Nils Lundkvist is the Silver Lining of the Tony DeAngelo Situation

Hello everyone! Before I get started here I’d like to introduce myself. I used to write and host a podcast for a different hockey site. I took some time away from writing to focus on launching a new sports podcast, Skyscraper Sports. The writing itch stayed with me and I wanted to find a new place to write about the team I love and to interact with some great people. I shot Dave a DM and here we are! I’m extremely thrilled to be a part of BSD and I hope you all enjoy my work. Let’s start with how Nils Lundkvist was always going to replace Tony DeAngelo. The process is just accelerated now.

It’s been a tough few days in Rangerstown. The team’s lackluster play this early in the season has been enough. Combine that with the incident surrounding defenseman Tony DeAngelo and goaltender Alexandar Georgiev has put a bit of a dark cloud over the team. The good news is, even with this incident currently hanging over the organization, there is a silver lining.

Tony DeAngelo has played his last game as a Ranger and will soon be traded away (hopefully for a center). This leaves an open spot on the Rangers third pair that is just waiting to be filled by a certain prospect over in Sweden.

Bringing Lundkvist overseas

Nils Lundkvist, the Rangers prized first-round pick, 28th overall, from the 2018 Entry Draft has been tearing up the SHL. You can be sure that this incident with DeAngelo has only fueled the organization to get him over here as fast as they can. Now here is where we need to be a little bit patient Rangers fans.

Lundkvist cannot come over until his contract with Lulea ends in March when the SHL season comes to an end. This doesn’t include playoffs. Lulea currently sits third overall in the SHL standings with 19 wins on the season and if they do make the playoffs, that can be up to seven more weeks Lundkvist stays in Sweden. Per Larry Brooks, Lundkvist also has to get a release from the IIHF as well.

Rest assured though, Lundkvist will be here sooner rather than later and the spot for him to step right in on the blueline has now been opened.

Offensive skills

Lundkvist has ascended up Rangers prospects lists since his draft day. Since the 2017-18 SHL season, Lundkvist has put up 69 points in 151 games, including a 31 point season in 2019-20. The Junior Hockey Player of the Year in 2020, Lundkvist continues to play top-four minutes for Lulea. He is currently tied for 10th in points by defenseman this season.

Lundkvist clearly has offensive prowess. According to Dobber Prospects‘ PNHLe model, which predicts a prospect’s point totals at the NHL level, Lundkvist is projected to be a first-pair talent when he blossoms. It will be a very fun competition between him and Adam Fox over the next few years to see who gets to quarterback the Rangers top power-play unit. 

Defensive ability

Clearly Lundkvist does not have an issue in the offensive zone. But he’s a defenseman, so can he actually defend? Will he succeed in the areas DeAngelo didn’t while he was here?

The signs clearly point to him being a more than competent defenseman in his own end. As we’ve seen with DeAngelo, all the offensive firepower in the world doesn’t mean anything if you keep getting embarrassed in your own end. We’ve seen the Aho and Barzal highlights.

Lundkvist thankfully is much more defensively sound than DeAngelo ever was. There will of course be growing pains as he adjusts to the NHL, but Lundkvist will be a much better overall defenseman over the course of his career. The Rangers already have Fox (who is quickly establishing himself as the Rangers number one defenseman) and K’Andre Miller, with his smooth skating and solid defensive play. Lundkvist looks to be a part of what will one day soon be one of the most dynamic top-4 defense corps in the NHL.

Unexpected pressure

Lundkvist will have a bit of added pressure on his shoulders though when he enters the league. As I said before, Lundkvist was picked 28th overall in 2018. That pick was the pick the Rangers acquired in the Ryan McDonagh trade. So far the returns on that trade have been less than stellar.

Libor Hajek can’t seem to crack this lineup. Brett Howden seems to be the Rangers 4C. Nothing more, nothing less. Vlad Namestnikov was traded multiple times within the past year. This leaves Lundkivst, and fellow Swedish prospect Karl Henriksson, as the last two pieces from the trade. Thankfully both seem to be on a nice upward trajectory.

DeAngelo’s spot was always Lundkvist’s to take. Because of recent events and the looming trade of DeAngelo, Lundkvist’s spot is more than assured once he can make his way over from Europe. Lundkvist will soon look to make his mark on the NHL, and Rangers fans can be assured his play will make DeAngelo a distant memory.