Prior to the season opener in October, New York Rangers fans were optimistic. No one could have predicted what has been a dumpster fire of a season. Who could’ve foreseen the Blueshirts to be a draft lottery contender? Nobody expected the star of the summer, Kevin Shattenkirk, to tear his meniscus and be a no-show essentially since coming out hot in the fall. The ship was sinking so quickly that Jeff Gorton felt the need to trade a second captain in five years. The Rangers simply weren’t supposed to be this bad.
John Gilmour Proving to be a Pleasant Surprise for New York Ranger Fans
But here they are, in the first day of March, looking back on a sheer disaster of a season and well on their way to a rebuild. Any sign of positivity should be appreciated given the terrible year. Lately, hope can be found in a young defenseman that has been surpassing expectations. 24-year-old John Gilmour is giving the Rangers blue line something to look forward to for the future.
Stepping Up in a Time of Need
It’s hard to remember the last time the Rangers defensive squad has been this erratic. Since buying out Dan Girardi and signing Shattenkirk in a blockbuster free agent acquisition, the blue line seemed to be improving. There was much depth added and for weeks leading up to the first game of the season. Players like Anthony DeAngelo, Sean Day, Neal Pionk, and Ryan Graves were speculated to fill the hole in the third pairing. Things were finally looking up in an area the Rangers had struggled in for years. However, with Shattenkirk’s injury, Brendan Smith not playing at an NHL-caliber level, and Steven Kampfer becoming the team’s new whipping boy, things are back to looking bleak again. So much so that Ryan McDonagh, team captain and best defenseman on the roster, was traded.
The defence has been in such a mess that there’s not much to get excited about in that department. Thankfully, John Gilmour is a player to remember come next year. Since joining the Rangers in free agency in 2016, the Montreal native has spent the past two years with the Wolf Pack. While with Hartford, he won the fastest skater competition at the AHL All-Star game this season. He also helped the Providence Friars win their first National Championship in 2015.
In Alain Vigneault‘s desperation, he called up Gilmour and fellow college free agent signee, Neal Pionk, in early February. It’s been ten games so far. They’ve already drawn much praise from the coach and fellow defenseman, Brady Skjei. As Blueshirt fans can attest, its highly unlikely for AV to give newer players ample ice time. Nonetheless, Gilmour is averaging 18:25 on the ice. He surely deserves it.
First career ? for #NYR John Gilmour!
— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) February 14, 2018
Who is John Gilmour?
It’s worth noting that Gilmour is not young. He turns 25 years old in May and is almost through his second year of professional hockey. His ceiling isn’t as high as defenders such as Pionk, Day, and obviously Skjei. It has also been just ten games in the NHL. This is no promise of consistency. Either way, he’s rapidly becoming a fan favourite in New York.
His two-way playing style is exactly what the Rangers could use these days. Not only is he fantastic at shutting down offensive rushes, he’s just as good at breaking out the puck from the defensive zone. Anyone who’s consistently watched this team play knows the Rangers have rarely been able to consistently break out of their own zone. Gilmour does it so gracefully, he makes it look easy.
— Fitz (@FitzGSN_) February 18, 2018
Shoutout to @VallysView for pointing this play out because I totally missed it earlier and this is the official John Gilmour fan account: John Gilmour just speeding past everyone #NYR pic.twitter.com/lj4MN9X8VF
— Fitz (@FitzGSN_) March 1, 2018
Aside from being great on the breakout, Gilmour pinches the puck carrier extremely well. He forces them to cough up the puck and quickly gains possession, then either passing it out or carrying it out himself. The 6’0″, 195-pound defenseman isn’t afraid to stand up bigger forwards in order to stop the rush. Often forcing them towards the boards, he effectively gets between the offensive player and net, taking away the shooting lane. Either a solid shove or stickcheck breaks the puck loose and Gilmour easily picks it up.
Joel Armia has about 4 inches and 25 pounds on John Gilmour… not a problem for Gilmour. He's having a nice game so far in both ends of the rink. pic.twitter.com/Slgc6Nk0Rp
— Adam Herman (@AdamZHerman) February 11, 2018
Last night, John Gilmour scored the second goal of his NHL career and it came against the Vancouver Canucks in overtime. He became the first Rangers rookie to score in overtime since Mats Zuccarello did so on January 5, 2011, against the Carolina Hurricanes. That goal also cemented his status as the first Rangers rookie defenseman to score one in extra minutes as well.
— BlueshirtsNation.com ? (@NYRangerFanclub) March 1, 2018
What to Make of the Madness
As stated before, it’s only been 10 games. Gilmour’s almost 25 years old already. It’s too early to be sure of anything. That being said, he seems to be earning his spot on the roster for the remainder of the season (as if there’s much choice at this point). If he continues playing to the level he currently is, it’s a safe bet he’ll crack the opening night roster next year and play alongside Brady Skjei, Kevin Shattenkirk, and the rest of the newly made over defensive core. He’ll be a fantastic role player until young prospects like Ryan Lindgren and Libor Hajek mature into an NHL-caliber players. Time will tell if the hype surrounding him is legitimate. For now, Rangers fans can stay hopeful they’ve found a surprise key player in John Gilmour.
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