There was a time when questions surrounded Tony DeAngelo. Maturity issues followed the fast-skating defenseman throughout his junior days in the Ontario Hockey League and continued into his early life in the NHL.
A character concern resurfaced last February when head coach David Quinn opted to scratch DeAngelo from the lineup due to what the coach described as “a maturity issue.” DeAngelo was relegated to the press box for consecutive games before being reinstated for the Feb. 4 game against the Los Angeles Kings. The message seemingly appeared to be heard loudly and clearly, as DeAngelo completed February with 11 points in 12 games.
Fast forward to present day. DeAngelo has begun the 2019-20 season as the Rangers’ most effective and most consistent defenseman. Through 13 games, he has registered 11 points and notched four power-play points.
The 24-year-old blueliner joined elite company during Wednesday’s 5-1 victory over the visiting Detroit Red Wings. DeAngelo became the first Ranger defenseman to tally five goals in the first 13 games of a season since Brian Leetch in 1988-89.
DeAngelo exhibited an upward statistical swing last season by recording 30 points in 61 games after managing eight points in 32 games during his first season as a Ranger. His production has increased significantly in each of his three seasons at The Garden – from 0.25 points per game in 2017-18, to 0.49 points per game in 2018-19 and 0.85 so far in the current campaign.
On Wednesday, DeAngelo led the Rangers with four shots on goal. He netted the game’s opening goal at 4:25 of the second period just before the Blueshirts’ power play expired. DeAngelo alertly sensed the possibility of a rebound and crashed the net to jam in a loose puck after Brendan Lemieux forced Jimmy Howard into a pad save. Minutes later, the right-handed defenseman added an assist on Chris Kreider’s goal.
Having collected nine points in the past seven games, DeAngelo will have the opportunity to keep up his positive trends when the Rangers face the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday.
There doesn’t appear to be any bumps in the road in DeAngelo’s fourth season and his talent is shining through. He’s playing with the kind of confidence that’s allowing his instincts and high-end skating ability to take over.
Though it’s probably unrealistic to expect DeAngelo to continue at a 0.85 point-per-game pace, the growth in his game is obvious. It’s unclear how high his ceiling is, but he’s blossoming into a difference-making defenseman just weeks removed from his 24th birthday. He’s blown out the candles, now he’s blowing by the opposition in a blur thanks to his quick legs and sharp instincts.