The New York Rangers have a youthful, energetic defensive corp waiting to break out. Tony DeAngelo is one of the players the team is expecting to make a jump.
This preseason, the second year Ranger Tony DeAngelo is making some moves. The New Jersey born defensemen has played some impressive hockey this preseason. There is more confidence in the way DeAngelo plays. There is no longer a feeling of panic when the puck on the defenseman’s stick.
Based on what the Rangers gave up in acquiring DeAngelo there is a considerable amount riding on his development. With a log jam on the blue line, it is going to take consistent play to stick around. In fact, the team is likely to begin the season with eight defenseman on the roster because of the contract situation of DeAngelo and Frederik Claesson.
Is it time to hop on board of the DeAngelo hype train going into the season?
While the defenseman is trending in the right direction, it is important to keep the context in mind. A former first round pick should look dominant against the fringe talent that plays in preseason games. It’ll really be about how well he plays once the real games start.
What has he done?
DeAngelo has certainly made his name stand out this preseason while averaging about 20 minutes a game. DeAngelo has even collected the attention of new Rangers head coach David Quinn. “Tony has played well. Tony is a guy that’s got an awful lot of skill and he’s still young for a defenseman,” Quinn said.
What this says is that DeAngelo has certainly earned some sort of trust from the new head coach. This is made only more clear based on the time he has earned on the special teams. DeAngelo spends much of his time on the offensive side with the extra man. Despite his clear offensive mindset, DeAngelo even had some time on the penalty kill.
Last season, DeAngelo spent some time in the press box, but it has seemed to improve his game. The motivation of avoiding the AHL at age 24 clearly pushed him to take steps during the offseason to be in a position to succeed.
Why is this not enough(yet?)
In particular, DeAngelo possesses a great skill set to be an excellent offensive contributor on that side of the game. Unfortunately, his play is often reminiscent of Michael Del Zotto. Del Zotto was gifted in the offensive zone and able to whip the puck around like DeAngelo does now.
The thing that put an end to Del Zotto and his time in New York was the unreliable nature of his defensive positioning and overall game. Particularly while playing under a coach like John Tortorella, Del Zotto had some support surrounding him, including some Norris level defensive partners.
Even with good defensive partners, Del Zotto would often guess when to jump into the play. This would often leave his partner trying to defend a two on one breakaway because Del Zotto had pinched at the wrong time.
In the case of the Rangers now and Tony DeAngelo, a new coach is in the drivers seat, but the support staff is not the same. It is imperative that his two way game becomes a focus for the team going forward. While not the most important thing this season, it’ll be a storyline to follow.
The following play stands out for DeAngelo for one reason in particular. There should be a bit more awareness when playing a man deep behind your net. As DeAngelo makes his move behind the net, his defensive partner, Libor Hajek, should be moving to what becomes the far post. Unfortunately, DeAngelo makes the right play, but perhaps a bit too quickly. Had DeAngelo delayed his step behind the net for even a second, it may have prevented the opening for the pass.
Obviously, this is a nitpicking play. The reality is that you are going to need to clean up the overall positioning of everyone involved. The bottom line is that DeAngelo should improve his defensive awareness and he will see a tremendous increase in play time.
His offense is not far off from where it needs to be. Tony DeAngelo has had a great preseason, and he will be getting some good playing time this year, but lets not put all our eggs in one basket.