Jeff Gorton just made a big move for the future of the Rangers blue line. The Rangers have agreed to terms with NCAA free agent defenseman Neal Pionk from UMD.
Hearing NYR will sign Min-Duluth free agent D Neal Pionk. That's a coup for them, was a lot of interest.— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) May 1, 2017
Pionk is on the smaller-side for a blueliner, standing at just 5-foot-11, but he does have considerable offensive upside. The 21-year-old is a right-handed shot that put up 34 points in 42 games this year for the Bulldogs from the blue line.
OFFICIAL: #Blueshirts have agreed to terms with free agent defenseman Neal Pionk.— New York Rangers (@NYRangers) May 1, 2017
As a sophomore (he spent two-and-a-half seasons in the USHL) Pionk finished fifth in the nation among defensemen in points. Naturally, that created plenty of interest from NHL clubs that wanted to add some blue line depth.
As Friedman pointed out in his tweet, the Rangers landed Pionk despite there being a lot of interest from other teams. Gorton just got away with yet another steal in the college free agent pool in an effort to help build the Rangers prospect pool.
The fact that Pionk is a right-handed defenseman makes the signing that much more exciting and significant. It’s no secret that the Rangers lack organizational depth on the blue line. Signing Pionk builds the talent pool and increases the Rangers odds of producing another NHL-caliber defenseman.
Here’s some facetime with the newest New York Ranger.