Rangers: Recent call-up may be the surprise answer to the first line problem

New York Rangers center Jonny Brodzinski (22) passes the puck in the first period against the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

When analyzing the New York Rangers‘ offense this season, there aren’t many negative takeaways to discuss. Practically every forward has upped their game to generate world-class point production, as very few players have failed to reach high-set expectations.

The one area of the Blueshirts’ offense that appeared the falter this year has been the right wing. Alexis Lafreniere proved to be the only consistent forward in that position, while Blake Wheeler and Kaapo Kakko disappointed game after game. It was clear that neither player was a good fit on the Rangers’ first line, but a recent call-up has shown that he may just be the solution to this issue.

The Rangers were forced to call Brodzinski up due to injury

In a terrible loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the Rangers’ defeat was made even worse when the team walked away with yet another injury. Kakko had awkwardly fallen and was removed from the game, and he would later go on to be placed on the IR.

With Kakko out long-term and a serious lack of depth on the right wing, the Blueshirts decided to call Jonny Brodzinski up from the Hartford Wolfpack. Brodzinski was leading the AHL in points at the time of the call-up and acted as a dominant offensive force down in Hartford.

Brodzinski has been a perfect fit on the first line

When Brodzinski was originally called up to the Rangers, he began on the third line where Kakko was slated. But after just one more poor performance from Wheeler, he was promoted up to the first line. The combination of Chris Kreider, Mika Zibanejad, and Brodzinski was never expected to exist this season, but it’s a good thing that it became a reality.

In four games played up in the NHL this year, Brodzinski has already recorded four points– all in the form of assists. Even outside of his offensive production, Brodzinski has been stellar defensively as well. He’s blocked three shots, has gotten two takeaways, and has a +2 rating when on the ice. These numbers are all better than anything Wheeler or Kakko provided during their time on the first line, an indication that Brodzinski may have been the right choice all along.

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Is Brodzinski a solid solution to this issue?

For the time being, having Brodzinski play with Kreider and Zibanejad on the top unit is not a bad plan. The stats are proving that he deserves to be there, and as long as the line continues to produce, there’s no need to switch anything around.

The odds are that the Rangers will be looking for a more permanent solution for the right wing at this year’s trade deadline. Brodzinski is a solid filler, but the Blueshirts will likely want an even more dominant player to fill that role for the playoffs. T

he Rangers have certainly gotten lucky with Brodzinski’s level of success. If he wasn’t playing the way he is right now, they would be in big trouble.