The New York Rangers will have another exciting young defenseman in the lineup tonight when they take on the Philadelphia Flyers. Head coach David Quinn confirmed that Zac Jones will make his NHL debut, skating on the right side with Libor Hajek. Jones recently signed his entry-level contract after winning the national championship with UMass and will jump right into the fire of the NHL.
The 20-year-old defenseman scored 24 points in 29 games this season for the Minutemen and has quickly risen from mid-round lottery ticket to potential impact NHL player. Selected in the third round in 2019, the 5’10” Jones is a dynamic playmaker who glides smoothly around the ice controlling play in every inch of the rink. It’s hard to expect him to be as dominant right away for the Rangers, but he’ll get his first chance to show what he can do tonight.
- It likely won’t be tonight, but Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen is getting close to his NHL debut as well. The Buffalo Sabres goaltending prospect will back up Dustin Tokarski for the team tonight but is expected to start tomorrow’s game against the Boston Bruins in the second half of a back-to-back. The 22-year-old netminder has long been a top prospect and was selected 54th overall in 2017. In his one year of CHL hockey, he not only won the OHL Goaltender of the Year award but the Red Tilson Trophy as the league’s most outstanding player as well. He has been slowly built up in the Sabres development system since, spending time in the ECHL, AHL and even a short time back in Finland, but now will get his chance to see some NHL rubber.
- If you could pick a pair of linemates to skate beside in your first game for a new team, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner aren’t bad choices. That’s what Nick Foligno is expected to get tonight as he makes his Toronto Maple Leafs debut, after serving his seven-day quarantine. Foligno came off the COVID Protocol Related Absences list and is ready to go, but tried to temper expectations by noting he hasn’t played in ten days. Expectations be damned; the Maple Leafs need a more consistent effort from their group after losing the last five games and barely holding onto their North Division lead.