Rangers’ exciting young defenseman could step into a starting role in 2024

Zac Jones, new york rangers

The New York Rangers’ defensive corps needs some retooling. Team captain defenseman Jacob Trouba was nearly traded this offseason, however, after failing to come to terms on a trade agreement to move Trouba to the Detroit Red Wings, the team’s locker room has been left in a messy state. Trouba is still on the roster and, as a result, the Rangers’ defensive corps is still in need of an upgrade.

After missing out on all of the top free-agent defensemen, the Rangers will likely need to look inward to find an upgrade on that end of the ice. Thankfully, they do have one exciting young defenseman who seems primed to step into a larger role in the upcoming 2024 campaign.

The Rangers have an exciting young defenseman who could receive playing time this season

New York Rangers defenseman Zac Jones (6) skates with the puck from behind the net against the Boston Bruins during the second at Madison Square Garden

Zac Jones spent much of the 2023 season as a healthy scratch in the Rangers’ lineup. But he did manage to appear in 31 games for the Blueshirts, totaling nine points behind two goals and seven assists with a +1 rating.

Jones primarily served as Trouba’s backup during the regular season and received his playing time when the captain defenseman missed time with an injury. As Trouba struggled while playing through that injury during the playoffs, the fans’ cries to see Jones return to the ice grew to a deafening decibel. While Rangers faithful did not get to see Jones get any playoff action, they could get their wish during the upcoming regular season.

Zac Jones should start for the Rangers in 2024

Following the loss of Erik Gustafsson in free agency, the Blueshirts have another hole to fill their defensive corps. Jones could slide into the Rangers’ third defensive pairing to play alongside Braden Schneider to start the season. Then, when Trouba is eventually and inevitably traded or moved on from by the next offseason, Jones could move up to the second defensive pairing if he is playing well.

Jones could serve as both the short-term replacement for Gustafsson and the long-term replacement for Trouba. He is a young, 23-year-old defenseman who might be undersized at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, but he brings a valuable two-way capability to the ice. He skates with speed and passes with precision, and with a little more development, Jones could become a staple in the Rangers’ defense corps for years to come. 

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