New York Rangers Preview Part II: The Defensemen

Jacob Trouba

A new-look Rangers blue line will look to develop chemistry quickly.

When Jack Johnson was the third overall pick in the NHL Draft, K’Andre Miller was five-years-old. Now, they’re teammates with the New York Rangers.

Miller joins Adam Fox as the future of the Rangers’ blue line; Johnson was brought in to provide veteran stability. How will this mix of youth and experience work on the ice?

Let’s break down the group of defensemen skating for the Rangers in the new season.

The Defensemen

The Rangers blueline is going to feature a few new guys along with several familiar faces, so let’s see how Quinn will likely pair everyone up.

Before making his NHL debut, Adam Fox was one of the best defensive prospects in hockey and was expected to be excellent. In his rookie season, he did not disappoint.

Fox emerged as the Rangers’ best defenseman, and the hope is that he can be just as solid in his sophomore season. The soon-to-be 23-year-old RHD will be a staple in New York’s top four.

One of the Rangers’ top prospects, K’Andre Miller was so good at training camp that Quinn felt comfortable enough to put him on the opening night roster and likely on the team’s top pairing.

According to his teammates and the coaches, Miller looked calm and confident at camp. The soon-to-be 21-year-old is expected to become a core piece of the Rangers defense, and the hope is that he will be able to prove why from the get-go.

Anthony Bitetto is another player the Rangers added to provide depth. Bitetto, a 30-year-old LHD who spent last season with the Winnipeg Jets, cleared waivers and will be a member of the Rangers’ taxi squad.

Tony DeAngelo’s antics off the ice have garnered more attention than what he does on the ice lately but, with the season approaching and with DeAngelo off Twitter, it’s time to talk about his upcoming season.

As an offensive defenseman, DeAngelo was elite last year, scoring 53 points (15 goals, 38 assists)- all career-highs- in 68 games. He was one of the best in the league from that standpoint.

However, DeAngelo is a defensive liability, something that makes his role on the team’s blueline generally uncertain. DeAngelo has never really had a good linemate, and that’s a contributing factor.

Most recently, he played alongside Marc Staal, who’s barely serviceable at this stage in his career, on the team’s third pairing. It looks like that’s where he will return this season.

DeAngelo will need to be as offensively effective this year as he was last year, but must focus on improving his defense, especially if he hopes to stay in New York for a long time.

Once a top defensive prospect, it doesn’t appear as though Libor Hajek has much of a future with the Rangers.

He did make the taxi squad, but it really doesn’t seem like he’s going to be able to earn a long-term spot in the team’s defense, due to poor play and the fact that the team’s defensive prospects are extremely promising.

Hajek, who is turning 23 in February, is still relatively young, but the LHD would need to have a stretch of excellent play in order to factor into the team’s long-term plans, and that doesn’t seem likely.

Let’s get straight to the point: over the past few years, Jack Johnson has been one of the worst defensemen in the NHL. He’s a defensive liability and doesn’t provide much offense.

Fans were upset that the Rangers acquired him during the offseason, and the fact that he’ll be playing alongside DeAngelo isn’t exactly something to look forward to.

The good news is that he’ll be playing on the third pairing and if his play is so bad that he needs to be benched, Quinn shouldn’t hesitate to do that.

If someone had said two years ago that Ryan Lindgren would be the Rangers’ number one LHD, no one would’ve believed them. He’s been a warrior for the Rangers and has forced himself to the top of the Rangers blueline.

He’s coming off an excellent season with Fox, and the two of them will look to do it again this year. Lindgren, especially, must make sure he has an excellent sophomore season in order to remain part of the team’s long-term defensive plans.

Another top prospect, 19-year-old LHD Matthew Robertson was able to earn a spot on the Rangers’ taxi squad. That doesn’t mean that he’ll necessarily get NHL minutes this season, but it is a good sign.

He doesn’t seem far away and given that the organization expects him to have a good future with the team, that’s definitely a good thing.

Brendan Smith actually finished the season on a high note and was able to work his way into the blueline’s top-four. Smith is a veteran who’s on the team for depth purposes, and that’s evident in the fact that he’ll likely be the Rangers’ seventh defenseman.

Smith could end up taking Johnson’s spot on the third pairing on multiple occasions, but that won’t be how he’ll start the year.

Trouba was one of the best defensemen in the league during a good chunk of his six years with the Jets. Unfortunately, he had a rough first season on Broadway.

However, the fact that he didn’t play with a talented and reliable linemate throughout most of the season was a significant contributing factor, and that won’t be the case this time around.

Trouba will likely join the rookie Miller on the top pairing. Miller is inexperienced, but the talent and potential are there, and that should bring out the best in Trouba.

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