REPORT: The Rangers have added E.J. Emery, a promising young defenseman.

E.J. Emery was chosen by the New York Rangers with the 30th overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft last night, adding a big piece to their lineup. Emery, who is from Surrey, British Columbia, has decided to go abroad and represent America. Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, Eric Emery became well-known in the Canadian Football League. Outstanding participant in the US National Team Development Program (USNTDP), E.J. Emery will continue to grow at the University of North Dakota in the upcoming academic year.

Emery is a stay-at-home defenseman who is 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds. He is more well-known for his defensive abilities than for his offensive contributions. He scored 22 points in 88 games while playing for the USNTDP, all of which came via assists. Emery has stated that he takes cues from Rangers defenseman K’Andre Miller, which makes sense considering Miller’s 6-foot-5, 210-pound build.

Both guys are skilled skaters who can disturb opposing forwards with their size and reach. Emery stands out for his aggressive style of defense, frequently stopping plays before they have a chance to progress and using his intangibles to rapidly close down space instead of giving ground to his opponents.

Emery’s offensive game is still growing, but from his draft-minus-one season to his draft year, he advanced considerably. He scored 21 points in 99 games during his draft-minus-one season, as opposed to 22 points in 88 games the next year. These higher numbers demonstrate his increasing ability to make an offensive contribution. Emery can adjust into situations quickly thanks to his speed. He has the ability to improve his offensive output even if he might never see as much power play time or reach the offensive heights of a player like Adam Fox. Should he persist in honing his offensive abilities, he might eventually catch up to Braden Schneider.

The biggest difference between Emery’s offensive and defensive styles is in his mental approach to the game. He is a quick decision maker and has good instincts when it comes to defense, which helps him in his own zone. On the offensive side, though, he frequently takes too long with the puck because of his hesitation and lack of confidence. This hesitancy caused problems early in the season, particularly when he was trying to make judgments with the puck in his own zone. But as the season went on, his skating prowess became more apparent, and along with growing confidence, he demonstrated the ability to carry out efficient zone exits—a skill the Rangers particularly lacked during the playoffs.

Emery is likely two to three years away from making his NHL debut. If he reaches his full potential and becomes a shutdown defenseman, he will fit seamlessly on the Rangers’ right side alongside Fox and Schneider. If Emery were NHL-ready now, he would be an ideal replacement for Jacob Trouba, who is increasingly likely to be traded. According to Larry Brooks, the Rangers and the Detroit Red Wings are currently negotiating a deal to send the Rangers’ captain to Detroit (from Larry Brooks “Talk of Rangers trading Jacob Trouba to Red Wings growing,” New York Post, June 29, 2024). Ethan Hétu, U.S. Regional Scout at McKeen’s Hockey, told me Emery “projects as a top-four defensive force” if all breaks right, in many ways similar to Ryan Lindgren but in the body of a “premium athlete.” He added that “while Emery’s offense is still very much in question, his combination of size and mobility gives him real defensive upside.” If Emery develops into a player like Lindgren, the Rangers will be thrilled with this pick.

In a bad-case scenario, Emery will still be a valuable bottom-pairing defenseman, capable of killing penalties and playing crucial minutes in late-game situations. His size and defensive acumen will ensure he can contribute even if he doesn’t reach his ceiling as a top-four defenseman. His ability to play physical and use his reach effectively will allow him to make an impact in the NHL. The Rangers’ defensive depth will be greatly enhanced with Emery in the mix, and he will provide insurance against injuries and other unforeseen circumstances. Moreover, his presence in the lineup will bring stability and reliability, which are crucial for a team with championship aspirations. The coaching staff and fans alike will appreciate his dedication and work ethic as he transitions to the professional level.

 

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