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If you never heard of New York Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh until now, you are probably not alone. The left-handed blueliner was the 12th overall pick in 2007 and has had a relatively quiet NHL career: 103 points in 246 games with no individual accolades to speak of.

Now he is on the short list for the Conn Smythe Award, given to the most valuable player in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“He’s always been a tremendous talent,” teammate Anton Stralman said. “We’ve been seeing that for years. This year, whether it’s the new system — or whatever it is — he’s just taken another step developing. That’s what you want to see. He’s been probably our best D-man throughout the year. If you look back, you could kind of see that build up, too. Last year, he had a great year. He’s just taking it another step this year.”

McDonagh has 13 points in 20 games during the playoffs, 10 against the Montreal Canadiens in the Eastern Conference finals alone. He also became the first Rangers defenseman to record 10 assists in one playoffs since Brian Leetch turned the trick during in 1994.

Offense is just one part of the equation, and it’s his defense that helps turn the odds into New York’s favor on their quest for the cup.

Ignoring special teams and lead-protecting situations, the Rangers have been slightly outshot by opponents, 111-110, in the playoffs with McDonagh on the ice. Plus, the Rangers have outscored the opposition, 12-7, under these same circumstances. Because McDonagh is routinely asked to shut down the opposition’s best players, those numbers, in context, are strong.

New York Rangers player usage chart – defensemen, 2013-14 regular season (Source: Extraskater.com)

For example, during their 2103-14 regular season matchups against Pittsburgh, the Rangers had McDonagh on the ice for more than 34 minutes against Sidney Crosby, the league’s top point scorer. The Art Ross Trophy winner and probable MVP failed to get on the score sheet during even strength over that span. The same was true for the league’s other top scorers, with only Claude Giroux breaking through for two points in 24 minutes 35 seconds of mutual ice time.

2013-14 Regular Season      
Player TOI EV Points EV Points with McD on ice
Sidney Crosby 34:20:00 58 0
Phil Kessel 36:03:00 56 0
Jaromir Jagr 48:57:00 44 0
Claude Giroux 24:35:00 44 2
James Van Riemsdyk 33:30:00 41 0
John Tavares 52:24:00 40 0
Jarome Iginla 25:50:00 39 0
Alex Ovechkin 36:13:00 34 0
Source: Hockeyanalysis.com

“He’s been the same guy since Day One,” teammate Brian Boyle said. “He works extremely hard. He’s a special player, a special kind of person.”