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Behind The Bench: Ryan McDonagh

by on 08/04/2011

Born: June 13, 1989
Ht: 6’1″
Wt: 213 lbs
Draft: 12th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in 2007
Plays for: New York Rangers, Defense, Shoots Left
Jersey No.: #27

NHL Stats

Regular Season: 40 GP – 1 G – 8 A – 9 P
Playoffs: 5 GP – 0 G – 0 A – 0 P

Ryan McDonagh was awarded the 2007 Minnesota Mr. Hockey award, given annually to the top senor high school hockey player in the state of Minnesota.

McDonagh was drafted 12th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in 2007. He played 2 years with the University of Wisconsin before his rights were traded in 2009 along with Christopher Higgins, Pavel Valentenko and Doug Janik for Scott Gomez, Tom Pyatt and Michael Busto. McDonagh choose to play at the University of Wisconsin because players that have come from Wisconsin have been “defense-wise,” players that are adept at the defensive part of the game. Only Gomez, Valentenko and McDonagh are still with their respective clubs. McDonagh played another year with the University of Wisconsion before the Rangers signed him to a three-year ELC during the 2010 off-season.

McDonagh was cut by the Rangers in training camp and started the season with Hartford Wolfpack. With Michael Del Zotto suffering from a sophomore slump,it didn’t take long for McDonagh to get the call up. McDonagh was recalled on January 4th, 2011 the same day Del Zotto was demoted.  McDonagh impressed the Rangers enough that they were confident using him going forward and traded away Michal Rosizal to the Phoenix Coyotes. McDonagh recorded his first NHL point on an assist on a Brandon Prust goal on January 20, 2011. He scored his first and only NHL goal against the New Jersey Devils, which turned out to be the game-winner that gave the New York Rangers the 8th and final playoff spot. He finished his rookie season playing 40 games and recording 1 goal and 8 assists for 9 points and finished with a +16 rating. McDonagh played in all 5 games against the Washing Capitals, he was effective in shutting down the other team but his play did take a considerable drop from the regular season. McDonagh was responsible for a turn over that led to an Alexander Semin goal in Game 4. His drop in play during the post season can you attributed the fact this was his first pro season and he is still adjusting to the longer profession seasons.

With Marc Staal and Dan Girardi expected to stay together next season, McDonagh will be expected to slot into the second pairing with Mike Sauer with Michael Del Zotto, Tim Erixon and Steve Eminger rounding out the bottom pairing. It’s doubtful McDonagh will see any power play time with Brad Richards, Staal, Girardi and Del Zotto the likely pointmen but he could very well replace Staal on one of the points as the Rangers try to keep Staal healthy and ready for the playoffs. McDonagh is likely to see more penalty kill time as well, as the Rangers should begin to start distributing time on ice more evenly among their six rearguards. The Rangers have the youngest blueline in the league with several up and coming defensemen, if McDonagh should struggle for any period of time, it will not be surprising to see Del Zotto or Erixon played ahead of him.

McDonagh is a talented two-way defenseman. McDonagh’s best asset is his dimensionial speed, he has speed in all facets of his skating, whether it’s up ice, turning or skating backwards. He has the ability to play in all areas of the ice and excel in each zone. At 6’1, 213 lbs, he is a physical force that can play gritty and lay out punishing hits. He is very responsible in his own end, his speed allows him to make up for any mistakes he makes and his strength allows him to be strong in the corner. He also has the ability to contribute offensively, making smart passes and joining in on the rush. Although he has speed and is a great skater, he has not shown the confidence to jump up into the play, when he finally did he scored his first NHL goal. He’ll need to continue to improve on his confidence to be more effective offensively. He also has very good wrist shot that can beat a lot of goalies off the rush and possesses a good hard point shot. He does struggle a little bit with consistency, he does have the ability to dominate a game but needs to bring his effort in every game.

Despite his age, he acts like a seasoned veteran who’s been in the league 10 years. His maturity both on and off the ice and be credited to his uncle, former NFL quarter back, Steve Walsh, for showing him the ropes of what it’s like to be a professional. McDonagh combination of tremendous grit, leadership and skill have him compared to Chris Chelios.

“He’s been talking to me a lot these past couple of years on what it’s like to be a pro. How you have to respect your opponents and be respectful to the people around you who do the little things you don’t really notice all that much, but help make your day and your job in hockey that much easier and that much more enjoyable.”
-McDonagh on the advise his uncle gave him about being a pro player.

It’s unlikely McDonagh will ever be used as a point producer, as the Rangers have stated, they would like him to use his speed and physical presence in a shutdown role. A role he is sure to be superb in. McDonagh is best when he is given the best of both worlds. When he can be relied on defensively and allowed to join the offense. McDonagh is not an offensive defensemen who can put up 50 points a season, nor is he a defensive defensemen who will shut down opposing lines and put up 20 points a year. McDonagh is a player who can use his speed to join the rush while using that same speed to make up for any defensive lapses in plays he or his partner have. He can become a reliable 25-35 point producer if used properly, if he’s giving more opportunities on the power play, he could very well become a 40 point defensemen. It will all depend on how the Rangers decide to us him in the future.

McDonagh has all the skills to become a first pairing defender, he just needs to put everything he has together with more NHL experience and he will become a force from the blue line. McDonagh should record between 25-30 points next season.

How to score a goal by Ryan McDonagh

1. Keep the puck in the zone
2. Send it down low
3. Skate to the faceoff circle
4. Hold the puck for a second
5. Shoot high glove side

That’s how you score in the NHL.

To see all these steps in one fluid motion, watch the video below.

Behind The Bench appears Monday to Friday only on puckpuckgoose.com.

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