How Ryan McDonagh Is Having a Breakout Year Amidst New York Rangers' Troubles

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How Ryan McDonagh Is Having a Breakout Year Amidst New York Rangers' Troubles
Elsa/Getty Images

Although the New York Rangers are currently in the middle of one of their worst seasons in recent memory, Ryan McDonagh is currently on pace for the best season of his young NHL .

It is mind boggling that the Rangers are struggling to remain consistent under Alain Vigneault, and it is even more interesting that one of the team's most important players is finding a way to be a factor amidst the Blueshirts' blunders.

McDonagh is a rising star in the NHL, but how exactly is he dazzling during the Rangers' dreadful campaign?

The short answer is that McDonagh has fully embraced the mantra of "clean slate, grab it" and he has made the most of the opportunities given to him. The 24-year-old rearguard was recently called the Blueshirts' best defender by Vigneault, according to Katie Strang of ESPN NY, and the numbers certainly back up that statement.

This year McDonagh has clearly carved out his role as the team's No. 1 defender, and he has been an anchor of a blue line marred with injuries and indecision.

In an ESPN article, McDonagh talked about his progression and how he has become more of a leader.

I feel like I'm taking a lot more of a role in that [leadership] department, speaking up a little bit more in team meetings, in between periods, stuff like that. More importantly, for me, I think, is just to to stand up in my role on the ice.

Being a leader has been very important this year when you consider that Dan Girardi, a top-pairing defender for the Rangers last year, has struggled mightily so far in 2013-14.

Marc Staal's injury was also unfortunate, and it has caused issues in addition to the inconsistent of Justin Falk, Michael Del Zotto and John Moore.

Besides McDonagh, Anton Stralman has been a positive for the Rangers, but he hasn't played nearly as well as the former University of Wisconsin Badger. When you look at McDonagh's this year, the word "unexpected" comes to mind.

This is not because he is playing very well but because he has gotten better in a short timeframe. To date he has only played in 204 games, but you wouldn't think that by watching him skate up and down the ice.

It seems like only yesterday that McDonagh came to the Blueshirts in a trade involving Gomez before the of the 2009-10 season as a unknown prospect.

He fell out of favor with a Montreal Canadiens organization that had P.K. Subban as its top prospect, and no one thought McDonagh would be this good. That changed when he came to New York because he was put in positions to succeed.

During McDonagh's first full season, he averaged 24:44 a game and tallied 32 points. Since that point, the Minnesota native has continued to prove himself, and over the last two years McDonagh has provided tremendous shutdown play during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

This year his shutdown play has been equally good, but his 2013-14 offensive campaign has been remarkable. McDonagh has already matched his offensive production from the 47-game 2012-13 campaign.

This production illustrates that McDonagh is maturing and getting better, and here is a look at his 2013-14 offensive numbers.

Ryan McDonagh's Offensive Numbers
Stat: #: League Rank:
Overall Points 19 14th
Even-Strength Points 13 6th
Goals 6 6th
Assists 13 19th
Time on Ice 24:13 24th

NHL.com

These numbers are mighty impressive when you factor in McDonagh's ice time. He doesn't play as much as defenders, such as Erik Karlsson and Kris Letang, but he is still putting up some very respectable numbers. McDonagh has been one of the NHL's best defensive shutdown defenders over the past few years, but this year he is getting recognition because of his offensive production. He currently is in the top 10 for goals and even-strength points, and he is in the top 20 for overall points and assists.

This is because McDonagh is a well-rounded player who balances his ice time between even-strength, power play and penalty kill. This game prevents him from being a pure offensive defenseman like the aforementioned players, so if anything, McDonagh's work to date should be looked at as an accomplishment.

Right now the Rangers are struggling, but McDonagh has continued to dazzle and impress. He is on track to finish the year with 14 goals and 30 assists for 44 points, and it would be his best year to date. 

Considering his strong defensive play, McDonagh could earn James Norris Memorial Trophy consideration if he surpasses the 50-point plateau. They may or may not happen this year, but he will certainly have his chance in the future.

McDonagh has proven that his play isn't a fluke, and fans should be excited to see what he can do down the stretch.

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