Over the last few seasons, the New York Rangers have done an excellent job of drafting and developing young defensemen and goalies but they have not done the same with forwards. Lias Andersson requested a trade and was dealt to the Los Angeles Kings after a few underwhelming seasons and Vitali Kravtsov did the same last season after he failed to make the team’s opening-day roster. Additionally, Kaapo Kakko, Alexis Lafreniere, and Filip Chytil have all shown flashes of greatness but have not yet played to their potential for an entire season.
Despite those struggles, Rangers’ prospect Brennan Othmann has dominated with the Flint Firebirds in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) and for Team Canada at the World Junior Championship. The forward has developed into a top prospect and has the potential to become a difference-maker for the Rangers.
Othmann’s Rise as a Prospect
The Rangers selected Othmann with the 16th overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft. He finished with 17 goals and 16 assists in 55 games with the Firebirds during the 2019-20 season but didn’t play with them in 2020-21 as the COVID-19 pandemic led to postponements and cancellations in the OHL. Instead, he played for EHC Olten of the Swiss League and finished with seven goals and nine assists in 34 games. He held his own physically while playing against men and continued to drive to the front of the net.
Last season, Othmann returned to the Firebirds and broke through, finishing with 50 goals (the second most in the OHL) and 47 assists in 66 games. Though he isn’t a great skater he has a strong, accurate shot and plays well in all aspects of the game. Even though he is only listed as 6 feet tall and 180 pounds, he never passes up opportunities for hits and is very strong on the puck.
Othmann built on his strong performance with the Firebirds with an impressive stint with Canada at the World Junior Championship this summer and helped his team win gold. He had two goals and four assists in six games even though at times he didn’t get much ice time due to the incredible depth of the Canadian team. Still, he made the most of his importunities and capitalized offensively, while also imposing his will physically, knocking down one or two opponents in almost every game with clean, hard hits.
Othmann’s Importance for the Rangers
Though Othmann is still just 19 years old and a long shot to make the Rangers’ lineup to begin the season, he will be a very important player for them in the next few years. He plays with grit and intensity which makes him an ideal fit under head coach Gerard Gallant. He has also shown a shoot-first mentality which could complement New York’s many skilled playmakers.
Othmann plays left wing which will make it challenging for him to make the team this season, as Artemi Panarin, Chris Kreider, and Lafreniere are all left-wingers. However, it’s certainly possible for Othmann to move to the right side since Lafreniere played well when the team briefly moved him to the right side last season. Additionally, Pavel Buchnevich successfully made the move from left wing to right wing with New York during the 2020-21 season.
The hope for the Rangers is that Othmann will become a reliable top-six forward down the road. His development is especially important because the team has not gotten the best out of their forward prospects. They’ve often called up prospects (like Lafreniere, Kakko, Chytil, and Andersson) when they’re still very young but limited their ice time and benched them for making defensive mistakes. They have also received little ice time on the power play and rarely played on either of New York’s top two lines. This has led to underwhelming campaigns from the young forwards resulting in none of them producing more than 31 points in a season.
As such, the Rangers should take a different approach with Othmann and trust the young winger when they do decide to give him a chance in the NHL.
For the Rangers & Othmann Moving Forward
Though it’s unclear where Othmann will play next season, he needs to keep playing with the same intensity he showed last season while continuing to improve his skating. His impressive shot, hockey sense, and physicality make him a top prospect and though he may not be ready to make the jump to the NHL yet, Rangers fans should still be very excited about him.