Hartnett: Rangers' DeAngelo Showing He Could Have Staying Power In NHL

Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo scores against Washington Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby (70) during the shoot-out at Madison Square Garden on March 3, 2019.
Photo credit USA TODAY Images

Questions surrounded Rangers defenseman Tony DeAngelo as he entered his third NHL season. Would he make the Rangers’ opening night lineup? Could he impress new head coach David Quinn? Would the offensively skilled defenseman make good on his offensive potential and prove his consistency in the defensive end?

One by one, DeAngelo has provided the answers the Rangers were hoping for. At age 23 and with 117 career games under his belt, the Sewell, New Jersey, native is playing with swagger and confidence on both ends of the rink.

DeAngelo continued an impressive stretch of performances in the Rangers’ 3-2 shootout defeat against the Washington Capitals. He supplied an assist on Pavel Buchnevich’s game-tying goal and tied for a team-high four shots on goal in 21:47 of ice time.

Since Feb. 4, DeAngelo has recorded 12 assists to share a tie for the most among NHL defensemen over this span. He has now collected at least one assist in nine of the last 10 games.

MORE: Hartnett: Rangers, Gorton Facing Pivotal Offseason

This season, DeAngelo leads Rangers defensemen with 24 points and is tied for first among Blueshirts defensemen with 20 assists.

Take a look at his last five games, and you’ll understand why Quinn is placing a lot of trust on DeAngelo’s shoulders:

Feb. 23 vs. NJD – 1 assist, 1 SOG, 25 shifts, 0 PIM, 19:47 TOIFeb. 24 vs. WSH – 1 assist, 1 SOG, 28 shifts, 2 PIM, 20:31 TOIFeb. 27 vs. TBL – 1 assist, 1 SOG, 27 shifts, 0 PIM, 26:32 TOIMarch 1 vs. MTL – 1 SOG, 24 shifts, 0 PIM, 23:04 TOIMarch 3 vs. WSH – 1 assist, 4 SOG, 28 shifts, 4 PIM, 21:47 TOI

Aside from the Devils, these are all playoff teams, and in the case of Tampa Bay and Washington, we’re talking about division leaders. The 104-point Lightning are the runaway favorites to capture the Presidents’ Trophy.

For young players, game-by-game consistency is a difficult aspect to master. While DeAngelo can still improve and learn a few tricks through experience, it’s impressive to see how well he’s faring against some of the league’s best teams and top talents.

You can see his confidence growing in his transition play, his smooth zone entries and poise with the puck on his stick.

Right now, DeAngelo is playing at a 0.52-points-per-game clip. For reference, former captain Ryan McDonagh only bettered that kind of production twice during his eight seasons at Madison Square Garden. Though McDonagh was a far more complete defenseman at age 23, DeAngelo is proving why he could have staying power in this league.

I’m not sure if he’ll ever be the complete package, but DeAngelo is smoothing out his deficiencies and playing with more assuredness in every passing game.
Follow Sean on Twitter at @HartnettHockey