Rangers’ COVID List Creates Opportunities for Kinkaid & Defensemen

The New York Rangers announced that defensemen Ryan Lindgren and Jarred Tinordi and goalie Alexandar Georgiev are all in COVID protocol. Lindgren is a key blueliner who has played very well alongside his defense partner Adam Fox. Additionally, Georgiev stepped up for the Blueshirts with Igor Shesterkin out of the lineup due to a lower-body injury.

While it’s disappointing to lose important players, their absences create an opportunity for some of New York’s young defensemen, as well as third-string goalie Keith Kinkaid.

Zac Jones

The Rangers have a lot of talented defense prospects playing in the American Hockey League (AHL) for the Hartford Wolf Pack, including Tarmo Reunanen and Matthew Robertson. But Zac Jones and Braden Schneider appear to be the most NHL-ready prospects in Hartford.

Zac Jones, New York Rangers
Zac Jones has played very well for the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League this season (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Jones is just 21 years old, is a left-handed defenseman (Lindgren and Tinordi are also left-handed) and already has some NHL experience. Last season he finished with nine goals, including three on the power play, and 15 assists in 29 games, helping UMass-Amherst win their first NCAA championship.

Though Jones is only 5-foot-11 and 185 pounds, he has a strong, accurate shot and is an excellent playmaker. He played 10 games for the Blueshirts last season and did a nice job, though the team struggled with numerous key players out of the lineup. He didn’t look overmatched physically, made accurate passes out of the defensive zone, and had four assists.

This season, he has four goals and 13 assists in 21 games with the Wolf Pack. He is playing with poise and confidence, and he could provide the Rangers with an offensive spark from the blue line — no left-handed defenseman has more than five points for the Blueshirts this season.

Braden Schneider

Another intriguing option in Hartford is right-handed defenseman Braden Schneider. Although Nils Lundkvist hasn’t played poorly this season, he has yet to break out. Schneider, who is 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, is much more physical than Lundkvist and could get an opportunity with the Blueshirts.

Braden Schneider, New York Rangers
Braden Schneider is off to a strong start for the Hartford Wolf Pack this season (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The Rangers expected Patrik Nemeth to be a shutdown defenseman, but he has struggled in that role this season. And it’s possible that the Blueshirts could use Schneider and Jones as a defense pair rather than Lundkvist and Nemeth.

Related: Rangers’ Best Third Defense Pair Might Be Playing in Hartford

In 22 games with the Wolf Pack, Schneider has eight assists and is plus-seven. He has been very strong in the defensive zone, played with physicality, and has shown he also has the potential to contribute offensively. He’s also a good skater with a heavy shot.

Keith Kinkaid

While it’s fortunate that Shesterkin is ready to return from his lower-body injury, the Rangers will likely be careful to manage his workload, and Kinkaid should get some playing time with Georgiev out.

The veteran Kinkaid did a nice job filling in for the Rangers with Shesterkin hurt last season. Though he only had a .898 save percentage in nine games, he came up with some big saves and gave the Blueshirts a chance to win even when they got outplayed. This season, he played in one game and helped the Rangers beat the Arizona Coyotes, stopping 29 of 31 shots.

This stint with the Rangers is important for Kinkaid, as he has an opportunity to prove he can be Shesterkin’s backup. Georgiev has struggled in the last two seasons, and trade rumors have surrounded him. He couldn’t get into a rhythm with limited starts as Shesterkin’s backup; however, Kinkaid’s play has been steady regardless of playing time.

For the Rangers Moving Forward

While it’s never ideal to have players out of the lineup, losing Lindgren, Tinordi and Georgiev creates an opportunity for Kinkaid and some of the Rangers’ young blueliners. If they take advantage of the opportunity, they can certainly earn more playing time with the Blueshirts moving forward.

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