The New York Rangers came into this season with so many prospects on defense that Ryan Lindgren was an afterthought. Despite fairly low expectations, he has earned important ice time and looks like a big part of the team’s future.
Leading up to the 2019-20 Season
The Rangers acquired Lindgren just before the trade deadline in the 2017-18 season, in the deal that sent Rick Nash to the Boston Bruins. Boston originally selected Lindgren in the second round of the 2016 NHL Draft. He chose to go to college in Minnesota, where he showed promise defensively and tallied three goals and 13 assists in 67 games over two seasons.
Lindgren made his debut for the Hartford Wolf Pack late in 2017-18 and spent most of last season there as well. He had two goals and 14 assists in 75 games over those two seasons. He established himself as a gritty, strong defensive defenseman but struggled with his skating. Still, he showed enough promise to briefly get called up by the Blueshirts, playing five games in 2018-19.
Lindgren’s Start to the 2019-20 Season
Lindgren again began the season in Hartford but quickly earned another call up to New York. He had one goal, one assist and was plus-8 in nine games with the Wolf Pack. He also showed great improvement in his quickness after working hard on his skating and losing weight in the offseason.
His work over the offseason made a big difference. When he was called up, he looked much more comfortable getting back to defend and more confident pinching in, in the offensive zone. He also looked much more decisive with and without the puck. He scored his first NHL goal after keeping the puck in the offensive zone and then going right to the net.
Despite losing weight, Lindgren remained strong enough to clear opponents from the front of the net, and shield the puck from opponents. He also showed he wasn’t afraid to step up and level opponents who kept their heads down with big hits.
He excelled on the penalty kill and quickly formed chemistry with his defense partner, fellow rookie Adam Fox. His steady defensive play allowed Fox to become more aggressive offensively. The two got better as the season went on and as head coach David Quinn’s confidence in Lindgren grew, he was given more playing time.
Lindgren’s Second Half of the 2019-20 Season
Lindgren and Fox worked their way up through the season and were becoming the team’s top pair. His role with the team became even bigger when Brady Skjei was traded to the Carolina Hurricanes for a first-round pick at the trade deadline.
Following the trade, Lindgren became the top and most trusted left-handed defenseman on the Rangers. In addition to being essential on the penalty kill, he also became a steady presence in big situations late in games, whether the Blueshirts were holding on to a lead or trying to make a comeback.
He started chipping in more offensively by making clean passes to start the rush. He notched four assists over a two-game span against the New York Islanders and Montreal Canadiens immediately following the Skjei trade. The Rangers won both games. Lindgren has one goal, 13 assists and is plus-16 in 60 games with the Blueshirts this season. He has also helped his defense partner thrive, as Fox has eight goals, 34 assists and is plus-22 in 70 games.
Lindgren and Fox are both just 22-years-old and they have the potential to be the Rangers’ top defense pair for years to come.
Lindgren’s strong defensive play and physicality remain the strengths to his game but his improved skating and ability to make clean passes out of his own zone are also impressive for a young player. He has brought out the best in Fox, who looks like he can become a franchise player.
Lindgren has proven he is one of the talented young players the Rangers can build with as they transition from rebuilding to becoming contenders.
I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, rooting for the Rangers, Yankees, Giants, and Knicks. When my dream of playing shortstop for the Yankees fell short, I started writing about sports instead. I’m a proud graduate of the Philip Merrill College of Journalism at the University of Maryland.