There aren’t many bright spots on the blue line for the Rangers this year, nor are there NHL ready prospects in the system that can offer much of an improvement without significant development cost. The only prospect that is really worth mentioning in terms of being ready for the NHL is Ryan Graves.
Graves, by most accounts, is having a solid year in Hartford. Playing on the top pair and in all situations, Graves has a line of 5-14-19 in 42 games. That leaves him two points shy of last year’s full season totals. The 6’4″, 220 lb left handed defenseman is a smooth skater and puck mover, and has been defensively sound and one of the few bright spots on a pretty bad Hartford Wolf Pack team.
Prospect guru Corey Pronman recently commented on Graves’ play this season, with positive things to say:
I think he's been great. He's no Erik Karlsson but he's sound defensively, moves the puck well. He could be up in NY soon. https://t.co/OKhH8qw3Ww
— Corey Pronman (@coreypronman) January 18, 2017
That kind of comment makes you wonder. If you recall the 2010-2011 season, when the Rangers were struggling on defense, they recalled a highly touted prospect and shifted some contracts around to make room. That prospect is now the captain of the team.
I’m not saying Graves has the same career arc as Ryan McDonagh, but the 21-year-old has shown significant improvements year after year since the Rangers took him in the fourth round of the 2013 draft. Those improvements have led him to be a rock on defense for the Pack, and perhaps a player that could be a solution to the Rangers’ defensive woes.
As a lefty, it makes it difficult to fit him in at the moment. But if Marc Staal is out long-term and if Alain Vigneault decides enough is enough with Kevin Klein, then perhaps there is a spot for Graves. Dan Girardi, Adam Clendening, and Nick Holden can play on the right side, with McDonagh, Graves, and Brady Skjei on the left side. But those are two major ifs.