‘Rangers Inside And Out’
By Sean Hartnett
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It’s a huge positive when New York Rangers fans are able to engage in debate over which piece acquired in the Marian Gaborik trade will have a more fruitful NHL career.

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While Gaborik is thriving in Columbus, the Blueshirts landed quite a haul of their own by prying two former first-round picks from Columbus’ grasp. It’s the sort of trade that will sting the Blue Jackets down the line, as both 25-year-old center Derick Brassard and 22-year-old defenseman John Moore are beginning to flourish under the bright lights of Madison Square Garden.

Since trading the Blue Jackets’ red, white and blue uniform for the historic Rangers sweater sharing the same color scheme, Brassard has shown Rangers fans glimpses of the tremendous vision, instinctual play and smooth-skating abilities that made him a worthy sixth-overall selection by the Blue Jackets in 2006.

Skillful Brassard Catching Fire Since Coming To New York

It all started with his four-point debut for the Rangers against the Pittsburgh Penguins on April 3.  Brassard has continued his hot pace by recording five points in his past four games, including a two-goal effort in the Blueshirts’ 6-1 victory over the Florida Panthers at Madison Square Garden on Thursday night.

The Hull, Quebec native has nine points in eight games since joining the Rangers and has given their power play a boost with two goals and two assists on the man advantage. He’s earned the immediate trust of head coach John Tortorella.

“He’s been good on the power play. He doesn’t panic with the puck. He makes plays,” Tortorella stated. “It’s not off the glass. He can make some plays. He deserves where he’s at on the power play. He’s earned his spot there. He’s really helped us.”

Rick Nash spent five seasons playing alongside Brassard in Columbus and points to a change of scenery as a possible explanation for why Brassard is enjoying immediate success in New York.

“I always thought he was a good player,” Nash explained. “He always had all the tools and the skill. Sometimes guys just need a change and a fresh start; maybe it’s that. He’s a top 10 pick. There’s a reason why he was that pick — he’s a great player.”

Brassard’s skill level is obvious. He can stop on a dime and waves his stick like a magic wand. On the opening goal of the game, Brassard made a skillful pivot before putting a shot on net that produced a rebound. Ryan Callahan shot wide as Brassard followed the play to the far side of the crease to score an instinctual power-play goal.

Lundqvist, Tortorella Comparing Moore To McDonagh

Meanwhile, defenseman John Moore’s contributions are equally impressive. When I spoke with Lundqvist after the game, he immediately drew comparisons between Moore and rock-solid defenseman Ryan McDonagh.

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“I think he’s such a great skater. He reminds me of McDonagh. He’s strong and really fast on the skates,” Lundqvist said. “I didn’t know he could fight. He’s such a talented player and it’s great to see. It looks like he’s getting more and more comfortable with this team and how we play. It’s not easy for a defenseman to switch systems and teams, so it’s always a little bit easier for a forward. He’s really stepping up here and we need it. It’s great to see.”

There doesn’t seem to be a weakness in Moore’s game. He appears capable of doing whatever is asked of him — carrying the puck into the offensive zone, putting hard shots on net, using his size in the 6-foot-3, 202-pound frame to body opponents in the defensive zone — and as we saw in his third-period fight against Jack Skille, he has the ability to throw an uppercut punch that can fire up teammates.

“You should’ve heard our bench. It was great,” Tortorella said of Moore’s scrap with Skille.

The baby-faced Moore looked like a grizzled, veteran fighter. But it was actually his first career NHL fight, and it drew a standing ovation from the Madsion Square Garden crowd.

It’s interesting that both Tortorella and Lundqvist have pointed to the similarities between Moore and a highly-established and accomplished Ranger in McDonagh. Tortorella made the comparison earlier this week. It must be a tremendous compliment for the 22-year-old Moore, who only has eight games under his belt as a Ranger.

Nash was Moore’s teammate when the defenseman made his NHL debut with the Blue Jackets in February of 2011. He admitted that he was surprised when I asked him about Moore dropping the gloves and taking on Skille.

“I haven’t seen that from him,” Nash responded. “I guess they always say you’ve got to be careful of the quiet ones, so that’s what happened there. He had a good fight.”

While the Blue Jackets were able to acquire a highly-skilled player in Gaborik who can be a difference-maker in their push for a playoff seed in the tight Western Conference, it’s clear that Rangers general manager Glen Sather addressed New York’s lack of depth by adding two players who are filling big roles for the Blueshirts in Brassard and Moore.

A good amount of Rangers fans weren’t aware of Moore and Brassard before the trade-deadline blockbuster went down. After their ideal transitions, both Brassard and Moore are becoming quick fan favorites. It won’t be long before you see No. 16 and No. 17 jerseys around Madison Square Garden bearing their names.

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Who has been more impressive since joining the Blueshirts — Brassard or Moore? Share your thoughts below and send your tweets to @HartnettHockey.