The Rangers have been skittish thus far on defense, and General Manager Jeff Gorton elected to make a move for some minor defensive help from the Detroit Red Wings in Ryan Sproul — a 6’4″ second-round draft choice from 2011.
Matt Puempel is being sent the other way in this trade after the Rangers acquired him off waivers from the Ottawa Senators in 2016. Puempel was a former first-round choice in the 2011 draft as well and while he didn’t reach the caliber of player that Ottawa and the Rangers had hoped for, he served as a capable fourth-line, depth forward for both clubs.
Sproul is facing a similar situation as Puempel as he was a highly touted NHL prospect, but fell through and is now just fighting to make a team’s roster. The offensive defenseman has limited NHL experience, but he gives the Rangers perhaps some more options on the defensive end between both their NHL corps and their AHL.
Sproul spent 27 games in the NHL last season playing on a defensive pair with Jonathon Ericsson for a solid chunk of that, but he struggled to find his game. The right-handed D-man has everything a coach could ask for — great size, excellent skating ability, a cannon of a shot, and solid hands.
He should be an NHL player out-right already, but his decision making and ability to read the ice in his own end has held him back significantly thus far. His mental game’s drawbacks have been significant enough that they mitigate how impressive his actual abilities are.
Alain Vigneault’s stringent coaching style could serve to benefit a player like Sproul who just needs to get on the fast-track to maturing to become a top-tier NHL defenseman. There is an outside chance that Rangers fans will remember this trade one day for bringing a quality late-bloomer, D-man to the team, but it will be entirely up to Sproul in how far he’ll be able to take his NHL career.
— Ryan Sproul (@Sproully93) 22 octobre 2017
Though Sproul has potential, his place on the team will be in question as he is by-far an offensive defenseman — something the Rangers already have an abundance of on their roster. It’s clear the Rangers need defensive help, but Sproul will hardly offer this.
For now, expect Sproul to be a regular defensive presence in the AHL with the Hartford Wolfpack, but there will almost certainly be a time this season where he’ll get a chance to showcase his skills in Rangers blue.