Ryan McDonagh 2

Mac On Track

Just seventeen more days before the puck drops on the Rangers’ 85th season, and the level of excitement continues to build. The final scrimmage before the preseason kicks off tomorrow was held today, and the first line-up set to play against the Devils.

Included in the line-up is the subject of today’s Ranger Countdown: Ryan McDonagh, a defenseman who is making a push for inclusion in the opening night roster.

Player Profile
Going into the July 1st free agency period in the Summer of 2009, the Rangers were faced with limited options and plenty of Salary Cap commitment. With just hours to go, Glen Sather pulled the trigger on a deal that freed up enough salary to ultimately pursue and sign Marian Gaborik, as well as bring back one NHL player and a couple of prospect defenseman.

The NHL player who came back – Christopher Higgins – was later moved again after failing to perform in New York, but the two defenseman are in camp this year, and McDonagh in particular has a real shot at making the opening night roster.

The 21 year old defenseman comes out of the University of Wisconsin a year early, with a reputation as a level-headed and reliable two-way defenseman. When he, and fellow Badger signed on the Rangers this Summer, they provided the team with two of the most NHL-ready prospects in the system.

The 6-1 203lb defenseman was already on the radar when he officially signed his first NHL contract in July, but good performances in the annual prospect camp, followed up by the Traverse City Prospects Tournament – in front of head coach John Tortorella, have seen his star rise quickly.

McDonagh will get a chance tomorrow tight to further his case for inclusion in the Rangers’ roster, and he’ll likely get to see the likes of Zach Parise and Ilya Kovalchuk in his first pro outing.

If he can continue to demonstrate poise against some of the NHL’s best offensive players, then chances are he’ll just confirm the direction in which John Tortorella is leaning.

As for what to expect from the rookie. Probably the best comparison would be a player like Dan Girardi, a player who can contribute some offense, but is pretty strong positionally and doesn’t tend to panic under pressure. McDonagh is more prone to throw a big hit and get physical, but may not be as effective at this level, where he’s facing stronger and bigger opposition.

For the year, a solid defensive performance will probably be his initial focus, and if he has the opportunity to contribute some on offense, then that will be secondary. A successful year would be finishing with a neutral or positive plus/minus and 40+ appearances.

2009-10 Statistics
Team: Univeristy of Wisconsin (WCHA)
Stats: 4 goals, 14 assists and 73 penalty minutes in 43 games

Prediction
Team: New York Rangers (NHL)
Stats: 2 goals, 10 assists and 45 penalty minutes in 65 games

Trivia
Before signing on with the Rangers, McDonagh considered returning to Wisconsin and potentially becoming a free agent next season when he completed his NCAA eligibility. After visiting with the team, and seeing what was on option he decided to instead proceed ahead and sign his first pro contract.

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