Rangers Add Grit, Forward Depth in 2021 Draft

Thus far this offseason, the New York Rangers have focused on adding gritty players and they continued that trend in the 2021 NHL Draft. Because the Blueshirts are already loaded with defense prospects, they drafted forwards with six of their eight picks this season.

Brennan Othmann

The Rangers had only one pick in the first two rounds of the draft and they used it to select winger Othmann. He has an excellent shot and isn’t afraid to get to the front of the net. During the 2019-20 season, he played for the Flint Firebirds of the OHL and had 17 goals and 16 assists in 55 games. He is 5-foot-11, 180 pounds, and was a physical presence who wasn’t afraid to throw checks and block shots.

During the offseason, Othmann got stronger and while he was unable to play in the OHL during the 2020-21 season due to the coronavirus pandemic, he played for EHC Olten in the Swiss League. Instead of playing against young prospects, he played against men and he held his own, finishing with seven goals and nine assists in 34 games. He also had one goal and one assist in four playoff games.

Last season Othmann also represented Canada in the IIHF World U18 Championship, where he finished with three goals and three assists in seven games, as he helped Canada win the championship.

“I’m an offensive player who likes to put the puck in the net, but at the same time, I play a physical game and I like to get under guys’ skin,” Othmann said.

Othmann says that he models his game after Calgary Flames forward Matthew Tkachuk and Winnipeg Jets forward Kyle Connor. His style of play certainly fits in with New York’s plan to become a grittier team.

Jayden Grubbe and Ryder Korczak

In the third round of the NHL Draft, the Rangers used both of their picks on centers, an area in which they lack depth. They selected Grubbe and Korczak, who were the only two centers they drafted this year.

Grubbe is a strong two-way center who excels on faceoffs, making him exactly the type of player the Blueshirts need. He also has good size at 6-foot-3 and 201 pounds.

During the 2019-20 season, Grubbe played for the Red Deer Rebels in the WHL and finished with six goals and 23 assists in 57 games. Last season he was limited to just five games with them because of a knee injury, but the hope is he’ll be ready to play at the start of the 2021-22 season. He’s only 18-years-old, but he was named captain of the Red Deer Rebels last season.

Ryder Korczak, Moose Jaw Warriors
The New York Rangers traded up to select Ryder Korczak (Photo Credit: Nick Pettigrew/Moose Jaw Warriors)

The Rangers traded up to get Korczak in the third round. He also played in the WHL and had a breakout 2019-20 season with the Moose Jaw Warriors, finishing with 18 goals and 49 assists in 62 games. However, he didn’t play as well during the 2020-21 season, finishing with three goals and 13 assists in 17 games.

Korczak is listed at 5-foot-10 and 159 pounds and he could benefit from getting stronger, but he is known for his impressive puck-handling and excellent playmaking ability.

Later Round Picks

In the fourth round, the Rangers selected winger Brody Lamb. He put up incredible numbers with the Dodge County Wildcats in high school, finishing with 52 goals and 35 assists in just 24 games. Though the numbers are impressive, the level of competition wasn’t very high, but he certainly has offensive upside. He is still just 17-years-old and is committed to the University of Minnesota, where he will play against much tougher competition.

The Rangers also selected winger Kalle Vaisanen in the fourth round and winger Jaroslav Chmelar in the fifth round. Both are playing in the U20 SM-liiga in Finland and both are big players. Vaisanen is 6-foot-4 and 181 pounds and played for Finland in the IIHF World U18 Championship last season, where he had one assist in five games. Chmelar is 6-foot-4 and 198 pounds and he represented the Czech Republic in the same tournament. He had one goal and one assist in five games.

The lone defenseman the Rangers selected this year was Hank Kempf in the seventh round. He’s a physical player who is listed at 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds. He finished with four goals and six assists for the Muskegon Lumberjacks last season and he is committed to Cornell University.

New York also drafted one goaltender this year, selecting Talyn Boyko in the fourth round. He is a unique goalie at 6-foot-8 and he played 14 games in the WHL for the Tri-City Americans last season. He went 7-7 with a 3.02 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage. Though his numbers aren’t great, his size certainly makes him an interesting prospect.

For the Rangers

The Rangers were able to add plenty of size and grit with this draft class. Othmann possesses one of the best shots in the draft and has the potential to develop into a sniper. The Blueshirts would also greatly benefit if one or both of the centers they drafted in the third round can develop into an effective NHL player.

Brennan Othmann Flint Firebirds
The New York Rangers selected Brennan Othmann in the first round of the 2021 NHL Draft (Terry Wilson / OHL Images)

This is a unique year in that most prospects didn’t play in many games last season because of the coronavirus pandemic, making it much more difficult to evaluate them. However, the Rangers clearly tried to address their lack of physicality and depth at forward with the players they selected. Though they didn’t have one of the top two overall picks as they did in 2019 and 2020, the players the Blueshirts selected this year have plenty of potential and could develop into effective players for them in a few years.

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