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Trade to Rangers could open door for DeAngelo

Offensive defenseman needs to round out game to earn roster spot at training camp

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

VOORHEES, N.J. -- A chance to spend a full season in the NHL had defenseman Anthony DeAngelo excited to learn he'd been traded to the New York Rangers.

"I think it'll be good," DeAngelo said Friday. "I think there's changes going on there. They're still a good hockey team. I just have to go in there and try to make the team out of [training] camp and keep moving forward."

The 21-year-old was traded to the Rangers with the seventh pick in the 2017 NHL Draft from the Arizona Coyotes for center Derek Stepan and goaltender Antti Raanta on June 23.

DeAngelo's offensive talents have never been questioned, and they're part of what made him a first-round pick (No. 19) by the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2014. But to become a full-time NHL player, DeAngelo knows he must round out his game.

"I've got to continue to improve defensively," DeAngelo said. "Even last year there were some things I've got to do a lot better. Sometimes the offense makes up for it, but through an 82-game schedule you've got to be able to defend as well. … It's just being in the right place at the right time and moving guys and staying in front of guys' lanes. Gap control is a big thing."

DeAngelo was drafted by the Lightning, but traded to the Coyotes on June 25, 2016. He scored a goal in his first NHL game, against the Colorado Avalanche on Nov. 8, 2016.

He had 14 points (five goals, nine assists) and averaged 17:05 of ice time in 39 games with the Coyotes last season. DeAngelo also had 16 points (three goals, 13 assists) in 25 games with Tucson of the American Hockey League.

Video: ARI@STL: DeAngelo beats Allen with one-time snipe

But DeAngelo was minus-13 with the Coyotes and minus-2 with Tucson.

If he can show improvement defensively, there will be a chance for him to earn a spot in New York. The Rangers bought out the final three seasons of Dan Girardi's contract, Adam Clendening signed with the Coyotes and Kevin Klein retired from the NHL.

With the top defense pair likely to be captain Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Shattenkirk, and Brady Skjei with Brendan Smith on the second pair, that would leave DeAngelo to battle for playing time with Nick Holden, Marc Staal and Alexei Bereglazov.

Besides Shattenkirk, DeAngelo is the only other right-handed defenseman of that group. His presence would prevent another defenseman from having to play on his off-side and give the Rangers an option on the second power-play unit.

"The New York system is going to fit me really well," DeAngelo said. "The Arizona system was fine as well, nothing wrong with it at all. I think New York is more of an up-tempo offensive style team. … I think that fits the way I play."

Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said he's excited to see how DeAngelo fits at training camp.

"I only saw him once last year but everything that I'm hearing, whether it be from our scouts, from [general manager Jeff Gorton], from people who I talked to that know him more like Newell Brown [Canucks assistant coach who was with Coyotes last season], who I'm real tight with, everybody seems to think this guy is legit and he's ready to take the next step," Vigneault said. "I have not talked to anyone who has told me differently. Everybody I speak to says the same thing, that he's going to help us as far as our quick north/south transition game, and that he's going to help on the power play. He knows this is his third team in a real quick span so he's got to make a name for himself. Everybody thinks he'll be able to get it done."

Another byproduct of playing in New York would be the chance for DeAngelo's family to see him play in person. He was born in Sewell, New Jersey, and home rinks for the Rangers, Flyers, New Jersey Devils and New York Islanders are less than two hours away by car.

"My family will be able to come to as many games as they want now," he said.

But before the family can start buying tickets and planning road trips, DeAngelo must earn a roster spot.

"My plan is to make the team on opening night and not look back," he said. "Just play the way I did when I had spurts last year when I was good enough to stay up. … So, I think if I play the way I can I be a full-time guy."

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