And The Rangers 7th Defenseman Is???
In today’s National Hockey League, defense is the glue that holds a team together. Especially through times of hard times during a long season. When things breakdown on the ice, the defense is usually the last line before something bad happens.
The New York Rangers over the past few years have made a killing off of their defensive core. Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi have blossomed into excellent hockey players, and became the faces of the Rangers’ defense in a hurry, and they also won the hearts of many fans with their gritty play.
Girardi blocks the most shots out of any player on the Rangers almost every season, and is usually right up there with other defensemen in the league. He sacrifices his body for the sake of winning the hockey game, and that’s what matters most.
McDonagh has evolved into a powerhouse for the team. He makes great defensive plays every night, is strong on the puck, and is also starting to find the offensive side of his game, which only means greater things lie ahead for the Minnesota native.
The Rangers defense this year, including McDonagh and Girardi, also features Marc Staal, John Moore, Kevin Klein, and newcomer Dan Boyle, who was signed as a free-agent over the summer.
This all rounds out into an excellent defensive core, and Alain Vigneault and his staff should call themselves lucky to have one so good.
But the main question floating around in everyone’s heads is “Who will the 7th d-man be?” It’s an interesting topic to think about, considering that the Rangers have some potential guys in the system, but would they be good enough to be on this roster and be a backup or substitute for the main stays?
After looking at this year’s training camp roster, here are the two candidates I thought of that could grab the spot:
Dylan McIlrath- A known player in the organization for a couple of seasons now, and he is aiming to make his mark with the Rangers. A strong, physical defenseman who has been getting seasoned in Hartford, but now he believes he can make the next step. He can fight, hit, and play some solid defense. Qualities that are valued highly by a coaching staff.
He just might be too young and green to get the nod.
Conor Allen- 24 years old, signed as an undrafted free agent back in March of 2013. He played well with the Wolf Pack last season, racking up 31 points in 72 games played, which for a young defenseman is quite good. He has been featured in three preseason games for New York so far in 2014, and he has looked a little shaky, and the likelihood of him being sent back down is high.
Michael Kostka- Looking for new beginnings after being an AHL player for most of his career, Kostka signed with the Rangers back in July, and ever since that moment, he’s been looking to prove why he deserves a spot on this roster. He is a capable defenseman who can limit scoring chances and prevent anything bad from happening. There could be a chance that Vigneault chooses him and gives him a fresh start.
Matt Hunwick- This man has the biggest chance of getting the 7th spot. He also signed with New York back in July, and is looking to crack the roster. At 29 years old, he has served with the Colorado Avalanche and the Boston Bruins, and is also a man who is capable of holding things together in the defensive zone.
With this Thursday marking the beginning of the regular season for the Rangers, Vigneault now has some decisions to make regarding his final roster.
When it comes to the 7th defenseman, I believe he will pick Hunwick because of his NHL experience and he is a little bit more seasoned than the other candidates.