When the trade deadline came around, the glaring need was at the right-wing positions in the top six. If there was ever another hole in the lineup, it was probably the third-pairing defense on the left-hand side that would probably have been mentioned next. So when Chris Drury went out to pick up defenseman Niko Mikkola from the St Louis Blues, it helped one of the biggest holes on the roster.
At 6’4, and 210 lbs, Mikkola has shown that playing the puck is completely optional in a contact sport like this. His physical play has seen many Ranger fans fall in love with him. Capable of big open ice hits and changing the momentum of a game with just the way he moves around the ice, he has been one of the better trade deadline acquisitions to this point around the NHL. He fit in seamlessly.
All of this isn’t to say that Mikkola is only there to hit what moves. When the Rangers were without Ryan Lindgren, Mkkola did an incredible job slotting into the top pairing and making it look like the Rangers were not missing anyone whatsoever. He’s shown himself to be able to play hockey as well as smack things and that is just another reason the fans of this great organization seem to have fallen in love with him.
Mikkola did have 1 goal and 2 assists in his 31 games as a Ranger in the regular season but we have seen that the offensive aspect of his game is not going to be where he makes his money. He’s much better at breaking up rushes, being physical on forecheckers, and winning board battles. He’s going to need to play at his physical best for this postseason run for the Blueshirts.