Rangers Analysis: A Rookie on the Outside, Veteran on the Inside

Over the past few weeks we have heard more and more from defenseman Ryan McDonagh in the media. This is no coincidence. The St. Paul, Minnesota native may only be 21 years of age, but he speaks as if he is far older than that. It's not only the way in which he can assess a game, but it's the way he compliments teammates, analyzes different things that went on out on the ice and even talks about his own game. I've been doing this blogging thing for over two years now so I have read a lot of quotes from a lot of different players of all ages. Let me tell you, nothing has hit home or meant as much to me as a fan than what comes out of Ryan McDonagh's mouth. This kid is an inspirational hockey player.

McDonagh's maturity started to strike me about three weeks ago when the beat writers actually started jotting down quotes from him. I noticed how intelligent he is and the glorious hockey knowledge that he possesses. But it wasn't until this past week's occurrences that I knew I had to write an article about Ryan. The deciding factor was when I read the following quote from McDonagh about teammate Derek Stepan reaching the 20-goal mark.

"He's a competitive kid at heart," said defenseman Ryan McDonagh, a teammate of Stepan's in Wisconsin prior to the Rangers. "And he wants more; it's not in a selfish aspect at all. He's one of the most team-oriented guys I ever played with. His competitive nature is what drives him, he's had big goals for us and put up points and has been a huge part of this team from the first game of the season, getting that hat trick against Buffalo. It's amazing. He's 20 years old and I can't say enough about him."

When, if ever, have you heard a rookie talk about another rookie like that before? I assume many of you answered "never" to that question. It may be a hard thing for you to grasp, but trust me, when one player hears a teammate speak about him with such high remarks like McDonagh did about Stepan, it means the world to him and really touches the heart.

What you see above is something I would expect to come from a player like Vinny Prospal or Bryan McCabe - veterans - when asked about a rookie teammate. But this is amazingly coming from another rookie, and to me that is breathtaking.

Continue reading after the jump....

McDonagh happened to be the recipient of Matt Cooke's flying elbow in last Saturday's match-up with the Penguins, which resulted in Cooke being handed a suspension lasting through the first round of the playoffs. Most players in McDonagh's position would take the opportunity to absolutely rip Cooke to shreds in the media, express their opinion about how long he should be suspended and all of that other good stuff.

But McDongh, once again, displayed his impressive maturity discussing the situation, making the following comment when asked about Cooke's high hit....

"Like I said after the game, I don't think he's trying to put his team down with a five-minute penalty," McDonagh said. "You've got good momentum going for the playoffs and it was a close game at the time. I think he's just trying to make his hit. (The suspension), it is what it is."

I'm going to be honest here, when I read that it brought a huge smile to my face. McDonagh basically said that Cooke didn't mean to do it, which shows his respect for other players and organizations around the league. I'm sure the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Cooke himself for that matter, appreciated what McDonagh had to say because like I said, he really could have buried them in the media.

McDonagh was praised this past Saturday on the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast for his comments on the Cooke hit. The infamous Don Cherry even admitted that he got "choked up" when he read McDonagh's statements. You're doing something right if you are able to bring a tear to the eye of Don Cherry, because that guy is tough as nails.

McDonagh is going to be a great player in the National Hockey League for many years. Not only is he solid on the ice, but his maturity off it is going to go a long way in the locker room. He's going to become a leader, an inspiration and a role model. The fact that he is showing these signs in only his first season in the NHL is stunning and the Rangers are extremely fortunate to have this kid as a part of their hockey club.

I think we owe GM Glen Sather a big thank you for obtaining McDonagh in the trade with the Montreal Canadiens two years ago that sent Scott Gomez up north.

Meanwhile, while we drool over Ryan here in New York, Gomez is being booed by Habs fans each time he touches the puck at the Bell Centre.