New York Rangers player preview: D Nils Lundkvist

Earlier this summer, the New York Rangers signed Swedish defenseman Nils Lundkvist to his three-year, entry-level contract. The team selected him in the first-round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, so naturally, Ranger fans will feel some excitement about his official arrival to North America.

Since being drafted, Lundkvist has been working on his craft with Luleå HF of the SHL. During these last two seasons with them, he has shown significant progress when it comes to his offensive production. In the 2018-19 season, he only had 10 points in 41 games. However, his offense skyrocketed the following season, as he scored 11 goals and recorded 31 points in 45 games.

He posted similar numbers this season, too, as he had a notable 14 goals and 32 points in 52 games. In fact, his 14 goals were the most goals ever scored by a defenseman in the SHL who was under 21-years-old. He also topped off his fantastic season by winning the Salming Trophy as the league’s best defenseman.

Another promising element about Lundkvist is that he has had success playing internationally. He played for Team Sweden during the World Championships this year and grabbed the attention of viewers. In three games, he had five assists, but sadly missed the rest of the tournament after getting injured. Also, in 11 total international games this year, he scored three goals and recorded 10 points.

Thus, the Rangers have another young defenseman who very well could be able to make an impact as soon as he sports the jersey.

Will Lundkvist make the Rangers this season?

When looking at the Rangers’ depth chart, it is fair to assume that Lundkvist will be on the right side of their bottom-pair this upcoming season. Along side of him should be fellow Swedish defenseman, Patrik Nemeth. Nemeth may not be a big-name star, but his defense-first style makes him a nice potential partner for the offensively driven Lundkvist. Nemeth should be able to help save him when he inevitably makes rookie mistakes.

Although the Jarred Tinordi signing has the potential to be a good one, he was brought in to be the seventh defenseman. That has been his role in the league for the vast majority of his career, and it’s hard to envision it changing with the Blueshirts. Furthermore, he is better suited to play on the left side.

The Rangers do have some notable prospects who also could fight for the spot, but Lundkvist still appears to be the favorite. Left-handed defenseman Zac Jones played his first 10 games in the league this year and had four assists. However, it seems less likely that they would utilize him on the right side over Lundkvist.

Braden Schneider was named the WHL’s Defenseman of the Year this past season, but at just 19-years-old, it may be best to let him develop a bit more first. It simply seems like Lundkvist’s job to lose at this point.

What should we expect from him?

Lundkvist is a young defenseman who already has a good chunk of professional hockey experience, which is a huge plus. However, the NHL is entirely different game when it comes to the vast amount of talent it possesses. Therefore, he may not take the league by storm from the get-go, but that is okay. He already is envisioned by many as a top-six NHL defenseman.

The Lundkvist-Nemeth pair will give the former not only a strong mentor, but more overall freedom. Lundkvist has been able to make a name for himself because of his impressive offensive ability, so the team obviously wants that about him to translate to the NHL level.

If all goes according to plan, the Rangers will have a great right side. Reigning Norris Trophy winner Adam Fox and veteran Jacob Trouba already make it strong, but having Lundkvist rounding it out could be fantastic. The Rangers are building a solid blueline and Lundkvist should be able to help with that even more.

It would also not be surprising to see Lundkvist get some chances on the team’s second power play unit. It isn’t necessarily a lock, but when seeing his offensive totals in the SHL, it is worth trying. He does have the potential to be one of the better puck-moving defenseman on the team. This should only grow as he matures, too.

Ultimately, now is the time for the former first-round pick to start his NHL journey. We will see what transpires with him this season and in the future.