Adam Fox
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Rangers’ blueline has been their greatest strength early in 2021.

In a tumultuous start to the season, the New York Rangers defense has been solid. The questionable third pairing was the only issue to begin the season.

Jack Johnson was as bad as advertised and then suffered an injury and has yet to return. Brendan Smith is also recovering from an injury.


Tony DeAngelo was struggling and then found himself embroiled in drama resulting in the Rangers cutting ties with him. The good news is that the current pairing of Anthony Bitetto and Libor Hájek has been better than expected.

Let’s take a look at what’s made the defense so effective, so far.

Note: Players are ranked according average ice-time, from most to least. This list does not include players who have been featured in fewer than nine games.

Adam Fox, RHD

Behind Artemi Panarin, Adam Fox has been the Rangers’ second-best player. It’s hard to believe he’s in his second season.

Fox is a force to be reckoned with at both ends of the ice and is well on his way to becoming one of the best defensemen in the game.

To no surprise, Fox has been incredibly important to the team on the power play and on the penalty kill. He already has one goal, five primary assists, and a secondary assist in 11 games and has come up with some huge plays in his own zone.

Day by day, Fox takes a step forward on his path to becoming New York’s best defenseman since the legendary Brian Leetch.

Grade: A

Jacob Trouba

Jacob Trouba, RHD

It’s easy for fans to attack Jacob Trouba because of his obscenely large contract, but his play has improved dramatically in his second year in Manhattan.

He has two primary assists on the season and has contributed offensively, but his defense has looked very solid. Trouba seems much more well-rounded this season and appears to be getting better game by game.

Great all-around play from Trouba is key if the team’s top-four defensemen hope to continue to be so dangerous.

Grade: B+

Ryan Lindgren, LHD

Since coming over to New York from Boston, Ryan Lindgren has been a surprise. He’s taken an even bigger step this season. A defensive defenseman, Lindgren has been great in that aspect, but has also been surprisingly good in the offensive zone.

He’s been much grittier and physical than past seasons, and isn’t afraid when going up against big, dangerous players. His great play has stood out even more so recently, when he’s been one of the team’s best players on the ice.

He and his linemate Fox are becoming quite the dangerous pairing.

Grade: A-

K’Andre Miller, LHD

Last but certainly not least is the rookie, K’Andre Miller. This is Miller’s firs season in the NHL, but he sure doesn’t play like he’s new to this. He exhibits maturity when on the ice and has been cool, calm, and collected.

Miller has a goal, a primary assist, and two secondary assists on the season, and has looked solid offensively. Defensively, Miller has been great, and it looks like he makes a goal-saving play every game.

He’s a big guy, and uses his large frame and long stick to his advantage. His teammates and coach have praised his play, and he’s earned a spot as a mainstay as a top-four defenseman on this team.

These stats show just how great Miller has been, especially as a rookie:

Grade: A-

Leen has written about the MLB, NBA, NFL, NHL, and international soccer. She is currently the primary NHL writer for ESNY. Leen's work has been featured on Bleacher Report and she was formerly a contributor for FanSided's New York Mets blog, Rising Apple. She is a co-host of the Yankees-Mets Express podcast.