2024 Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award Preview

It’s easy for game nights leading up to the end of the regular season to lose their luster. Especially when the team has already clinched a playoff spot. However, there’s always one night in particular that stands out as an extremely special night for the New York Rangers and their fans. The night the Steven McDonald Extra Effort Award is given out acts as an emotional reminder of what it means to be a part of the Rangers community and why this team means so much to so many generations of folks.

A night where its meaning has only further amplified since the unfortunate passing of Steven McDonald in 2018, one Rangers player will be recognized for going above and beyond the call of duty. For those who perhaps aren’t fully aware, Steven McDonald was a New York City Police Officer that was shot in the line of duty in the summer of 1986, leaving him quadriplegic. While it could have been so easy for him to live his life full of anger and regret, he chose to publicly forgive the kid who shot him and devoted his life to promoting forgiveness. In addition to the Steven McDonald Foundation, he and his family founded the Breaking The Cycle program to promote nonviolent conflict resolution.

As a lifetime New York Rangers fan, the team and the NHL established the Extra Effort Award in his honor where Steven McDonald, alongside his family, would present a fan-voted Rangers player with a trophy as well as a $25,000 check made out to the foundation in the player’s name. This tradition has been carried on by his wife, Patti-Ann as well as his son who has also carried on his legacy as an NYPD Sergeant, Connor. Jan Erixon was the first ever recipient of the award in 1988 with Adam Graves winning it the most for a total of five times. Ryan Lindgren is the most recent recipient of the award with Kreider, Fox and Zibanejad all joining him as current rostered players who have had the honor of winning it in the past.

With the Rangers set to present the award prior to tonight’s game against the Montreal Canadiens, let’s take a quick look at some of the front-runners for this year’s honor.

Artemiy Panarin

While there’s no doubt Artemiy Panarin has had some impressive seasons with the Rangers in the past, what he has done this year is truly remarkable. Following his lackluster post season last year, Panarin came into this season on a mission to carry this team to the promised land and sure enough, he has not only been their best player, but one of the league’s best. Panarin currently leads the Rangers in points with 111 which also has him ranked fourth in the league behind Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon and Nikita Kucherov. He and his linemates have led this team all season long and there’s no question the Rangers don’t have this calibur of success without him. He’s a key component of their lethal power play unit, their go-to player when the game is on the line, everything you could ask for from a superstar player that will go down as one of the best free agent signings in franchise history.

Vincent Trocheck

On the flipside, a lot of similar points can be made for Vincent Trocheck. It’s wild to think that there was once a point this season where Trocheck was technically suiting up as the team’s third line center. Granted, we unfortunately don’t know what a fully-healthy season from Filip Chytil would have looked like but regardless, Trocheck has clicked with Panarin and Alexis Lafrenière in such a big way and has become the team’s top center in the process. Not only is he second in points behind Panarin, but he’s a crucial part of this Rangers team that is used in all areas of the game. For a franchise that is a bit notorious for lacking in the face-off circles, Trocheck currently ranks 5th in the league in FO% which has consistently kept the Rangers in the league’s top-ten ranking in that stat. On top of everything, Trocheck brings that sandpaper style of play that typically comes into consideration when naming a recipient of this award. There was plenty of concern, especially regarding the term of his deal when the Rangers announced the signing but Trocheck has even surprised his biggest believers with the season he’s had which makes him a well-deserving candidate.

Jonathan Quick

The Steven McDonald Extra Effort award is no stranger to back-up goaltenders as Cam Talbot was the recipient of it once upon a time. Granted there was more to that conversation but nevertheless, there’s a strong case to be made for the recent Masterton Trophy nominee, Jonathan Quick. What more can be said about his impressive bounce back season that helped him pass Ryan Miller as the all-time winningest American-born netminder? He’s been praised all season long for his accolades and rightfully so. Are 25 games enough to earn him another award in his memorable season? Might be cutting it close, but he did come up big for the Rangers in the brief stretch where Shesterkin was dealing with an injury and for a larger part of the season where the team’s usual number one was going through a bit of a struggle. Not to mention, the veteran has done so much for this team off the ice. Given Quick’s whole story, being a hometown kid growing up a Rangers fan, I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets it tonight and while there may be others higher in the running, it would be yet another well-deserved honor for the Hamden, CT native.

Matt Rempe

Remember everyone, this award is fan-voted. Should Rempe win it having only played in 14 games, several of which he wouldn’t even see the full sixty minutes? Probably not. But again, this award is fan-voted and our fan base isn’t always the most rational. I stand by the thought that he probably shouldn’t be in the running but in the event he wins, I don’t know how you can’t be happy for him. Wherever you land on the conversation of everything he has done for this Rangers team in a short window, you have to remind yourself, this is a 21-year-old kid who loves the game, loves this team and is over-the-moon happy to be here. There isn’t anything he wouldn’t do for this team and while we have learned in some situations, perhaps there is less he should do, to say he hasn’t gone “above and beyond” in this small sample size is wild. For a 6th rounder no one was even expecting to make it to the show to take his chance and run with it as much he has, it’s been a great story to follow. All things considered, it would be something if he did end up winning it but don’t sell the kid short. He very well may have a longer future with this team than some may expect which means there’s plenty of time for him to earn it down the road.

Jimmy Vesey

I’ve been very critical of Jimmy Vesey as of late but that isn’t to say he hasn’t been an underrated part of this team’s successful season. 25 points from a bottom-six forward is something most team’s would take in a heartbeat. Not only has he brought some depth scoring to this team but he kills penalties, can and has played anywhere in the line-up, works as hard as anyone on a daily basis. He may be more of a sleeper pick here but there’s a good case to be made for a guy who was a Ranger before the majority of this current roster. Not only has he contributed offensively, he’s fought, he’s blocked shots, battled injuries as one of many players this season to have to dawn a face shield. The former Hobey-Baker winner has redefined his career into a reliable role player and has been great for this Rangers team. Don’t sleep on him when considering who may take home this year’s honor.

Alexis Lafrenière

It’s truly been a coming of age season for the Rangers former first-overall pick. For the longest time, it felt like all this fan base was doing was over-analyzing his development, wondering if and when he would pan out like a first-overall draft pick should. It’s safe to say, Lafrenière has stepped up to the plate, pun intended. (cc all the “he should be working on his game not playing softball in the offseason takes) In the midst of a career high 54 point season, Lafrenière has cemented himself on the right wing, a position some had doubts he would even be able to thrive in and has done so on what’s become one of the best lines in the league with Panarin and Trocheck. Not to mention, he’s put up an impressive amount of points with very limited power play ice time. Everything he’s done this season is exactly why you need to be patient with young players but all things considered, he’s shown excellent perseverance which makes him another great candidate for the Extra Effort Award.

Who do you think should take home this year’s honors? Let us know in the comments!