Larry Brooks is providing player evaluations daily in the NY Post, an exercise that began the past Monday. The order is by last name, and while he is not giving a grade, he is giving a sort of high-level assessment. Since it's my hope that we will have hockey, I thought it might be interesting to take one or a few aspects of his daily column along with his closure - the latter in italics - and provide my view, then receive yours in the comments. I will try and do this daily, and have covered Lias Andersson, Pavel Buchnevich, Filip Chytil, Tony DeAngelo, Jesper Fast, Adam Fox, Alexandar Georgiev, Brett Howden, Kaapo Kakko and Chris Kreider and Brendan Lemieux. Today, it's Ryan Lindgren.
Lindgren should have made the Rangers out of training camp this year. Management might even have believed it at the time, before sending Lindgren, then 21 years old, to Hartford among the final cuts while instead keeping Libor Hajek, then also 21.
Lindgren and Hajek joined the organization within one day of each other. On Feb. 25, 2018, the Blueshirts acquired Lindgren from Boston, which had drafted him 49th overall in 2016, as part of the package in return for Rick Nash. The following day, Hajek, who had been selected by Tampa Bay 37th overall in that same draft, was acquired from the Lightning as part of the package for Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller.
The Rangers viewed Hajek as a slam-dunk, no-questions-asked, top-four left defenseman. They viewed Lindgren as a project with exceptional leadership skills, though with mobility issues, who might become a six or seven guy.
Two years later, Hajek is more the project and Lindgren, well, he emerged from his freshman season as the Rangers’ top left defenseman and one-half of the irrepressible and inseparable rookie tandem featuring Adam Fox that emerged as the team’s matchup pair.
You tell me the last rookie pair in the NHL to have this kind of chemistry and success. You tell me the last Rangers defenseman who played with the pugnacious, won’t-back-down approach of Lindgren, who has added skill, elan, and increased mobility to his game, but whose larger value exists within the attitude and the chip on his shoulder he carries onto the ice on every shift.
If an opponent wants a piece of a Ranger, chances are at one point he is going to wind up having to go through Lindgren, all alleged 6-feet and 200 pounds of him. If a foe is vulnerable, dangling or with his head down while carrying the puck, chances are Lindgren will go through him.
The responsibility will fall on Lindgren and Fox to adapt and add more to their games, the way Lindgren has added an offensive component to his game since leaving Minnesota following his sophomore season in college to turn pro after the Rangers acquired him during the post-Letter purge. Lindgren played 836:19 at five-on-five (per Naturalstattrick.com). Fox was on the ice with him for 676:34, or 80.9 percent of the time. The pair was on for 34 Rangers goals and 25 against while facing a succession of top-six opponents. Lindgren himself was on for 46 goals scored and 31 allowed.
Lindgren, like Filip Chytil, channeled the disappointment of being sent down to start the season into forcing his recall with his play in the minors. Once called up, Lindgren made sure he wasn't coming out of the lineup. Paired with Fox, that duo became a stalwart unit.
Brooks noted in his column that the sophomore year of a blueliner is challenging. Opponents and coaches know your weaknesses and game plan to attack those deficiencies. This is why we always say defensemen growth is not linear. Maybe Fox and Lindgren will be among those that didn't regress in their second year.
When acquired, we thought Lindgren was at best a third-pairing d-man. I guess this shows that pigeon holing players based on assessments is not always 100% accurate. Lindgren, at least this season, far exceeded those expectations.
The hope is that he is the modern-day version of Jeff Beukeboom with Fox playing the Brian Leetch role. Fox has the more difficult level to reach, seeing that Leetch is a Hall of Fame d-man. Beuk has more of a nasty streak than Lindgren, who looks to have more offensive upside and potential that Beuk showed. If Lindgren can end up having the impact Beuk had in the lineup and play as key of a role, we would ecstatic and sign up for that now, save for the concussion that shortened his career.
Ranger, the companion dog: An update on his status and a feel-good story. Because we could certainly use one.
New York signed Justin Richards from UMD to a two-year ELC:
Richards played three seasons at the University of Minnesota Duluth. He helped the school win the National Championship in each of his first two seasons and was named the National Collegiate Hockey Conference’s (NCHC) Best Defensive Forward in each of the last two seasons. #NYRhttps://t.co/1o4to5IvHG
Per the team's press release: Richards, 22, skated in 34 games with the University of Minnesota Duluth this season, registering 14 goals and 11 assists for 25 points, along with a plus-14 rating and 14 penalty minutes. He was selected as the National Collegiate Hockey Conference’s (NCHC) Best Defensive Forward in 2019-20. Richards ranked fifth among all players in the NCAA in faceoff wins this season (434), and he posted a 59.0% faceoff win percentage during the season. The 5-11, 190-pound forward skated in 120 collegiate games, finishing his collegiate career registering 26 goals and 40 assists for 66 total points, along with a plus-40 rating and 38 penalty minutes. Sounds like a solid defensive center, who could play in the bottom-six. At worse, he is depth at Hartford, but Richards could fill several needs if he pans out. Plus he has a winning pedigree, having won a pair of National Championships.
Contract details weren’t disclosed, CapFriendly has Richards’ entry-level contract paying him the maximum cap hit allowed at $925,000 with $92,500 of that amount in signing bonuses each year. The contact will begin at the start of the 2020-2021 regular season.
Top-10 Rangers' plays to date. This was embedded in the season snapshot but thought I would add here for ease of viewing. Enjoy: