Is Anthony DeAngelo The Real Deal?

USA TODAY

On June 23, 2017, the Rangers traded center Derek Stepan and goalie Anti Raanta to Arizona for the Coyotes first round pick (pick#7) and enigma defenseman Anthony DeAngelo. The New Jersey native has put up eye-popping numbers in his AHL career, so there should no questioning his offensive abilities. He is right-handed, shoots the puck very well, has exceptional hands and is a fantastic skater. DeAngelo is your classic offensive defenseman.

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While with the Sarnia Sting of the OHL, his numbers got progressively better each year. In his second year there, he was almost a point per game player, with a bad team. The following season he was almost a point and a half per game player (71 points in 51 games). He continued his scoring pace the next year for 29 games, before being traded to Sault Ste. Marie. While finally playing with a more talented group, DeAngelo averaged nearly 2 points per game (51 points in 26 games). He finished his final campaign in the OHL with an extraordinary 89 points in 55 games. He won the Max Kaminsky award for the OHL’s most outstanding defenseman. Another Erik Karlsson in the making?

But; and you had to know a “but” was coming, right? DeAngelo is known to play with an edge. And, usually that’s a good thing. But in his case, he has shown that he has a problem controlling his emotions on the ice. In 2014, he was suspended for using homophobic slurs against one of his teammates. The suspension came from his team and the league, jointly. This transgression affected his draft stock. He was clearly regarded as a top-15 pick in the 2014 NHL draft, but wound up slipping to 19, to Tampa.

The year after he was drafted, he rewarded the Lightning’s faith by getting suspended again (one game) for abuse of an official, while playing for Sarnia. So he was clearly getting a reputation that would be difficult to shake. The following year, while playing for the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL, he was a healthy scratch eight times. A huge number for a first round pick with so much talent. Observers say the scratches were a combination of attitude and undisciplined play. He also has an aversion to actually playing DEFENSE. He has been a big time minus player in all but one of his professional seasons. Albeit, he didn’t play with top teams on those occasions.

When he finally made his pro debut after being traded to Arizona by Tampa, it didn’t take long for him to be suspended by the NHL for 3 games, for abuse of an official. So now we have a pattern of abusive behavior against officials, and a bad attitude within the team structure. Add a dash of poor defensive play, and we have a full blown tire fire.

In talking to other Rangers fans, and reading lineup projections on social media, most think DeAngelo is a sure fire third pair partner for Marc Staal. I may have to throw some cold water on that. Have you forgotten who the Rangers coach is? Alain Vigneault has little patience for young players making egregious mistakes in their own zone. And it sure sounds like DeAngelo makes more than his share. The very concept of an NHL caliber offensive defenseman is a player that is a big enough contributor offensively, that the defensive miscues can be overlooked. Which means he will have to be a big producer or he won’t be in the lineup very long. Then we throw in the hot temper he has flashed, to go with an attitude issue. The last time the Blueshirts had this type of player was Sean Avery. And when his production dropped off, and the amount of time in the penalty box went up, he became a liability.

As a defenseman under Vigneault, you can clearly expect that leash to be shorter. Plus the coach has options. Nick Holden, Neal Pionk, Sean Day and Alexei Bereglazov are all candidates to be on the third pairing opposite Marc Staal. As far as I am concerned, DeAngelo is a very long shot. But, if there is a drastic maturation, and he improves his defensive play, it would be the best thing for the Rangers if he won that spot. He is extremely gifted but so volatile. If they can exorcise that last one, we could be looking at a dynamic player.

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