pressure is now on Shattenkirk to be the game-changing presence on defense that he was lauded to be prior to his signing.

Suffering from a knee injury early in the season and then subsequently playing through it until the season’s halfway point, New York Rangers defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk suffered from a rather disappointing 2017-2018 season.

While healthy last season, Shattenkirk performed at a high level. His ability to create scoring chances off the rush with his elite vision and pristine puck-carrying ability is second to very few in the league.

But when Shattenkirk injured his knee, he, as expected, left much to be desired.

His defensive play suffered and his offensive game declined dramatically. After all, it’s common sense that if one’s skating ability is hindered, his ability to drive an offense is directly stymied as well.

This season, the 29-year-old defenseman will have to prove his worth. After signing a four year, $26.6 million contract, Shattenkirk will have to help carry the weight of a seemingly inept defensive corps.

To me, if Shattenkirk is used as a second-line defenseman on the top power-play unit, he can greatly help this team. A partner like Neal Pionk would be perfect for Shattenkirk. While he is inexperienced, his skill and speed, coupled with a more defensive mindset, would allow Shattenkirk to flourish.

With this potential combination in mind, Shattenkirk would be allowed to play his game while being sheltered from defending against a team’s top offensive threats.

If healthy and used properly, one could figure that Shattenkirk could put up to 60 points this season. Such an output would help this young team tremendously, while also allowing the team’s power-play to surge.

Shattenkirk’s ability should not be questioned, especially at this stage in his career. If he’s fully healthy and has a proper line-mate, the sky is the limit.

While it is fun to sit in a circle and attempt to predict how healthy a player will be in the coming season, it is nearly an impossible endeavor.

So I can only wonder how Shattenkirk will perform if healthy. Personally, with new head coach David Quinn, who coached Shattenkirk in college, I believe that Shattenkirk’s abilities will be fully emphasized and that he will put up around 50 points this season.

A properly repaired torn meniscus shouldn’t weaken him in the long-run, and we should finally be able to see the player we’ve been waiting to see since the summer of 2017.