Prior to the March 21 trade deadline, the New York Rangers spent large swaths of the 2021-22 season icing lineups thin on forward depth, especially whenever one or more regulars were injured. Perhaps the biggest poster child for that dearth of depth was fringe-NHL forward Greg McKegg, who, after signing a one-year, two-way deal as a free agent, played through his second stint on Broadway after a forgettable 53-game episode in 2019-20.
McKegg, who just turned 30 in June, is obviously not someone NHL teams should count on for offensive production. As a borderline NHLer, the idea is that at most, when not in the minors, he would play on a team’s fourth line, particularly when forward injuries crop up. In that role, the hope is that he would be solid defensively (like Dryden Hunt) and perhaps an asset on the penalty kill. Still, you would ideally also hope for some ability to help establish some possession and an offensive cycle at five-on-five, even if it isn’t going to lead to that many points for the player or his linemates.
Even without lofty expectations, McKegg was a net negative on the ice for the Rangers. In 43 regular-season games, he tallied two goals and three assists. Moreover, whenever he was on the ice, the Rangers never seemed to have a chance to generate any type of offense, possession, or forecheck.
That alone would be bad enough, but McKegg also had a hard time contributing to shot and scoring chance suppression, which is really the bare minimum you’d hope for out of a fourth-liner playing in the NHL. His player card from Evolving Hockey illustrates his overall shortcomings at even strength:
To add further context to the graphic, above, it’s been well-documented that the Rangers struggled to tilt the possession and scoring chance differentials in their favor for most of the season. Even with that, no skater on the team was worse than McKegg when it came to expected goal share (xGF%) at five-on-five. Per Evolving Hockey, McKegg sported a paltry five-on-five xGF% of 36.23 percent (with standard adjustments for score and venue). Contributing nothing offensively while struggling to negate chances defensively will do that.
At even strength, McKegg provided no value, prompting me to think of this timeless line from the classic 1999 film, Office Space:
While his even strength contributions (or lack thereof) rendered the answer to the video’s question as, “nothing,” the closest thing McKegg had to a saving grace (besides some quality nicknames like “Gregory McKeggory” and “Kegger”) was his work on the penalty kill. The same chart above demonstrates that he was at least on the positive side of the break-even point in terms of adding value there. Indeed, his on-ice rate of expected goals against per 60 shorthanded minutes was 5.91 — second-best on the team.
That being said, it would be foolish to place too much emphasis on this figure, as McKegg only played about 50 minutes on the penalty kill across the season. His 400-plus five-on-five minutes carry a lot more weight.
Author Grade: D-
Banter Consensus: F
Is my grade of a D- for McKegg too harsh? After all, McKegg is probably best-suited as a minor-leaguer at this point, so — again similar to Dryden Hunt — was probably asked to do a bit too much. My argument, though, is that for an experienced player who is counted on to be a depth fill-in, you’d expect more competence in a role that is about as limited as possible. Hunt at least was consistent in providing some value defensively; he was just asked to make far too big a leap to a top-six role when in reality he is a quality fourth-liner. McKegg was asked to play fourth-line minutes part-time — not nearly as big a leap. In that role, he provided minimal value, and none at even strength.
Clearly, the rest of the staff here agrees, as their aggregate evaluation was even more harsh than mine was. In a show of altruism, I decided to bump McKegg up from an F by the slimmest of margins because of the marginal value he added to the penalty kill.
It would have been nice if prospects with a little more upside, like Morgan Barron, got the call ahead of McKegg. But that was not the Rangers’ approach, and McKegg ultimately failed in the role he was counted on to fill. Thankfully, the Rangers shored up their forward depth at the trade deadline, acquiring Andrew Copp (for whom Barron was part of the return package), Frank Vatrano, and Tyler Motte. That meant that they would not have to lean on McKegg at all in postseason games.
McKegg’s journeyman career will continue with the Edmonton Oilers organization, as he signed a two-year, two-way deal with them on the first day of free agency. Honestly, good for him for continuing to secure contracts for himself in spite of a non-descript career.
All advanced statistics obtained via Evolving Hockey.