Braden Schneider knows that an impressive NHL debut doesn’t necessarily mean he has made it as an NHL player.
That’s true even though, for that debut, he seamlessly integrated onto the Rangers’ blue line and competed as if he had been a mainstay in an NHL lineup for years — not selected 19th overall in the 2020 draft.
Schneider, in his first NHL game, not only gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead in their eventual shutout victory at San Jose on Thursday, but also he was effective overall. He hit with purpose, racking up four to go along with two blocked shots and three shots on goal in 14:49 of ice time — a team low on defense.
The 6-foot-2 Schneider also became just the seventh defenseman in Rangers history to score in his first NHL game, joining Thomas Pock, Steve Richmond, Mario Marois, Ralph Keller, Harry Howell and Joe Jerwa.
“I don’t think you can say anything after one game,” the 20-year-old Schneider said after the win. “I’m very happy with how I played, I wanted to show that I could play physical and perform at this level. I couldn’t have drawn it up any better myself. It’s one game and I can’t get too high on myself, but I was very happy with how it went.”
The Rangers have been experimenting with combinations for the third defensive pairing, which was initiated because of Patrik Nemeth’s four-game absence due to personal reasons and Jarred Tinordi entering COVID-19 protocol. The Rangers’ bottom pair has been a weak point all season long, so Schneider may get an extended look there after his performance on Thursday.
Schneider likely would’ve been the first defenseman the Rangers recalled from Hartford to join the team’s taxi squad had he not have been unavailable, presumably in COVID-19 protocol a couple of weeks ago. Instead, Zac Jones and Matthew Robertson were selected.
While Jones did relatively well aside from a rough outing at Vegas, Schneider plays more of the style that general manager and president Chris Drury and head coach Gerard Gallant want.
“He’s a good defensive-defenseman,” acting coach Kris Knoblauch said. “I like to say he provides that offense-scoring touch all the time, but I was very proud of him and the way he played. His first couple shifts he was in the play a lot, he made really simple plays, advanced the puck to the forwards.
“I don’t recall him being out of position defensively all night, that’s his game. Nice to get him rewarded, scoring that goal with his parents here in town watching him. Very happy for him.”
The Rangers assigned Jones and forwards Lauri Pajuniemi and Justin Richards back to Hartford on Friday, opening the door for a few Rangers to return from COVID-19 protocol.
Julien Gauthier and Ryan Reaves are both eligible to be activated for the game Saturday at Philadelphia.