Shattenkirk Living Up to the Hype

The Rangers big offseason acquisition has come as advertised.

Kevin Shattenkirk had some lofty expectations to live up to when he signed with the New York Rangers as a free agent last summer. Although the first quarter of the 2017-18 Rangers season has been an absolute roller coaster, Shattenkirk has been one of just a handful of players who has been consistently exceptional. There’s no doubt about it; he’s lived up to the hype.

Every Rangers fan knows that the power play is where Shattenkirk has shined the most, although it’s worth mentioning that he shares the team lead with Ryan McDonagh in primary points scored during 5-on-5 hockey. He’s also second on the team in Rel CF% (excluding Tony DeAngelo). Not impressed with analytics? Well, consider the fact that Shattenkirk has blocked more shots during 5-on-5 hockey than any other Ranger. He’s also taken more hits than any other player on this team – so the “soft” label that many skeptical fans tend to attach to puck-moving defensemen doesn’t really stick to Shattenkirk.

Does he give the puck up a lot? Yes, but so does every other defenseman who makes as many passes and plays as he does. Shattenkirk is not the best defenseman in the league in his own zone, but he’s been surprisingly solid for the Rangers. Up until recently, Alain Vingeault had him stapled to Marc Staal at even strength and that did little to help his defensive zone optics. Shattenkirk has looked significantly better with Brady Skjei who is now his most frequent defensive partner.

It’s no mystery that Shattenkirk’s real value is what he does with the puck on his stick. Vigneault knows it too, which is why he’s given Shattenkirk less than 120 seconds of shorthanded ice time this season. For some context, Nick Holden averages 1:53 SH TOI/GP.

The Rangers’ bench boss has also given Shattenkirk an average of 3:46 per night on the man advantage. And with that ice time he’s almost single-handedly transformed the Rangers power play.

The only defenseman with more points on the power play than Shattenkirk this season is Shayne Gostisbehere of the Philadelphia Flyers. But only two of Gostisbehere’s 10 power play points are primary, whereas seven of Shattenkirk’s nine points are primary. Seven of nine.

Something that Shattenkirk excels at is getting shots to the net and we get to see this a lot on the power play. He doesn’t have a big shot or a heavy shot, but he knows how to make that all-important stride while shooting to ensure that the puck finds its way to the net.

When the puck hits the tape of Shattenkirk’s stick, it’s as if it suddenly grows a pair of eyes.

The only Ranger with more shots on net during the Rangers time on the man advantage this year is Mika Zibanejad. And it goes without saying that Zibanejad puts a lot of rubber on net; he has the five power play goals to prove it.

The Rangers have been mercurial and inconsistent in the first quarter of the season, but the same cannot be said of Shattenkirk’s offensive game. His longest stretch of the season without a point was a three game drought in late October. He rebounded from that with seven points in the seven games he’s played thus far in November.

Comparing Shattenkirk directly to Brian Leetch still makes many Rangers fans cross their arms and make sounds that imitate diesel engines, but it’s been a long time since New York had a defenseman who was this good with the puck. Shattenkirk has five primary assists on the power play alone and four more at even strength. No other Ranger has created more goals with primary assists this season – remember, this is a team that has Zibanejad, Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes on it.

The first chapter of Shattenkirk’s career in New York has undoubtedly been a success. That success is all the more impressive because of the chaotic carousel that has been the Rangers blue line and defensive pairings this season. Somehow Shattenkirk has managed to shine despite all of this juggling. How? Because he’s one of the best offensive defenseman in the league.

What more could you possibly ask of a player who left millions on the table to become a Ranger?