Rangers’ Ryan Lindgren: From Undervalued Prospect to Top Defenseman

On Saturday, the New York Rangers concluded an exciting but frustrating season filled with drama and inconsistent play. At times the Blueshirts looked like a playoff team but they also went through stretches where they played poorly and struggled to score.

With Chris Drury taking over as New York’s president and general manager, the team will likely make some moves this offseason. However, before making any big changes, the Rangers took care of business by re-signing Ryan Lindgren to a three-year, $9 million deal. The gritty blueliner has been one of the Blueshirts’ most consistent players over the past two seasons and he has certainly earned this contract.

Lindgren Has Come a Long Way

The Rangers acquired Lindgren in the 2018 trade that sent Rick Nash to the Boston Bruins. At the time he wasn’t considered a high-level prospect as he wasn’t a fast skater and didn’t produce much offensively in his two years playing at the University of Minnesota. He finished with 3 goals and 13 assists in 67 games over his two seasons playing collegiately.

Ryan Lindgren University of Minnesota
Ryan Lindgren played well at the University of Minnesota but he wasn’t one of the Rangers’ top prospects. (Photo courtesy of Jim Rosvold)

During the 2018-19 season, Lindgren got called up by the rebuilding Rangers but struggled as he was held without a point and was minus-6 in five games. The following offseason, he made some big adjustments to his game, losing weight and significantly improving his skating.

The work Lindgren put in during the offseason paid off as he was called up by the Rangers once again early in the 2019-20 season and this time played too well to be taken out of the lineup.

Lindgren’s Play Over the Last Two Seasons

Throughout the 2019-20 season, Lindgren played with confidence and has been a physical presence for the Rangers. His defense-first mentality and ability to shut down the top offensive players on opposing teams made him an ideal defense partner for Adam Fox, who has been one of the best defensemen in the NHL over his first two seasons. The two built on the chemistry they had begun to form while playing for the U.S. National Team Development Program as teenagers. By midway through the 2019-20 season, they became New York’s top defense pair.

Lindgren is never afraid to play physically or block shots, and though he’s only listed at 6-feet, 191 pounds, he is strong enough to help clear opposing forwards from the front of the net. His tough play is especially important because this young, skilled Rangers team does not have a lot of grit or toughness. He has also excelled on the penalty kill and has shown a knack for breaking up 2-on-1 opportunities.

Though Lindgren isn’t known for his offensive ability, he makes clean, effective passes out of his own zone to start the rush and makes smart passes in the offensive zone. As a rookie, he finished with a goal and 13 assists and was plus-16 in 60 games. This season he finished second on the team in points by a defenseman with one goal, along with 15 assists and was plus-20 in 51 games.

Ryan Lindgren New York Rangers
Ryan Lindgren has become one of the New York Rangers best defensemen (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In addition to his own strong play, Lindgren has allowed Fox to be aggressive offensively and Fox leads all defensemen with 47 points this season. However, after Lindgren suffered an injury that kept him out of New York’s final five games of the season, Fox failed to register a point as he spent time paired with K’Andre Miller and Libor Hajek. Right now, Fox and Lindgren look like they should be the Rangers’ top defense pair for years to come.

Moving Forward

Lindgren has already proven he is one of the young players the Rangers can build around and he earned this contract extension with his strong play. The contract is a good one for the Rangers and secures him for the next three years, while still giving the team plenty of cap space this offseason. They may try to re-sign Brendan Smith, who played well down the stretch this season and, like Lindgren, plays a hard-nosed style.

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Next season, Lindgren should continue to play alongside Fox on the team’s top defense pair and the Rangers should expect another strong season from the young blueliner. While Lindgren has proven he can be a shutdown defenseman, he also showed a bit more offensive upside this season than in the last one. He knows when to join the rush and sneaks in from the blue line to create scoring chances. If he can work on his shot, he could score a few more goals next season.

Regardless of how much Lindgren produces offensively, he has been one of the Blueshirts’ most consistent players as well as one of their grittiest. He should be a staple on the Rangers’ blue line for years to come as they look to transition from rebuilding to contending.

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