Ryan McDonagh isn’t bombastic. He’s not stuffing his stat sheet any time soon. But the New York Rangers captain and defensive leader is one of the driving forces behind the Blueshirts’ recent success and there’s a big reason why; he works.
McDonagh’s unassuming presence on the ice defies his hard-hitting defensive prowess and, now, with Game 7 against Tampa Bay on Friday night and a chance at a second-straight Stanley Cup Finals berth on the line that’s exactly the kind of play the Rangers need.
He’s hoping that kind of performance will lead New York to, not, lift up the Prince of Wales trophy.
Here’s what you need to know New York’s 27th captain:
1. He was Born in 1989 & Played College Hockey at Wisconsin
McDonagh was born on June 13, 1989 in St. Paul Minnesota and it didn’t take too long for him to find his way to the ice. He attended Cretin-Derham Hall High School, leading his team to its first-ever state title as a junior in 2006 and followed up by being named Minnesota’s Mr. Hockey in 2007, annually awarded to the top hockey player in the stat. In three seasons with Cretin-Derham, McDonagh, a defenseman, racked up 36 goals and 77 assists.
In addition to hockey, McDonagh also played four years of baseball, winning another state title in 2007, and two years of football. He also represented the United States at the 2007 IHF World Championships and was a member of the silver medal-winning U.S. Under-18 Team at the Junior World Cup.
McDonagh’s high school dominance in Minnesota led him to a college scholarship and three years with the University of Wisconsin where he served captain in his junior season. In his final season with the Badgers, the left-handed shooter, racked up four goals and 14 assists in 43 games played.
2. He Was Drafted by the Canadiens in 2007 & Traded to the Rangers in 2009
McDonagh was initially drafted 12th overall by the Montreal Canadiens in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, but opted to maintain his college eligibility instead of immediately joining the professional ranks.
That decision proved to be one of the best of McDonagh’s career.
In 2009, McDonagh was traded to the New York Rangers as part of a seven-player deal between the Original 6 squads and sent Scott Gomez to Montreal. The move, seemed, to come out of nowhere in the hockey world and McDonagh, who was 20-years-old at the time of the trade, told NHL.com he was surprised by the move:
I picked up the phone, and it happened to be Bob Gainey, who said I had been traded to the Rangers. He thanked me for everything I had done thus far, and as soon as I hung up, I got a call from Glen Sather wishing me congratulations and letting me know that I was part of their team now. So it was exciting. You can look at getting traded in many ways, but obviously it means one team really wants you. That’s how Glen Sather explained it to me from the Rangers’ perspective, so I was pretty happy to hear that
McDonagh gave up his final season with Wisconsin to join the Rangers and spent one season with the Connecticut Whalers before making the move up to Broadway. It’s a move that has paid off in metaphorical spades for both player and team ever since.
McDonagh is, bar none, the Rangers top defenseman, generally taking on opponent’s top scoring threats and even becoming a scoring threat from time to time as well. So far this season, he’s recorded eight goals and 25 assists. He also notched the OT game-winner in Game 5 against the Capitals this postseason, sparking a three-game rally by the Blueshirts to advance to the Eastern Conference Finals and keep their season alive.
Gomez, meanwhile, went on a goalless streak of 370 consecutive days and his contract was bought out by Montreal in the 2001-12 seasons, sending on him on the path of perpetual free agent-dom.
3. He Signed a 6-Year Contract With the Rangers in 2013
Following his trade to New York in 2010, McDonagh signed a six-year contract extension with the Rangers in July 2013 worth $28.2 million.
The deal made McDonagh the highest-paid defender on the Rangers’ roster but it was a deal New York couldn’t quite turn away from. After all, at the time, the Minnesota native was in the final season of his three-year, $875,000 entry-level deal, which, including performance and signing bonuses, amounted to around $1.3 million.
The extension will keep McDonagh in Broadway Blue until 2019 and includes three seasons of what might have been unrestricted free agency as well as a limited no-trade clause.
The deal was a bit of an out-of-character move for the Rangers who had previously signed players off entry-level deals with two-year “bridge” deals. In other words, New York like to ease their young players into big money. Not the case with McDonagh who consistently proved to be the driving force behind the squad’s defensive efforts.
4. He Was Named the 27th Captain in Rangers History in 2014
After being named the Team MVP in 2014 and receiving the Player’s Player Award, McDonagh was officially named the 27th captain in Rangers history on October 6, 2014. The 25-year-old became the fourth-youngest captain in Blueshirts’ history and the 11th defenseman to earn the honor.
The 6-foot-1 McDonagh was also the third straight American captain for the Rangers, following Ryan Callahan and Chris Drury.
McDonagh’s quiet determination and leadership as captain this season has drawn comparisons to legendary Rangers leader Mark Messier. Despite missing several practices prior to Friday night’s Game 7, McDonagh was available to the media before and after the session. He didn’t have to be, but he was and, just like Messier and his guarantees, was more than willing to dissect Rangers gameplay. He’s also not afraid to call out his teammates. The captain made headlines earlier in the Eastern Conference Finals after reprimanding the Rangers for taking “stupid, selfish penalties” in Game 2 against the Lightning.
5. He’s Been Married to High School Sweetheart Kaylee Keys Since 2013
McDonagh and long-time girlfriend Kaylee Keys tied the knot on July 19, 2013 after getting engaged in 2012 and just a few weeks after the defenseman signed a long-term contract with the Rangers.
Keys also graduated from Cretin-Derham Hall and was also a standout on the ice. She was an all-state hockey player and captain of the high school team and even went on to play four years of college hockey, including three seasons at St. Thomas.