When the New York Rangers decided to sell off some of their key players last year and start a rebuild, they acquired some impressive names. Ryan Lindgren and Brett Howden had relatively high prospect profiles due to their success on the international stage, both winning World Junior gold medals in recent years. Both players have made their debuts for the Rangers this season, and look like they will be big parts of the team going forward. The Rangers got another prospect in the Ryan McDonagh trade though, who some referred to as the key piece. Libor Hajek, who at the time was tearing it up in the WHL, has now been recalled by the Rangers for the first time in his professional career.
If Hajek, 21, is the key to the McDonagh deal, there might be something to worry about. The young defenseman has struggled in his first year at the AHL level, recording just five points in 58 games and tallying a team-worst -26 rating. While there is obviously more to a defenseman’s game than just those statistics, Hajek has routinely looked overmatched against professional players and at times looks lost in his own end. That junior player who made extremely quick decisions and could evade forecheckers even with his large frame hasn’t been there on a consistent basis.
Still, Hajek only turned 21 a few weeks ago and has been given every opportunity to continue his development. The Rangers organization knows that they have to keep him on the ice for him to experience any growth, and will now give him a taste of the NHL to take back down with him. There’s still plenty of time for the 2016 37th-overall pick to become the all-situations defender that many believed he could be just a year ago, and the next step towards that will happen in New York.
Will he actually play? Gotta give dreck like Staal and Pionk free passes.
What’s wrong with Pionk? Staal was seen better times,but Pionk looks fine to me.