Rangers testing new strategies at RW this training camp

New York Rangers left wing Alexis Lafreniere (13) looks to pass against the Calgary Flames during the third period at Madison Square Garden

With the 2023-24 season right around the corner, the New York Rangers are in the midst of preparing their roster for opening night. This year’s training camp and pre-season will be more important than ever, as the Rangers have two massive holes in their lineup that need to be filled.

Vladimir Tarasenko has signed with Ottawa and Patrick Kane has shown no sign of returning anytime soon, so both top-six right wing positions remain void. There’s a likely chance that Kaapo Kakko will fill in on the first line, but things should get interesting as the Rangers try creative ways to fill that second spot.

Drury says two young stars may make a switch from the left wing

During his pre-training camp press conference, Rangers GM Chris stated that both Alexis Lafreniere and Brennan Othmann will take a look at the right side during the camp. While the chances of Othmann cracking the Rangers’ roster this season are somewhat low, both he and Lafreniere must make the most of this opportunity to benefit the future of their careers.

“I’m anticipating they’ll get every chance to play on the right and show what they can do,” Drury said, per The Athletic. “I’m sure that can make for some exciting games and practices to watch in camp.”

The Rangers’ left-wing position is highly congested, with both Chris Kreider and Artemi Panarin locking up the top two spots for at least the next three seasons. For a player like Lafreniere, who has been given few chances to live up to his first overall status, a switch to the right side would provide an opportunity to finally earn a top-six role.

He’s averaged less than 15 minutes of ice time per game throughout his career, a statistic far lower than most first-overall draft picks. Having recently signed a two-year bridge deal with the Rangers, Lafreniere must improve his point totals by a large margin. Moving into the top six as a right winger might just be the solution.

Could this exciting prospect make the switch to the right side?

Othmann still has time before he’ll be called up to the NHL by the Rangers, but he’ll be in a similar situation once that finally happens. Lafreniere will have had much more experience than him, and Othmann would really only find a spot on the fourth line if he remains on the left side. He too will have to prove that he could make the transition to a right winger if he intends on becoming a top-six forward with the Rangers anytime soon.

The Rangers have other options if Lafreniere and Othmann fail to transition

Kaapo Kakko will likely be taking on the role of the first-line right winger, but the Rangers have also recently signed veteran F Blake Wheeler to a one-year deal. Having scored 55 points last season, Wheeler would be a valuable addition to the top six on the second line. There’s no concrete roster for opening night this season, but it’s clear that the Rangers have multiple options.

If Othmann and particularly Lafreniere want to earn a top-six role, they’ll have to show success early on in training camp. The regular season may still be a few weeks away, but there are only a few chances to prove themselves before the Rangers make a final decision on who is playing where. Not only would a transition from Lafreniere benefit his career, but it would also help make the Rangers’ lineup more bountiful down the roster.

“It will be either Hartford or Manhattan for Othmann, a 20-year-old, 6-foot, 187-pound lefty. Paradoxically, if Lafreniere moves to right wing, Othmann would probably have a better chance to earn a top-nine spot on the left, with Blake Wheeler a top-nine lock on the right.”

via NY Post

This test by Drury has the potential to revitalize the Rangers’ roster in more ways than one. If Lafreniere fails to move to the right side, not only will he be trapped in the bottom six, but it would almost guarantee that Othmann will have to wait longer to make it to the NHL. If all goes well during training camp, the gears may start turning to provide new opportunities to these young stars.

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