- Katie Strang, ESPN.com
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But this year, a new champ has emerged.
New York Rangers
Defenseman Ryan McDonagh was announced Friday morning as both the Team MVP award and the Players’ Player Award. The media votes on the former, the team itself on the latter.
The recognition comes on the heels of what has been a sensational, breakout season for the 24-yar-old McDonagh. The former University of Wisconsin standout, acquired in a trade with Montreal in what may be remembered as Glen Sather’s finest moment as Rangers’ general manager, leads the team’s defensemen with 14 goals and 43 points. Before going down with a left shoulder injury last week –- a “day-to-day” injury not believed to be serious -– McDonagh led the team with 24:49 of ice time per game.
His play has been so impressive that his name has been thrown around as a potential Norris Trophy candidate, awarded to the league’s best defenseman.
McDonagh became the first Rangers defenseman to win the MVP award since Brian Leetch received the honor in 2002-03.
And it wasn’t just the media that felt he was deserving, but his teammates as well.
With the pair of awards secured, it’s not hard to imagine that the next honor for the St. Paul, Minn. native will be.
The achievements also underscore his utmost importance to the team as they gear up for the regular-season finale in Montreal before post-season play begins.
It is unclear whether McDonagh will play against the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday night at Bell Centre -– coach Alain Vigneault said he was split on the decision –- but the team has to hope he’s back in the lineup when the puck drops on Game 1 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at Madison Square Garden next Thursday.
McDonagh has been an absolute force on the team’s back end all season. In order for the Rangers to go on any sort of playoff run, he’s got to continue to serve as that anchor for the team’s blue line.
Usually it’s franchise goaltender Henrik Lundqvist that cleans up in the yearly team awards for the New York Rangers. But this year, a new champ has emerged.