Rangers Get Grit & Stability with Patrik Nemeth

While the New York Rangers have plenty of talented young defense prospects, they lacked depth on their blue line last season, and it came back to haunt them. The Rangers relied heavily on their top four defensemen, but struggled late in the season with Ryan Lindgren and Jacob Trouba both injured.

The Blueshirts addressed their lack of depth by signing Patrik Nemeth to a three-year, $7.5 million contract.

Nemeth’s Play with the Colorado Avalanche and Detroit Red Wings

The Dallas Stars drafted Nemeth in the second round of the 2010 NHL Draft. He made his debut with the Stars during the 2013-14 season, and played with them for four seasons, but struggled to get consistent ice time. Following the 2016-17 season, Dallas waived him and the Colorado Avalanche claimed him.

Nemeth established himself as an effective defensive-defenseman during the 2017-18 season by using his size and strength to his advantage. He is 6-foot-3 and 228 pounds, and he leverages his strength to clear opponents out of the crease. He established himself as a valuable penalty killer, blocked a lot of shots, and did not pass up opportunities to throw checks. He finished the season with three goals, 12 assists and was plus-27 in 68 games, all while averaging 19:51 of ice time per game.

During the 2017-18 season, Nemeth also got valuable playoff experience, averaging 23:42 of ice time, and adding one assist over of six games. He remained a valuable penalty killer during the 2018-19 season, and thrived in his role as a shutdown defenseman, despite a decrease in ice time. He finished the season with one goal and eight assists in 74 games.

Colorado Avalanche Patrik Nemeth
Patrik Nemeth played well during his first stint with the Colorado Avalanche (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Nemeth’s contract with the Avalanche ended after the 2018-19 season, and he signed with the Detroit Red Wings in the offseason. Unlike Colorado, Detroit didn’t have much of a shot at making the postseason, as they were rebuilding, but the gritty defenseman got an opportunity to play a bigger role.

In his two seasons with the Red Wings, Nemeth became a top-four defenseman, and while he didn’t produce much offensively, he continued to excel defensively. During the 2019-20 season, he was one of Detroit’s most consistent players, and he led them in blocked shots. He continued his strong play last season.

Despite his effective play with the Red Wings, Nemeth’s expiring contract made him a trade candidate last season and Detroit traded him back to Colorado. He was brought in as a third-pair defenseman and penalty killer, and he played well in the first round of the playoffs while the Avalanche eliminated the St. Louis Blues. However, he struggled in a second-round matchup with the Vegas Golden Knights, and made a few uncharacteristic poor decisions that resulted in costly turnovers. Colorado was ultimately eliminated in six games.

Nemeth’s Role with the Rangers This Season

While Nemeth has experience as a top-four defenseman, he should be a third-pair defenseman and penally kill specialist with the Rangers. Adam Fox, K’Andre Miller, Lindgren and Trouba have all established themselves as New York’s top defensemen, and Nemeth will likely begin the season paired with a skilled young defense prospect like Nils Lundkvist or Zac Jones.

Patrik Nemeth Detroit Red Wings
Patrik Nemeth’s defense-first mentality makes him an ideal defense partner for Nils Lundkvist or Zac Jones with the New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Lindgren, who plays a similar style to Nemeth, has brought out the best in Fox, and the Rangers hope Nemeth can do the same for another skilled young defenseman. The Rangers didn’t have depth on their blue line last season, and it hurt them. All four of their top defensemen missed time, and with the exception of Brendan Smith, no one else was able to step up when those players were out of the lineup.

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Nemeth has experience as a top-four defenseman and should be able to step into the role if New York’s top defensemen miss time this season. He isn’t expected to do much offensively but he should be able to hold his own defensively and make good, safe decisions with the puck.

Moving Forward

While the Rangers’ lack of depth on defense was exposed last season, they have plenty of talented prospects with lots of potential. If a few of those prospects can play to their potential, the Blueshirts won’t be forced to rely on Nemeth as a top-four defenseman. However, he gives some additional depth and experience to New York’s young group of defensemen.

Signing Nemeth wasn’t a move that grabbed too many headlines, but he is a solid offseason addition for the Rangers. He may not be flashy, but the Blueshirts need to get tougher and improve defensively. Conveniently, those are both strengths of his game, and make him an ideal fit for the Rangers.