Rangers’ Shattenkirk responds to criticism from Capitals’ Barry Trotz

Kevin-Shattenkirk

Columbus Blue Jackets forward Nick Foligno, left, chases the puck against New York Rangers defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk during an NHL hockey game in the 2017-18 season. (Paul Vernon/AP)

If Kevin Shattenkirk has some extra pep in his step Friday night when his New York Rangers visit the Washington Capitals, you won’t have to look far to find out why.

Barry Trotz coached Shattenkirk for a few months earlier this calendar year after the Capitals acquired the blueliner from the St. Louis Blues prior to the 2017 trade deadline. Washington gave up a 2017 first-round pick as part of the deal, yet his addition didn’t help the the Presidents’ Trophy winners get out of the second round of the playoffs and his performance in the post-season was largely forgettable.

The Capitals head coach ruffled some feathers when speaking with media on Thursday thanks to a terse assessment of Shattenkirk’s time with the Capitals.

“I think everybody thought of him as a 1-2 [defenceman], and he really wasn’t,” Trotz told reporters at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va. “He was a little lower.”

When Shattenkirk was told what Trotz had said about him, the Rangers rearguard had an honest reaction.

“It doesn’t sit well with you,” Shattenkirk said. “It’s nothing that you enjoy hearing. I think there are a lot of people that probably think that about me, and I like to use that in my favour and use that as something to keep me boosted and prove people wrong.”

Shattenkirk signed a four-year, $26.6-million contract with the team he grew up cheering for as an unrestricted free agent in the summer. He has been playing mostly on the Rangers’ second pairing beside Brady Skjei this season and admitted he doesn’t yet feel he has cemented himself as a top-pairing defenceman.

“I think I’m working towards it,” Shattenkirk explained. “I think there’s a lot more room for me to grow. I think I have to handle those top-end matchups a little bit better. When I get those opportunities, I have to really make sure I make them count.

“I know we have a guy like Ryan McDonagh is a good example for me, someone who I try to watch and the way that he handles players like the Ovechkins and the Backstroms and the Crosbys, that’s something that I’m still working towards. I don’t think I’m there yet, but I think I can get there.”

Shattenkirk currently ranks eighth in league scoring among defencemen with 20 points in 27 games this season.

Fans can watch Shattenkirk and the Rangers take on Trotz’s Capitals Friday on Sportsnet with coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET.

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