Jacob Trouba’s unavailability because of an upper-body injury opened the door for 20-year-old Zac Jones to make his NHL debut Thursday against the Philadelphia Flyers. The defenseman joined the Rangers after helping UMass win the national championship on April 10.
Trouba is officially listed as day-to-day after leaving Tuesday’s 6-1 loss against the Islanders following a big hit by forward Matt Martin. That created an opening on the defense corps for Jones, their third-round pick (No. 68 overall) in the 2019 NHL draft. Jones, a native of Richmond, Virginia, who played on the U.S. World Junior team in 2020, signed with the Rangers three days after UMass beat St. Cloud State, 5-0, to win the title.
He was supposed to be partnered with Libor Hajek – who re-entered the lineup after sitting out the last two games in favor of Island Park native Anthony Bitetto -- in his NHL debut. But for the first two periods, at least, coach David Quinn instead had his first defense pair of Adam Fox and Ryan Lindgren double-shifting. The pair played their normal shifts together, then Fox would partner with Hajek, and Lindgren with Jones. Jones also played on the second power-play unit as the lone point man.
Jones, a left-handed shot, played on the right side when he played with Lindgren, who normally is a left-sided defenseman.
With Jones in, the Rangers’ lineup featured four 23-year-olds, two 21-year-olds, two 20-year-olds and a 19-year-old… Aside from Hajek and Jones, there were no other changes to the lineup from Tuesday’s game, meaning forwards Julien Gauthier (10 straight) and Phillip DiGiuseppe (nine straight) were the other scratches… The Rangers and Flyers play each other again Friday at the Garden, and then the Buffalo Sabres come in for two games Sunday and Tuesday.