The surprise out of camp, Brett Howden turned heads with his first month on the Rangers. Making the Rangers as a rookie 3C over Lias Andersson, Howden made an immediate impact with a line of 4-9-13 in the Blueshirts’ first 23 games. Howden then came crashing down to Earth, hard, scoring just twice over the rest of the season, finishing with a line of 6-17-23 in 66 games while averaging 15 minutes per game.
Howden struggled mightily, and by January many were wondering if it was time to send the kid back to the AHL. His adjustment to the NHL game and schedule took its toll, and once the adrenaline wore off and the grind of the season continued, Howden’s game suffered. Even in a fourth line role against weak competition, Howden had the third worst xGF% on the club at 40.67. Only Cody McLeod and Boo Nieves had worse numbers, and both had significantly less ice time. It was on the defensive end where Howden struggled the most, with a team worst – and second worst in the entire NHL – 3.35 xGA/60. He was 11th in xGF/60 at 2.30, and that should probably get better, the kid is talented. But it’s that defensive play that really dragged him down.
The above shows how the Rangers fared in shots allowed without Howden on the ice. It’s not overly pretty because it’s the Rangers, but it’s the base we use when we see how the Rangers fared with Howden on the ice.
There is only one word to describe this: Bad.
Remember that Howden is a center, and that red area in the center of the ice, the high slot and point blank range, is a deep red that even I, the color blind guy, can’t even confuse it with green. It’s just an amorphous blob that seems to never stop expanding. The threat rate is 34% about league average, which is a 27% jump in threat level when Howden is off the ice. I don’t know how else to put this.
Now none of this should really scare anyone. Howden was a rookie and was thrust into a situation that he should have been taken out of long before his January knee injury. A good portion of this is on coach David Quinn, and one of his few blips from this season. Howden will adjust, or perhaps get moved to the wing to lessen his defensive responsibilities.
While I hate to give Howden a grade on a rough rookie year, he played enough games to avoid an incomplete. He can contribute offensively, but boy does his defensive game need a ton of work. He will get better.