New York Rangers’ defense set to be an advantage in present and future

(Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The New York Rangers will ice their best defense in years this season. Don’t sleep on the future, though.

When Brandon Crawley ripped a slap-shot past Cory Schneider on Saturday night, the state of New Jersey cheered. Crawley is a New Jersey-born prospect, so scoring in his home state for the New York Rangers must have been a treat.

However the big story for the Rangers was not Crawley, nor that he scored in his home-state. It was that any other year fans would have been excited by seeing Crawley put the puck in the back of the net. This preseason, though? Barely anyone noticed.

In the past we have seen fans fired up by the likes of Mat Bodie, John Gilmour, and countless other AHL-at-best defensemen. Now, the New York Rangers spoiled us this offseason, and are set to continue to spoil us for years to come.

A Changing of the Guard

Dan Girardi is gone. Let me say it again. Dan Girardi is gone. In Spanish, according to Google? (I took six years of Italian, don’t @ me) Dan Girardi se ha ido.

While a great and noble man (yada yada, etc etc) Girardi was the cause of so many problems for the Rangers on the blueline for so many years. However, this offseason the Rangers replaced him with one of the best two-way defnesemen in the NHL. Kevin Shattenkirk is now a Ranger. Kevin Shattenkirk!

New York also re-signed Brendan Smith and added Anthony DeAngelo and Neal Pionk to the fold. Smith is an excellent defenseman who immediately aided the Rangers in their playoff push last season. DeAngelo is an offensive stud, while Pionk can provide a strong two-way game.

Though New York still has Nick Holden and Marc Staal on the roster, they can reasonably ice six talented defensemen in the same game this season. That hasn’t been true for a Rangers team in a long, long time.

Related Story: Roster Predictions: Who makes the team?

Defending the Future

Besides Brandon Crawley, Anthony DeAngelo, Neal Pionk, and Kevin Shattenkirk, the Rangers also boast Ryan McDonagh, Sean Day, Ryan Graves, Tarmo Reunanen, Calle Sjalin, and various other prospects. For every NHL-ready defenseman, the Rangers have another defenseman on their way through the system.

For a team with a startling lack of draft picks in recent years, New York has still managed to build a strong pool of defensive prospects to complement their NHL corps.

Consider next year’s roster competition. The top four of Ryan McDonagh, Kevin Shattenkirk, Brady Skjei, and Brendan Smith will all return. Anthony DeAngelo and Neal Pionk will have more NHL experience in their belts, while Alexei Bereglazov and Ryan Graves will likely have some NHL time, if not an abundance of AHL experience. Sean Day will be NHL-ready.

Next: Four thoughts through four preseason games

New York’s future looks strong on defense right as Henrik Lundqvist is entering his twilight years. The biggest weakness for the team has become a strength, and it’s going to be a treat to watch.