Nick Holden was one of the New York Rangers’ small additions this offseason, coming over in a trade that saw New York send a fourth-round-pick in 2017 to the Colorado Avalanche. It still isn’t clear where he fits in at the moment, as they still have several internal questions to answer, but from an organizational standpoint, Holden fills a need for New York, as the team lost both Dan Boyle and Keith Yandle over the off-season.
Holden has proven that he’s capable of playing in the NHL on a nightly basis suiting up for 160 games in his past two seasons in Colorado. Last season was a good step in his career as he logged the third-most time on the team playing an average of 18:46 per night, and finished the season 20th in the NHL in hits with 217. When it came to killing penalties (something the Rangers struggled with last season) Holden was again ranked third regarding ice-time with 2:20 per game on the unit.
At the moment it seems that the Rangers will be relying on Dylan McIlrath and Brady Skjei to fill out their defense, and while both prospects have shown potential, it’s hard to hand such responsibility to two defensemen that have 50 games of NHL experience between them. With a guy like Holden there to insulate the youth, the Rangers know that they have someone who can push for more ice-time and step into a few games if one of the youngsters starts to struggle with the workload.
All the Tools
Having done some homework on Holden I can say that for a big defender, he has great mobility. Some view him as a plug who’ll sit back and clog ice, but it isn’t true. He has the instincts to jump into the play when the opportunity presents itself, which is a necessary attribute in Head Coach Alain Vigneault’s system, and a bonus is that he has a smooth nature with the puck even if he falls under pressure.
One element of his game that I like is that he doesn’t just run back to the blue-line after the initial play. You can always find, even the most defensive-minded defenders joining a rush, but not everyone is willing to stay up in the play and battle around the net. This quality is something that Rangers’ blueliners lacked last season.
That aggressive mentality is tested the most during the playoffs, and when Colorado played the Minnesota Wild back in 2014 we still see the big defender following his instincts, and hanging around in front of the net on the man advantage.
Holden probably won’t play in more than 50 games this season, but he doesn’t have to. What the Rangers were looking for when they made this deal was a player who had the tools to bounce around the back end and help ease the burden and after watching him play a bit I see no reason why he can’t be a solid addition to this club. This organization has done an excellent job of finding good, well-rounded defenders on affordable deals in the past, just look at Kevin Klein and Anton Stralman. For Holden to have success with this team, all he needs to do is worry about being physical and moving the puck quickly, if he does those things he will have himself a job for the season.