Anthony Deangelo could be a real steal or a major bust
This off-season has been one in which we have seen the Rangers experience a significant amount of roster turnover. Dan Giardi was bought out, Kevin Klein retired (and signed in Europe), and Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta were traded to the Arizona Coyotes. The Rangers were also able to sign the biggest free agent available, Kevin Shattenkirk, to replace Dan Giardi. They signed Ondrej Pavelec to fill the hole left by Raanta, and drafted Lias Andersson with the 7th overall pick. In addition, as has been the case the past few years, the Rangers dove deep into non-traditional markets. Alexei Bereglazov was signed out of the KHL while Vince Pedrie, Neil Pionk, and Vinnie Lettieri were all signed out of the NCAA ranks. However, the most intriguing addition this off-season is Anthony Deangelo, who was part of the return from the Coyotes for Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta.
Diving Deep on Deangelo
Anthony Deangelo was drafted 19th overall in the 2014 NHL entry draft by the Tampa Bay Lightning. In his first season in the AHL, Deangelo flashed the offensive talent that made him such a high draft pick. In his first professional season, 2015-2016, Deangelo played in 69 games with the Syracuse Crunch and scored 43 points (6G, 37A). However, Deangelo also had a -18 plus minus rating. At the 2016 NHL entry draft, Deangelo was traded to the Arizona Coyotes for their second round draft pick. This past season Deangelo split time between Arizona and their AHL affiliate, the Tucson Roadrunners. In the AHL Deangelo played in 25 games and scored 16 points (3G, 13A). In 39 games with the Coyotes, Deangelo scored 14 points (5G, 9A).
Deangelo has an incredible amount of offensive talent. He can skate, he can move the puck extremely well, and as this play shows, Deangelo can finish.
The criticism on Deangelo is that he is not a great defender. Based on analytics charts (beware of small sample size) Deangelo was one of the worst defenders in the NHL when it came to defending the blue line. He has been criticized for his positioning and gap control, allowing opposing forwards to take advantage of him when on the attack. Deangelo recently acknowledged these shortcomings with Adam Kimelman of NHL.com by saying that he needed to improve on these aspects in order to play at a high level in the NHL.
To counter, analytics also shows that he can move the puck out of the zone extremel well. Ideally, Deangelo will be paired with a partner that can defend the blue line well (Marc Staal anyone?). This will help to mask Deangelo’s defensive shortcomings while allowing him to develop into a solid, point producing NHL defenseman.
Making the Team
Deangelo will get every shot to make the Rangers lineup and I believe that he will start the season as the 3rd pair RD, paired with Marc Staal. However, like all defenseman that have offensive skill and questions about their defensive ability, Deangelo will face a fair amount of uncertainty. How much will he play? Will he be nailed to the bench if he makes a defensive mistake? Will AV allow Deangelo to develop into his game without fear of sitting in the press box? There are a number of potential scenarios that face Anthony Deangelo this year.
In an optimal scenario, Deangelo will be the quarterback the 2nd power play unit and will play consistent minutes on the 3rd defensive pairing. In this scenario Deangelo will play between 16 and 19 minutes a game while getting significant power play minutes. This will allow the Rangers to harness Deangelo’s offensive ability while simultaneously allowing him to develop his game and limit his defensive liabilities. If Deangelo is allowed to play the majority of the season and is not nailed to the bench, we can expect between 30 and 40 points from him. He will add a dynamic presence to the 2nd power play unit and will consistently create offense from the back end.
A more likely scenario is that Deangelo will play between 50 and 60 games this season, as part of a 3rd pair rotation involving Marc Staal, Nick Holden, and/or Alexei Bereglazov. Deangelo will still play a majority of the games, however, he will be rotated in and out of the lineup. This will be an attempt to keep Marc Staal fresh and allow Deangelo, Holden, and Bereglazov opportunities to stay sharp. In this scenario I believe that Deangelo will score between 20 and 30 points while seeing the same amount of ice time per game as the first scenario.
In the worst case scenario, our deepest fears about AV will come to fruition. AV has come under scrutiny for his treatment and deployment of young players during his tenure as the Rangers head coach. Players like JT Miller, Kevin Hayes, Pavel Buchnevich, and Brady Skeji have all experienced questionable treatment as part of their developmental years on the Rangers. In this scenario, Anthony Deangelo will face the same treatment and deployment issues. Deangelo will play between 25 and 40 games while being limited to 13-16 minutes per game. Deangelo will endure consistent time in the press box following a defensive lapse while veterans like Marc Staal and Nick Holden will not be held to the same standard. Deangelo will score between 10 and 20 points while enduring the uncertainty of inconsistent playing time.
No matter what, Deangelo will be exciting
Anthony Deangelo is an extremely exciting young talent on the Rangers blue line. His offensive ability is something that modern NHL teams cannot get enough of. If the Rangers allow Deangelo to develop correctly, I believe that he will be a dynamic presence on the Ranger blue line for years to come. Regardless of where Deangelo plays, he needs to do just that, play. He cannot be in the press box for 40 games a season or be limited to 13 minutes a game. That will severely limit his growth and will make the loss of Derek Stepan that much harder to deal with.
My prediction for 2017-2018: 28 points (7 Goals, 21 Assists) in 64 Games.