- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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His game is having the sort of impact that is causing people around the league to take notice, with some even suggesting that the 24-year-old could be in the conversation for the Norris Trophy down the road.
Teammate Brian Boyle feels differently.
“I think he should be in [the conversation] now,” Boyle said after the Rangers' 3-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday.
“Everything he does, and he’s so consistent with it, too ... it’s fun to watch.”
Rangers coach Alain Vigneault also believes McDonagh is a deserving candidate for his pristine play throughout this season.
“He’s been a force out there,” Vigneault said. “He’s got to be getting some consideration for the Norris.”
McDonagh, who remains the odds-on favorite to succeed Ryan Callahan as the Rangers’ next captain, has established himself as one of the top shutdown players in the league with his sturdy defensive play the past few seasons, but he’s made leaps in the offensive side of his game this year.
The former University of Wisconsin standout, acquired in a trade from Montreal in what might very well go down as Glen Sather’s finest moment as a general manager in New York, extended his point streak to five games with his second-period goal.
His 14th goal of the season, which ranks fifth among NHL defensemen, was an absolute beauty. The precision and speed with which McDonagh ripped a wrist shot past Flyers netminder Steve Mason at 5:34 left his teammates on the bench altogether stunned.
They have witnessed him evolve into an offensive weapon, but even this felt like next-level-type stuff to them.
“He’s been lights-out all year,” said fellow blueliner Marc Staal. “It seems like everything he touches turns to gold right now.”
Just two nights prior, McDonagh notched the winning goal in the Rangers' 4-3 overtime victory against the Phoenix Coyotes. During the Rangers’ five-game winning streak, McDonagh has registered three goals and seven points. He has averaged a point per game for the past 13 games.
Granted, the Norris is often awarded to someone with the type of pedigree and credentials McDonagh has yet to add to his résumé. But he’s earning himself a reputation as one of the elite defensemen in the league, and could force his way into the conversation sooner rather than later.
He leads all Rangers defensemen in ice time, averaging 24:47 per game, and ranks second in blocked shots with 126. He plays the game with smarts and uses his biggest asset -- his skating -- to his advantage. And he’s still developing in only his fourth year as a pro.
“He’s amazing right now to watch,” said goaltender Henrik Lundqvist, who made 30 saves to record his franchise-leading 306th NHL win. “He’s such a good skater and you can see he’s so confident.”
Whether he ends up in the Norris conversation or not, the Rangers are grateful to have him anchoring their blue line, especially with the playoffs rapidly approaching.
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