Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren shining bright for Rangers
You could call it kismet or just pure luck but as it stands, the Rangers’ best defensive pairing at the moment are two rookies. Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren are showing what they are made of and are proving to the fans that the direction this team is going in is the right one. That last statement may come off as a bit presumptuous, but it’s hard to ignore the impact both players are having on this current team.
What Does The Fox Say?
Months of speculation became reality as Adam Fox declined to sign with the Carolina Hurricanes. Soon after, on April 30, 2019, Fox’s rights were acquired by the Rangers for a second-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft and a conditional third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft. Many saw this as an overpay at the time for a guy who hadn’t yet proven himself at the NHL level, but sometimes an “overpay” is necessary. The Rangers certainly were willing to take that gamble.
Only coming in at 5’11”, Fox is on the smaller side but has been the Rangers best defenseman this season. Going into the January 9th matchup with New Jersey, Fox has 23 points (5G, 18A) in 42 games along with a plus/minus rating of +3. In addition, he ranks high on the possession metrics as well.
Averaging over half a point per game and getting top-four minutes on a nightly basis, Fox has exceeded Year 1 expectations. He has shown a level of poise with the puck that was always evident in lower levels, and his average north-south speed has not been an issue thanks to good edges and anticipation. He has helped the Rangers in the puck-possession game with a 6.2 relative Corsi for, which is tops among rookies. Fox moves the puck remarkably well, racking up assists and aiding in the transition game. His move from college to the NHL has gone better than I anticipated, especially in a difficult situation with the rebuilding Rangers.Chris Peters/ESPN.com
The buyout of Kevin Shattenkirk last summer had many worried that the Rangers defense would miss some of his offensive abilities. But, with the emergence of Fox, those worries have all been forgotten. Fox has taken Shattenkirk’s spot and run with it, by becoming better than what most expected. As he did with Harvard, Fox skates with poise and isn’t afraid to move the puck up the ice and become part of the offense or make a tough pass when needed. Fox displays incredible vision when he is on the ice, whether it’s making a quick pass out of the defensive zone, or contributing on the power play. Additionally, his defensive positioning is superb, always being where he needs to be when in his own zone. There’s rarely ever a time you see Fox make a glaring mistake on the back end. His maturity and poise have been a breath of fresh air for the boys in blue.
It’s also worth noting that the Rangers haven’t had much mobility on the back end for some time before Fox. Even though the team has boasted guys like Ryan McDonagh, Kevin Shattenkirk, Brady Skjei, Tony DeAngelo, Matt Gilroy and Michael Del Zotto amongst others, none have shown the mobility and prowess that Adam Fox currently brings to the organization. Fox’s skill set with and without the puck is similar to what Brian Leetch brought to New York. Now, while Fox won’t be the second coming of Leetch, it’s definitely not far fetched to compare Fox’s skill set to the longtime Blueshirt and Hockey Hall of Famer. The Rangers must’ve known this and were willing to take a gamble on him. So far, that gamble has paid off tenfold.
There’s an argument to be made that Fox has been the Rangers’ best defenseman through the first 30 games of the season. Quinn has remarked on several occasions that “he’s made the transition to the National Hockey League look a little bit easier than it should be.”
The former NCAA star for Harvard entered game No. 31 Thursday against the San Jose Sharks ranked third in the league among rookie defensemen with 16 points (five goals and 11 assists).
…Playing a good all-around game meant disproving the notion that he would struggle handling his defensive responsibilities while going straight from college to the pros.
If there’s anything Fox has shown in his early days with the Rangers, it’s the ability to figure things out quickly.
Two second-round picks certainly feels like a price worth paying.
“One of the things that I’ve been impressed with Adam from the start was his commitment to playing defense and managing his offensive ability — knowing when to get involved offensively,” Quinn said. “I think he’s lost that a little bit lately, and he’s certainly trying to get back on track from that end of it. But you’re talking about a guy who’s had a really good start to his career.”Vincent Z. Mercogliano/lohud.com
“He brings snarl”
During the January 8th episode of the Forever Blueshirts Radio podcast, Forever Blueshirts founder Anthony Scultore mentioned that only two players on the current Rangers roster had snarl to them. One was Jacob Trouba and the other was Ryan Lindgren.
Along with a lack of mobility, one of the things the Rangers back end lacked was toughness. Initially, Dylan McIlrath was supposed to bring that kind of edge, but that experiment faded into the night without a whimper. Enter Ryan Lindgren.
Lindgren was acquired by the Rangers in 2018 as part of a trade that sent Rick Nash to the Bruins. New York took advantage of the overabundance of defensemen that Boston boasted and landed a guy who not only brings snarl but has a strong defensive game and brings character to the back end. So far this season, Lindgren has put up admirable numbers in the NHL. Going into the January 9th matchup against the Devils, he’s notched eight points and most importantly, a plus/minus rating of +4. Not to mention, he’s used his body aplenty, including his latest hit on Joonas Donskoi of Colorado.
His compete level adds to his snarl and overall tenacity on the back end of the ice. Although he won’t light up the scoreboard, Lindgren is seen as a reliable stay at home defensemen with some mobility in his legs and an edge to his game. Here are some things mentioned about Ryan Lindgren’s playstyle:
Brady Skjei described fellow University of Minnesota defenseman Ryan Lindgren as a “character player” and someone that can shut down the other team’s top line. (NHL.com)
Lindgren is considered to be more of a “throwback” type of shutdown defenseman and Chris Drury said that he was someone the Rangers wanted from Boston because of his character, leadership and compete levels (Rick Carpinello/The Athletic)
Lindgren skates well, move the puck “competently” and is a “great defender who battles at a high-end level. (Corey Pronmann/The Athletic)
Bob Motzko, who coached St. Cloud St as well as Lindgren in the World Juniors, said that Lindgren is just such a battler, he’ll just dust it off and go play.” (Eric Vegoe/The Athletic)
Mike Guentzel, who was a coach at Minnesota, said that Lindgren is “heart, character” and a kind of toughness that doens’t always come with players from the Minnesota area. Eric Vegoe/The Athletic
A character player with high compete levels and a strong defender are exactly the things the Rangers hoped for Lindgren, and so far the youngster has lived up to those expectations in his time in New York. His toughness and compete level can be compared to a Dan Girardi type and his defensive play and skating ability, along with his leadership qualities can be compared to traits similar to that of Ryan McDonagh.
The key to building a strong defense is mixing skill, size, and speed. Ryan Lindgren brings the size and speed to that equation, along with being a skilled puck handler in his own right. New York saw these traits and see him as a valuable asset to the rebuild going forward.
In addition to their complementary skill sets, both Lindgren and Fox were part of the US National Team Development program. This prior experience together is also a strong factor for both players doing well for New York this season.
And they have also experienced a few developmental stages together, making their reunion in New York that much more notable.
“I’ve known Foxy a long time,” Lindgren said after practice Monday. “We played together at the U.S. National Development Program in Ann Arbor. We were there for two years together, and we played at World Juniors twice together. [I’m] very familiar with his game — he’s a very easy guy to play with. We’re good friends off the ice. I think that helps too.”
Lindgren and Fox were teenagers when they began playing together in the USA Hockey National Team Development Program, which prepares players under the age of 18 for participation on U.S. national teams.
They also won gold (2017) and bronze (2018) medals together while competing for Team USA in the World Junior Ice Hockey Championships. Mollie Walker/New York Post
These are exciting times for Rangers fans, as we are beginning to see the fruits of the rebuild begin to sprout. Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren are just two examples of many that are the result of the organizational change that has been set forward. Fox with his sleek skating, strong defensive mind and offensive prowess added with Lindgren’s toughness, snarl and tenacity have given the Rangers a potential defensive pairing for the ages. Both players are thriving and proving not only to be the Rangers’ best current defensive pairing but also proving that this rebuild is going a lot better than most anticipated. Once both players begin to elevate their play styles to another level, they seem poised to lead the back end, as did McDonagh and Girardi all those years ago.