John Gilmour has impressed in his first two NHL games
The Rangers were forced to call up the 24-year-old due to injuries, and he’s been mighty impressive thus far
It’s amazing what injuries can bring about in sports. Tom Brady became Tom Brady because Mo Lewis broke Drew Bledsoe; Jacob deGrom, the least heralded of the Mets’ prize pitching prospects, became an ace after Dillon Gee got injured, forcing deGrom into a start; the pre-Durant Warriors became a juggernaut because David Lee got injured, forcing Steve Kerr to start Draymond Green. It’s unfortunate for when an injured player loses their spot on a team because of an injury; these are human beings who, for the most part, are highly-competitive, driven people. But sports are about winning, and sometimes injuries bring about tons of it.
The New York Rangers, a team riddled with injuries, are experiencing some of this right now, albeit to a much lesser extent. Ryan McDonagh, Marc Staal and Steven Kampfer are all injured, and Brendan Smith has been banished to the AHL; those are four regulars in the Rangers’ top-seven rotation. These injuries forced the Rangers to call up Neal Pionk and John Gilmour, two youngsters with a whopping zero games of NHL experience. Pionk, 22, is the higher touted prospect of the two, but Gilmour, 24, has been incredibly impressive in his first two games.
Here’s a snippet of Gilmour’s talent analysis, courtesy of Hockey’s Future:
Gilmour isn’t the biggest defenseman—6' 0", 195 pounds—but like the picture above stats, he’s got great hockey IQ. Here he is defending Jake Armia, who has three inches and 10 pounds on Gilmour:
Gilmour does an excellent job riding Armia towards the boards. He also uses his stick to take away any potential pass or stick handling chances. Then, he gives him a quick shove and steals the puck. Most impressively, though, is how once he has the puck, he quickly starts transitioning up the ice. His head is up the entire time, and he just misses springing a Ranger on a breakaway with a stretch pass.
Here’s another great defensive play against Patrik Laine, one of the best young forward in the game:
He gets beat initially, but sticks with the play, using his stick to breakup Laine’s pass. Gilmour then makes a slick little play, pushing the puck through his legs to an uncovered Rangers forward, which leads to an exit. He also takes a hit here from a much bigger player to make a play, something you always like to see from young players.
While Gilmour’s defense has certainly been impressive, it’s his skating and passing ability that have jumped out.
Here’s a terrific play he makes against the Flames:
My favorite part about this clip is how Gilmour takes a quick peak over his shoulder a few strides before getting the puck. He realizes the Flames are making a change, makes a quick turn and wastes no time firing the puck up the blue line, leading to an entry for the Rangers.
And here’s possibly my two favorite play of the Rangers’ season to date:
The first clip is a fantastic entry. Gilmour gains speed up the ice, makes a nifty move to get his backhand to slip between two Jets, then goes after the puck and plays it to Peter Holland. Outside of a couple of Brady Skjei entries this year, I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a Rangers’ defenseman do this.
The second one is, well, just silly. Gilmour picks the puck up behind the net, looks up to see what the Jets are doing and then says “Fuck it, I’m doing this by myself.” That’s a play you barely see veteran NHL defensemen make, let alone a rookie in his second game.
Now, I’m sure Alain Vigneault and Lindy Ruff are going to coach the fun out of Gilmour’s game, much like they have with everyone. But it’s refreshing to see a young defenseman with so little hype around him come in and make plays. It’s something the Rangers’ blue line has been lacking for quite some time now.
Like I said earlier, injuries can bring about amazing things. For the Rangers, it might have helped them find a diamond in the rough.