DeAngelo’s Slow Start Cause for Mild Concern

It is fair to say that Anthony DeAngelo was not exactly put in a position to succeed in his six games (plus two as the power play specialist seventh defenseman) with the Rangers at the start of the season. Yes, he had no primary points. Yes, he was porous on defense. However, he never was used in a consistent role or had a steady partner. And it’s hard to point the finger at one player getting limited minutes while the entire defense displayed the stability of the Titanic post-iceberg.

And yet, since his demotion to Hartford, DeAngelo hasn’t done anything to make Alain Vigneault look wrong. In five games with the Wolf Pack, he has no goals and two assists. One was a secondary assist. The other was a routine pass off a faceoff, with Vinni Lettieri doing most of the work.

Both points were on the power play, meaning he has no points at even strength. As we know by now, point totals in small samples can be misleading and merely the result of poor puck luck. But while DeAngelo has looked like a competent AHL player, he is not driving play in the way one would expect him to. He is not leading the charge on breakouts and putting neutral zone forecheckers on their heels. He hasn’t set up many notable scoring chances in the offensive zone. In the defensive zone, he is still making mistakes. When J.T. Miller was sent back to the AHL during the 2014-2015 season, it was patently obvious that he was too good for the league. DeAngelo, in comparison, is not tilting the ice. He has simply looked like just another AHLer.

All of this would be easy to shrug off as part of his development if he was a 20-year-old rookie. But DeAngelo is not. He is 22 years old, and in his third professional season. If you look at the AHL in recent years, very few offensive defensemen still in the league at that age went on to become legitimate NHLers. Most of the ones who did make the jump, like Justin Schultz or Brandon Montour, absolutely dominated the league.

DeAngelo has been outstanding in the AHL before. He produced 59 points in 94 games the previous two seasons. It has only been five games, and one hot streak over Hartford’s next few contests would put him back on track. Still, it’s time for DeAngelo to get the gears moving and, at least for now, become a commanding player in the AHL.