The New York Rangers have enjoyed a number of standout performances from their prospects during this year’s training camp and preseason. Despite the excellent performances, the majority of the prospects will not make the Blueshirts’ star-studded lineup come opening night. However, in the case of any mid-season injuries or struggles, three prospects stand out as players who could be in line for regular-season playing time.
Brennan Othmann: The prospect with a chance at making the opening night lineup
The Blueshirts aren’t expected to feature any prospects on their opening night lineup, but Brennan Othmann might be giving the team second thoughts. Othmann has been stellar this preseason, just as he was last year before narrowly missing out on the NHL roster due to a technicality.
Othmann has flashed elite potential through New York’s first preseason games. The 20-year-old forward has netted two goals in two games played. Othmann is a prospect with elite point-production potential, scoring 67 goals in 56 games last year in the OHL.
With former first-overall draft pick Alexis Lafreniere continuing to struggle, the calls for Othmann to take over his spot in the lineup may become overwhelming.
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Preparing for struggles in net
Jonathan Quick has not looked good this preseason. The 37-year-old goalie was signed to a one-year contract this offseason to serve as the backup to superstar Igor Shesterkin, but his struggles in the exhibition games could give new HC Peter Laviolette second thoughts.
After initially being sent down to the AHL, the Rangers quickly recalled goalie prospect Dylan Garand, creating questions about Quick’s future. If Quick continues to struggle, Garand could be a player that the Blueshirts plug into the lineup later in the regular season.
This preseason, Garand made 18 saves on 19 shots, posting a .947 save percentage and a 1.28 goals-against average. At 21 years old, Garand still needs more time to develop. But his sharp performances this preseason demonstrate the prospect’s potential and could give Laviolette confidence in him to fill in during the regular season.
Battling for a spot in the Rangers’ third defensive pairing
The Rangers’ top two defensive pairings are set in stone: K’Andre Miller will join Adam Fox in the first pairing and Ryan Lindgren will join Jacob Trouba in the second. The real question is, who will join Braden Schneider in the third defensive pairing?
Erik Gustafsson was brought in this offseason to fill that role. The 31-year-old veteran has a familiarity with Laviolette, having played under him with the Washington Capitals. So far this preseason, Gustafsson is the team’s leading point producer, having earned one goal and three assists in three games played. Gustafsson has clearly solidified himself as Schneider’s partner on the third line, however, there is a prospect still gunning for some playing time this season.
Zac Jones is a defensive prospect who seems ready to take that next step in his hockey career. The 22-year-old defenseman has received minimal regular-season playing time in the past, and that could happen again this season.
If any injuries are to occur on the Rangers’ defensive end, Jones will be the first man in line to get called up from the AHL. The Rangers sustained injuries to key defensemen last season, so they will understand the value that Jones can provide to the team.