The newest members of the New York Rangers, John Gilmour and Neal Pionk, have established themselves quite nicely in the lineup after their recall from Hartford. Both have taken a regular shift and develop good chemistry with their new teammates since arriving in the NHL.
It’s not easy to join a new team in the middle of the season as there tends to be an adjustment period for all thrown into this situation. Each player needs time to familiarize themselves and become more comfortable in their new surroundings. Chemistry with their teammates is only gained when each recognizes the other’s tendencies on the ice, and this can only be achieved by continuously playing shifts with one another. The process can be frustrating, especially if there’s no communication, but that’s not the case in New York.
Gilmour and Pionk Were Top NCAA Free Agents
Gilmour was an unsigned free agent from Providence College who agreed to a two-year contract with the Rangers in 2016. The Calgary Flames drafted him in the seventh round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, but chose not to offer Gilmour a professional contract following his senior season.
Gilmour is a strong, fast skater who has shown flashes of becoming a solid point-producer from the blue line position. He has turned some eyes with his ability to use speed and technique in clearing the puck out of the zone as an undersized (6-foot, 190 pounds) defenseman. Gilmour’s overall play has improved greatly in a short period of time, and the Rangers hope he can turn into a top-four defenseman by season’s end.
The Blueshirts won an aggressive bidding war when they signed Pionk as a NCAA free agent from Minnesota-Diluth last spring. He is another undersized (5-foot-11, 190 pounds) defenseman who has an accurate slap shot from the point that could eventually force the Rangers to make him their lead quarterback on the team’s top power play unit. Pionk shows tremendous poise with the puck and has enough on-ice awareness to make the right pass near the net. Plus, he isn’t afraid to clear out bigger, stronger forwards planted in front of the crease with physical play.
Rangers Need to Get Younger on the Blue Line
The Rangers needed to get younger on the blue line because the unit gave up too many shots on net each night. They lack the speed necessary to secure the puck and start the transition game out of the zone. From the first day of their promotion to the NHL, Gilmour and Pionk have worked hard and done what is expected of them by the coaching staff, so it’s not surprising they have received increased ice time since Ryan McDonagh was sent packing at the trade deadline. Both players are learning on the job with hopes of them becoming quality defensemen, and in return, they’re bringing the type of energy needed to change the organization’s current predicament.
On the ice, Gilmour and Pionk have found success by keeping everything simple and playing smart in their own zone each night. Neither are shy about getting chippy defending the area in front of their goaltender, and both rookies have enough offensive skills to begin a rush in heavy traffic.
In their brief sampling, Gilmour and Pionk have fared well against the NHL’s top lines, and even frustrated them on the rare occasion. Collectively, both have shown enough promise to give hope that the Rangers’ future is quite bright.
Thomas Conroy covers the Vegas Golden Knights for The Hockey Writers Network He has been writing about sports since 2007, first as a contributor for Bleacher Report and Football Nation. Recently, Conroy was a co-editor for the Bolts Beat website on Fansided. To read more his work, please him on Twitter @tsconroy