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Fantasy Spin: Rangers' McDonagh reaches elite level

by Pete Jensen

It's safe to say New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh is maximizing his offensive production in year one under coach Alain Vigneault.

The 24-year-old has reached the top-15 fantasy realm at his position and continues to flourish as the Rangers' featured power-play defenseman.

And he's just getting warmed up.

Ryan McDonagh has seen a featured offensive role under coach Alain Vigneault, reaching the top-15 realm among fantasy defenseman as a result. (Photo: Scott Levy/NHLI)

McDonagh, one of the fantasy steals of the season to this point, extended his point streak to four games with a career-high three points in the Rangers' come-from-behind victory against the Phoenix Coyotes on Monday. His overtime winner was his 13th goal of the season, which ties him for sixth among defensemen.

He had sleeper value entering the season, but no one expected such a transformation from McDonagh. On average, he was the 72nd defenseman drafted in Yahoo leagues (average overall pick: 160.7).

Among the 17 defensemen with 40-plus points this season, McDonagh and Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks are the only two with 160-plus shots on goal and a rating of plus-10 or better. McDonagh is 12th among defenseman with 42 points.

The craziest part about McDonagh's rise to the elite ranks of fantasy defenseman is that he is still available in 32 percent of Yahoo leagues. Without a doubt, there are defensemen on the map with greater short-term value than McDonagh, but there is no justification to him being on the waiver wire even in the shallowest of shallow leagues.

Last season, McDonagh showed flashes of promise with 17 even-strength points (tied for fifth among defensemen) but was not utilized nearly enough on the power play under former Rangers coach John Tortorella. Now, under Vigneault, McDonagh is seeing 2:53 of ice time per game with the man advantage (13 power-play points) compared to 0:38 in 2012-13 (1 PPP).

He has had a knack for producing points in short-handed situations as well, which is another category that some fantasy leagues take into account. McDonagh sees 2:41 per game on the penalty kill and leads all defensemen with three shorthanded goals in 2013-14. To put that number into perspective, only four players (Brad Marchand, Tyler Johnson, Mikael Backlund, Matt Read), all forwards, have more this season.

McDonagh has taken the sixth-most shifts League-wide (2,184) and has found his groove following a slow start during the Rangers' lengthy season-opening road trip. He hasn't missed a game, has 12 points in his past 12 games and will have final nine games to add to his career-best numbers in nearly every major category.

The Rangers' offense continues to work out its kinks, but McDonagh's composure is helping them put it all together. New York has won four straight and McDonagh is carrying the puck with confidence in both zones. Come fantasy playoff time, when every category point looms large, owners couldn't ask for more.


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