Why the Rangers’ top prospect won’t receive an NHL roster spot this season

New York Rangers left wing Brennan Othmann (78) looks out during warmups before a game against the New York Islanders at Madison Square Garden

The New York Rangers are still in need of an elite winger for their first line. There are multiple options available through free agency or the trade market, but there is the possibility that the Blueshirts could look within their own system for support.

Brennan Othmann, the Rangers’ current No. 1 prospect, earned his first NHL stint last season. Though his first time with the Blueshirts was brief, fans now wonder if he could become a full-time roster player this year. Despite many calling for Othmann to join the NHL roster, circumstances make it unlikely for at least another season or two.

Brennan Othmann isn’t ready for the NHL just yet due to defensive issues

At just 21 years old, Othmann may need a bit more time before becoming an NHL regular with the Rangers. He’s developed his offensive game perfectly, having tallied 49 points in 67 games with the Hartford Wolf Pack last season. However, his defensive abilities need an abundance of work.

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In his 67 games in Hartford last year, Othmann earned a -24 rating on the ice. He didn’t get any better in the postseason either, as he earned a -6 through 10 playoff games. Othmann has received criticism for his defensive game since the day the Rangers drafted him, and it appears that there has been little improvement over the last few years.

Having another defensively weak forward is the last thing the Rangers need right now. Poor defensive performances from top offensive players have ended their seasons numerous times, and Othmann would only add more fuel to that fire. Until he’s able to create a more well-rounded skillset, Othmann may have to get used to calling Hartford home.

The Rangers have no room on their roster for Othmann

Even if Othmann were ready for the NHL defensively, the Blueshirts have no place to fit him on their roster. He may be their top prospect, but it would be too massive of a jump from the AHL all the way to an NHL first-line. It’s possible that recently acquired Reilly Smith could move up to the top unit to make room for Othmann on the third, but he too doesn’t seem skilled enough to join Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider.

Reilly Smith, Rangers
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The only possibility that makes sense is if Will Cuylle slides down to the fourth line, having Othmann join Filip Chytil and Smith on the third. But that would in turn force Jimmy Vesey, Jonny Brodzinski, or Matt Rempe out of the lineup. It’s exciting to see Othmann eager to play in the big leagues, but current roster implications may keep him down in Hartford for a bit longer.

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