Nick Holden came to the New York Rangers over the offseason from the Colorado Avalanche in a deal that saw a fourth-round pick going back the other way. The move made sense; New York had just lost Dan Boyle and Keith Yandle forcing them to rely on young and inexperienced defenders in significant roles. When the Rangers acquired Holden, the general thought was that he’d be a bottom pair, potential seventh defenseman for the club, but since training camp, the rear guard has done a terrific job of standing out, and I mean that in a positive way. He’s been fantastic in his own end while still finding a way to add some offensive flair — elements that have moved him up the Rangers’ depth chart.
Holden It Down
Rangers head coach Alain Vigneault spoke to Brett Crygalis of the New York Post about how Holden received praise from his former coach Patrick Roy. Now, in the thick of the season, Vigneault has similar comments, “(he’s) safe, dependable and not very flashy. But he’s got a good stick. He’s not overly physical, but he gets in the way.”
The scouting report has held true, and that’s exactly what the Rangers needed. Holden can and has been playing the right side this season and has been playing against top-flight talent, which has been crucial in supporting Dan Girardi and Kevin Klein. He’s currently second on the Rangers in average ice time per game logging 19:52, which is behind captain Ryan McDonagh’s 24:03 and he’s also been one of the teams most physical defensemen with 60 hits, behind only Klein.
Finding the Seams
Scoring 14 points in 32 games isn’t too shabby for a big defender who was expected to fill out the defense. The native of St. Albert, Alberta has excellent hands and the ability to move the puck through congestion. A scoring play that comes to mind is the goal against the Vancouver Canucks that Mats Zuccarello scored. Holden gets the puck and without even batting an eyelash, he sends a crisp and hard pass through the Canucks’ defense onto the tape of Zuccarello’s stick for the tally.
In recent games, Holden seems to have gotten more comfortable with his passing and overall game, as he’s making more of those dishes into space and is jumping into plays without hesitation. There’s no reason that he shouldn’t continue plugging along at this rate offensively.
Holden is found money for the Rangers. Every team in the NHL is always looking for defenders, particularly one that can play different roles and skate well. Somehow the Rangers landed Holden for only a fourth-round pick. This teams biggest hole this season was the right side of their defense so to have an inexpensive veteran step in despite being left-handed himself and play well is a huge bonus for the team. Another fun fact to keep in mind is that he’s still signed through next season at a cap hit of $1.6 million per season. This contract gives the team some flexibility by allowing them to be more patient with their prospects, which is huge for an organization that doesn’t have many. Should he continue to be this effective, he may end up wearing blue longer than anyone anticipated.