A year ago, everyone thought Bobby Sanguinetti was the Rangers’ top defensive prospect, but as it turns out, the 19-year-old Michael Del Zotto leap-frogged him onto the roster and put together one impressive season. Not impressive enough to win the Calder Trophy given to the best rookie, but he did finish seventh in a recent Hockey’s Future poll:
7. Michael Del Zotto, D—New York Rangers
6′1", 195 lbs. DOB: June 24, 1990
Drafted 20th overall (First Round) in 2008
A bit of a surprise to crack the final roster in the Big Apple, Del Zotto quickly proved that he belonged at the NHL level. With a hot start that saw him put up four goals and 12 points in his first 14 games, Del Zotto launched himself to the top of the rookie scoring charts and the Rangers to the top of the NHL standings. Opposing teams were quick to adjust to the Blueshirts' new power play weapon, and soon, both the 19-year-old and the Rangers returned to Earth. Struggling a bit through the middle of the season, the Ontario native came back strong after the Olympic break to tally three goals and 11 points in his final 19 games; but the Rangers fell just short of the postseason to finish ninth in the Eastern Conference. In total, Del Zotto’s nine goals and 37 points in 80 games placed him seventh among all rookies and second among rookie defensemen. Meanwhile, his 22 power-play points placed him second among his Ranger teammates.
Thoughts: On a team with such a strong goalie in Henrik Lundqvist, it is important to surround him with strong defensemen. The Rangers haven’t really done that during his career, but they have started to turn it around, and that starts with young guys like Del Zotto.
The best thing about this is that Del Zotto is just the first in a young group of impressive defensemen that are going to be coming up over the next couple of years. So look for some other some other young defenseman to make this list in up coming years—although it will take a very impressive season for them to come out on top.