The New York Rangers defense is almost set in stone. There is no question who the top four will be for the 2021-22 campaign. Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren will likely see the lion’s share of ice time. They will be closely followed by the pairing of Jacob Trouba and K’Andre Miller.
New addition Patrik Nemeth was given a three-year deal worth $2.5 million annually to play third pair left defense, not sit in a press box. He was signed for his physical presence and to mentor fellow Swede, rookie Nils Lundkvist.
Lost in this shuffle is Zac Jones. What exactly is his future with the Rangers this season?
Zac Jones has proven he can play
In 2019, the Rangers made their third round selection by taking a U.S. born defenseman, Zac Jones. Last season, for UMASS he collected 8 goals and 23 points n 27 games to go with a +16 rating. He ranked third for all NCAA defensemen with 46 points dating back to the 2020.
UMASS head coach Greg Carvel gave Jones a glowing review. “He’s a high high end offensive player – he’ll be a similar player to Adam Fox in New York,” he said. “He’s getting physically stronger. His growth without the puck over the past two years has been outstanding. He’s an outstanding college player and he will be in the NHL someday.”
Jones joined the Rangers late in the season and played in 10 games recording 4 assists. He certainly did not look out of place and was extremely poised.
After the season, he played for Team USA at the World Championships. He picked up a few assists and was considered one of the team’s best players. There’s no doubt that the Rangers have a top six defender that could be playing on most teams in the league.
What to do with Zac Jones?
The 20 year-old Jones is a left-handed defenseman who could likely play both sides. As of right now, Nemeth has taken his spot. If Lundkvist struggles there is a possibility Jones could slide right in. That isn’t a given since the Rangers added big bruising left-handed defenseman Jarred Tinordi this offseason as well, but he’s more likely penciled as the 7th defenseman.
Another defenseman to watch in camp is highly touted prospect, Braden Schneider. He is a right-handed shot and is a more natural fit to replace Lundkvist.
So what is the best course the Rangers should take with Jones? Without a doubt, he should be playing top pair minutes in Hartford. Jones may still become a key piece in any trade the Blueshirts make to improve the offense up front.
Simply put, they are overloaded with blue-line prospects. Matthew Robertson and Tarmo Reunanen are also knocking on the door. The key here is to make sure Jones doesn’t get lost in the mix, and his value doesn’t diminish.
This is a good problem for the organization to have, but it is a problem nonetheless.
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