Best post-lockout Ranger: Round 2, Michael Nylander (3) vs. Michael Del Zotto (6)

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As the offseason wears on, us and Matt Josephs of Blue Line Station (Twitter: 11Matt_Josephs8) will be running a tournament for the Best Ranger since the 2005 lockout. Today the second round continues with #3 Michael Nylander vs. #6 Michael Del Zotto.

Just a note: I am on vacation. The tournament posts are still going up, but I had to schedule them in advance, so the winners of the previous matchups won’t be posted in the picture until I get back next week. I am still keeping track though.

Michael Nylander (acquired – 2004 unrestricted free agent)

When initially signed, Nylander was looked at with the same doubt as Marty Straka. How was Nylander supposed to help this Ranger team make the playoffs? Well, he answered that in a big way over his two seasons in New York, putting together 79 and 83 point seasons while clicking with Straka and Jaromir Jagr. The three of them (with Henrik Lundqvist) put the Rangers back on the map of relevance. Nylander’s two years with the Rangers saw him put together a line of 49-113-162 in 160 games.

The Rangers eventually let Nylander walk after the 2006-2007 season when Washington offered him a four-year deal. Nylander never clicked in Washington, and was out of the NHL just two years later. The Rangers decided to let him walk to sign both Scott Gomez and Chris Drury.

Michael Del Zotto (acquired – 2008 draft, 1st round)

Del Zotto is probably one of the more under appreciated Rangers in recent memory. MDZ forced his way on to the roster in 2009 as a 19 year old and showed why the Rangers drafted him in the first round, putting up 9-28-37. He struggled defensively, and his poor decision making actually led to a demotion for the 2010-2011 season, when he spent 11 games in Hartford after putting up just 2-9-11 in 47 games for the Rangers. His sophomore season was a step backwards, but since then Del Zotto has been steadily improving on both sides of the puck.  He has earned his top-four minutes and became someone the coaching staff trusts, which says something when that coach is (was) John Tortorella.

In his four year career, Del Zotto has a line of 24-86-110 in 250 games. As he continues to improve, the now 23 year old Del Zotto will hopefully prove most doubters wrong.

So who do you think is the better Ranger, Nylander or Del Zotto? Vote thumbs up for the higher seed (Nylander), or thumbs down for the lower seed (Del Zotto). Voting ends at midnight tonight.

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