NHL rumors: Ryan McDonagh of New York Rangers should win Norris Trophy for NHL's best defenseman?
The New York Rangers acquired defenseman Ryan McDonagh in 2009 mostly as a way to ship Scott Gomez out of town to the Montreal Canadiens, but now the 24-year-old blueliner could be in the conversation for the Norris Trophy, at least according to his teammates.
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McDonagh, who has been red-hot for the Rangers in recent games and may even fill the captaincy void for the team next season after Ryan Callahan was traded to the Tampa Bay Lightning, has become one of the best defenseman in the league this season while playing alongside Dan Girardi.
Teammate Brian Boyle believes McDonagh has played well enough to earn him the Norris Trophy, given out annually to the best NHL defenseman at the end of the season.
"I think he should be in [the conversation] now," Boyle told ESPN after the Rangers' 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday gave the Blueshirts their fifth straight win in the midst of a playoff push. "Everything he does, and he's so consistent with it, too ... it's fun to watch."
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault also believes that McDonagh should be in the Norris running due to how great he has played for the team this season.
"He's been a force out there," Vigneault said of McDonagh, the former University of Wisconsin standout who is on a five-game point streak, via ESPN. "He's got to be getting some consideration for the Norris."
While Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks and Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators are the leading candidates thus far, McDonagh may also wind up in the running. Karlsson is the favorite to win it, as he leads all defenseman (and his team) in points (69) and goals (20) while Keith paces all blueliners with 24 assists for the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks.
Still, McDonagh, in just his third NHL season, has set career-highs in goals (14), assists (29) and points (43) while averaging a career-high 24:47 time on ice and blocking 126 shots. McDonagh has been instrumental in helping the Rangers turn around their season after starting out slow in Vigneault's first year.
McDonagh scored his 14th goal of the season on Wednesday to put him into fifth place in goals for NHL defenseman.
"He's been lights-out all year," said fellow defenseman Marc Staal, according to ESPN. "It seems like everything he touches turns to gold right now."
McDonagh has averaged a point per game in the Rangers last 13 contests and has three goals and seven points during the Rangers five-game winning streak, including the overtime game-winning tally against the Phoenix Coyotes Monday at Madison Square Garden.
While he may not end up being on the radar yet as far as Norris considerations, he is receiving high praise from his teammates and is starting to get recognized as an elite defender around the league.
"He's amazing right now to watch," said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist via ESPN "He's such a good skater and you can see he's so confident."
While it is likely that a more well-known defenseman such as Karlsson or Keith will end up with the Norris Trophy, there is a case to be made for McDonagh.