The New York Rangers currently rank 12th in the NHL in goals against per game, and 6th in PK%. After a rough start, the Rangers, and especially their defense have gotten back on a better track. Although Igor Shesterkin has been great, there are still 5 guys on the ice that need to be good in front of him. When you think of who’s been good for the Rangers, there’s a key guy who seems to get left out often. That guy is Ryan Lindgren.
Background on Lindgren
Ryan Lindgren made his debut in the 2018-19 season. He played 5 games, wasn’t anything special, similar to that team. During the 2019-20 season, he was called up again and was great. He played 60 games, and was a plus 16, threw 94 hits, and blocked 70 shots. Those are the numbers you have to look at when talking about Lindgren, as offense isn’t really a part of his game. He only tallied 1 goal and 13 assists, totaling 14 points.
This season Lindgren seems like he has improved a lot, contrary to what the numbers tell you. He still plays his style and has gotten stronger on the puck. Through 36 games he is a plus 8, with 62 hits and 32 blocked shots. He also has 11 points already, so maybe even that part of his game is improving. He is also playing on average almost 20 minutes a game (19:43), which is up from his 16:34 from the year before, showing that the coaching staff likes what he is doing.
So back to the question on if Lindgren can be a top defenseman. I think he can and will absolutely be on the top pairing for the Rangers moving forward. The first reason is that he plays great alongside Adam Fox, and Fox is the Rangers’ best defenseman, so there’s really no way around it. But it’s not like Lindgren doesn’t have the tools to be a top-line defenseman. Fox isn’t carrying the line, Lindgren plays a role.
There are 2 guys from previous Ranger teams that are very similar to Lindgren. The first being Dan Girardi. He was a tough as nails. He hit and blocked shots at will, similar to what Lindgren does. The main difference is Girardi has higher numbers than Lindgren. Marc Staal is the other. He didn’t play on the top pairing, but very easily could’ve. He didn’t mainly because those Rangers teams were loaded defensively at the top with Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh. His numbers are very similar to what Lindgren’s have been so far and were the definition of a defensive defenseman, which is exactly what Lindgren is.
Why am a I mentioning these guys? Well, it proves my point about Lindgren. Although they may not have been these household names around the league, they were both very important during the Rangers’ success. So although you may not think of Ryan Lindgren as a top defenseman across the NHL, he will still be able to fill the role alongside Adam Fox on the Rangers’ top pairing.