Steven Kampfer has given the Rangers depth, flexibility, and stability

Kampfer (NHLI)

Overshadowed in the all the noise initiated by the new age hockey crowd and stats lovers over Tanner Glass, is the play of Steven Kampfer. The two time Ranger acquisition has finally been given a chance and he is making the most of it.

Here, Gone, and Back Again

The Rangers signed Kampfer on July 1st in 2014, but was moved in October with Andrew Yogan for Joey Crabb. I bet you totally forgot about that. This season he was re-acquired with a conditional pick for Dylan McIlrath in November. Playing solid hockey in Hartford, he got the call after mounting injuries, and the defensive ineptitude of Adam Clendening. Now he has been given a real shot to show he can play in the NHL for NY.

At a solid 5’11” and 192 pounds, the much needed right handed defenseman plays bigger than his size. He makes the simple play in and out of his zone which has really stabilized Brady Skjei‘s game. No longer is Skjei being put into a bad spot to cover for his partner’s shortcomings. That has allowed him to become an even more integral part of the offense without being a defensive liability.

So far in 5 games with Kampfer as his partner, Skjei is averaging 2.4 shots per game. In the 5 games prior, it was just .80! That is a notable difference. The addition of Brendan Smith has also had a solid impact to the defense, but that is a story for another time. The focus here is on Kampfer and needs to be.

Simple is Better

During this 5 game stretch where Kampfer has become a permanent fixture in the lineup over Clendening, he has a goal and an assist. The offensive contribution has been an added bonus, but his play in the defensive zone is what the Rangers needed him to bring.

During this stretch, the Rangers have only allowed a stingy 2 goals against per game. In the 5 games prior (excluding Caps where Kampfer played) it was closer to 3 (2.8). When it comes to the offense he and Skjei have produced so far, their goals for 60 is 3.40 versus 1.94 the Skjei and Clendening pair produced. It should be noted that Skjei and Clendening gave up less goals per 60 against but the differential is in the favor of the Kampfer and Skjei unit (1.14 vs. .32).

The corsi for percentage, if you like to look through that lens was better for the Clendening/Skjei pairing at 59.9%. That was driven by Clendening firing every puck he could, most of them wide that still results in his corsi numbers. Of all Rangers defenseman to play 5 games or more this season, Clendening shot thru percentage is the lowest at 44%. So for all the praising about his corsi which is just shot attempts for and against, that’s a lot of missed net that no one talks about. Skjei and Kampfer have a rock solid 54.2 CF% for what it’s worth.

NYR ShotThru%
  • Skjei 53.9%
  • Smith 50%
  • Staal 48.5%
  • McDonagh 47.5%
  • Girardi 47.3%
  • Klein 47.1%
  • Kampfer 45.5%
  • Clendening 44%

Depth, Flexibility, and Stability

Dan Girardi is healing up as per the latest reports. His ankle should be ready to resume skating next week. That likely means that Kampfer will be coming out of the lineup then. Which begs the question, of how the pairings will constructed?

The simplest thing to do is put Girardi on the third pair with Skjei. If healthy, Girardi can prove to be a similar partner to Skjei as Kampfer. Girardi’s stay at home style will allow Skjei the confidence to continue to join the offense. Should Girardi falter, AV knows that Kampfer can slot right on Skjei’s right with immediate success.

There also hasn’t been any promising news on Kevin Klein‘s back to date. That makes the emergence of Kampfer that much more important. Should the Rangers suffer an injury in the playoffs, they have a defenseman they can trust in the defensive zone. It should be noted that Kampfer is least likely to get DZone starts being on the third pair. However, AV has already shown more confidence in him than Clendening (24% DZS versus 22.9%) and that’s a small but significant sign.

Amazing how a player no one even gave a second thought to in 2014, and this past November has become an important piece in March. The beauty of sports…and something no advanced stat will ever be able to predict.

Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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