Before the start of the regular season, the New York Rangers decided to send defenseman Zac Jones down to the Hartford Wolf Pack. During training camp, he was fighting for a spot on the bottom-pair. However, with the team’s strong depth on the backend, it does seem that the Rangers have made the right decision sending him down to the AHL – at least for now.
For opening night, the Rangers sported a defensive group that looked like this.
Ryan Lindgren – Adam Fox
K’Andre Miller – Jacob Trouba
Jarred Tinordi – Patrick Nemeth
Although this was what they ended up going with, Nils Lundkvist is making his NHL debut tonight against the Dallas Stars. The Rangers notably played against the Washington Capitals to start the season and wanted to have a tougher lineup after all that occurred last season. Now, Lundkvist is in and Tinordi is out.
The Rangers also have Libor Hajek still on the NHL roster, so in total, they have eight defensemen. Although Jones may have more offensive upside compared to Tinordi and Hajek, both would have had to go through waivers if the team sent them to Hartford. Therefore, by sending Jones down, the Rangers did not risk losing any depth on their backend.
More importantly, Jones will have the chance to shine in Hartford
If Jones stayed with the NHL squad, he would not have had a cemented spot in their top-six. The left side is solidified and it makes sense for Lundkvist to play on the right side of the bottom-pair. He’s a righty who also is coming off of an excellent campaign in the Swedish Hockey League. Tinordi is a veteran who is quite used to being a seventh or eighth defenseman at the NHL level. Hajek’s time with the Blueshirts may be limited, but he also comes with more NHL experience than Jones. Also, between him and Tinordi, he arguably had more of a chance of being claimed off waivers.
Furthermore, there is no harm in Jones playing for Hartford for the start of the season. The 20-year-old just finished his collegiate career at UMass Amherst last season and didn’t play a single AHL game after the fact. After signing his ELC with the Rangers, he immediately joined the NHL team and did well. In 10 games, he recorded four assists.
Now, with Hartford, he has a golden opportunity to not only work on his craft, but also thrive in the AHL. It could be a real confidence booster for him to produce well at the AHL level. He also will have the chance to build chemistry with fellow prospect Braden Schneider. That defensive pair could be very solid for Hartford. Maybe in time, they will be a duo with the Rangers. You never truly know.
When injuries occur, do not be surprised to see Jones get chances again with the Rangers. He also could get a promotion if he is a real force with the Wolf Pack, too. The future is bright for the young defenseman, but there’s no need to rush him. He will have his time with the sport’s bests soon enough.