The New York Rangers season has begun and questions remain about who will be playing as part of the defense core. This year the club has eight defensemen on the roster. Five of those eight defensemen have regular spots on the team for the time being. However, there are three that are fighting for that sixth spot.
The role of the sixth defenseman will be a three-way battle between Anthony DeAngelo, Nick Holden and Steven Kampfer. Each of these players brings a different set of skills to the team. Let’s dive into each player to see who will be the best fit for the open spot.
Anthony “Tony” DeAngelo
DeAngelo is one of many new faces on the Rangers this season. He was acquired this past summer from the Arizona Coyotes. DeAngelo was originally drafted by the Tampa Bay Lighting in 2014 but was eventually traded to the Coyotes in 2016. He showed flashes of skill in the NHL last season by playing 39 games and putting up 14 points. The only cause of concern was his plus-minus rating of a minus-13.
He plays with high skill and good skating to move the puck up the ice. However, there are still flaws in his game. Defensive responsibilities and discipline are currently holding him back from taking a full-time NHL role. As his game matures, those issues should be fixed. DeAngelo has a lot of upside and is probably the favorite to win the spot as the sixth defenseman on this team.
Holden was a topic of conversation a lot this past summer. Many rumors within the organization said that Holden was on his way out of New York City. Yet, at the beginning of the season Holden was still a Ranger.
He was originally acquired from the Colorado Avalanche in the summer of 2016. Last season, Holden played 80 games for the Rangers. With that, he put up 34 points and a plus-minus of plus-13.
Holden was a solid third pair defenseman for the Rangers during the 2016-17 campaign and he can do it again for this team. He has the most experience out of the three players. This is also a contract year for Holden.
If he wants a contract from the Rangers or any other NHL team, he will need to win this spot. Holden has a lot on the line here, so expect to see him come out flying.
Kampfer is an interesting player. He was originally acquired from the Florida Panthers last season and ended up playing 10 games for the Rangers before being sent down to the AHL. While in the AHL he put up 19 points in 43 games played.
He has good skating ability with a solid offensive mindset as he moves the puck well and gets involved in the play. Kampfer is a smaller defenseman at 5-foot-11 and has struggled to stay in the NHL consistently.
He has moved around from team to team and this could be a reason he has struggled. Bouncing from team to team takes a toll on the body and mind. It’s hard to keep readjusting to new systems and teammates.
With that, he has an opportunity here to help play key minutes for this team. His offensive mindset and experience can be an asset for this team. Kampfer has also won a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins during the 2010-11 season.
The Rangers have not won a Cup since 1994 and anyone they can add with Stanley Cup experience is a big bonus. Kampfer probably has the longest shot at this spot but he can make a run for it.
The options for this club at the sixth defenseman role are deep. Having three players fight for the job is a good thing to have. It gives the team competition in practice and flexibility for the position. Recently, Brendan Smith has been rotated out of the line-up but this should not last too long.
He was signed in the offseason to a big contract and going forward Smith should be a permanent member in the line-up. This will be a tough choice for the coaching staff, but they have the true feel for these players. It all comes down to who wants it the most.
I am a college student covering the New York Rangers. Creator of The Hockey 411 podcast and website. Follow me on Twitter @thehockey411 to get my opinion on all things NHL!