Amid all the defensive prospects the Rangers have stockpiled, maybe Joey Keane has gone a little under the radar. But when the club thought it might need a righty-shot in light of Tony DeAngelo’s minor upper-body injury — coupled with lefty-shot Marc Staal battling the flu and another lefty, Brendan Smith, already in the lineup — it was the 20-year-old Keane who got the call-up from AHL Hartford on Friday morning.
Keane didn’t end up playing Friday night at Columbus because Staal was able to go and Smith switched to the right side. Keane was sent back to Hartford after the game, though it’s clear the organization thinks highly of him.
“We liked him an awful lot in training camp,” coach David Quinn said Friday afternoon before giving his players Saturday off with the Bruins due in the Garden for a Sunday matinee. “He skates real well, he competes, he’s got good puck skills.”
Keane was acquired as a result of the trade that sent Nick Holden to the Bruins in 2017-18. The return was Rob O’Gara and a third-round pick (No. 88 overall), which was used to take Keane, a Chicago kid playing in the OHL. In 48 games with the Wolf Pack this season, Keane was leading the team’s defensemen with eight goals and 28 points (fourth on Hartford overall).
Quinn said that after conversations with assistant general manager Chris Drury (who also is the GM of the Wolf Pack) and Hartford coach Kris Knoblauch, it became clear the offense-minded Keane had “really honed his game.”
“There is a simplicity to his game that maybe there wasn’t early on in his pro career,” Quinn said. “because when you have that much offensive ability and you’re a puck-carrier and puck-mover, a guy that is involved offensively, you try to do that at this level, and it is an adjustment you have to make.”
With DeAngelo out on Friday, Quinn needed to find a new point man for his first power-play unit and tabbed Adam Fox, whose game has somehow gotten even better as his terrific rookie season has progressed. Fox played there on the first unit early in the season and Quinn said there was “no hesitation” putting the 21-year-old back in that role.
The man-advantage technically went 0-for-3, but Chris Krieder scored the decisive goal just two seconds after a power play ended with 3:11 left in regulation.
Electric winger Artemi Panarin is the only NHL player to register 75 or more points and a plus-30 rating or better this season, his first with the Rangers. His plus-30 rating is tied for second in the NHL, behind only former Rangers prospect and current Avalanche defenseman Ryan Graves (plus-41).
Panarin has been on for 72 even-strength goals this season, fourth-most in the NHL.