Center or Wing: What can the Rangers do with Brett Howden?

Brett Howden hasn’t necessarily had a fair introduction to New York, either at center or at wing. One of the key pieces in the infamous Ryan McDonagh trade, Howden has not performed overly well in his first two years. He had one good month to start his NHL career, but has fallen off a cliff since. He’s been a liability everywhere on the ice, and is now getting passed on the depth charts.

This isn’t really Howden’s fault. The Rangers made a slew of mistakes with him. They rushed him to the NHL to show the dividends of the trade. He was then kept in the NHL despite very clear and obvious signs he was struggling. Instead of sending him to the AHL to round out his game, they insisted on throwing him into situations where he was ready to fail.

A Center Who Struggles Defensively

Now entering his third season, Howden is barely even on the depth chart. Mika Zibanejad is the clear 1C. While the Rangers are struggling to find a true 2C, it isn’t going to be Howden. Filip Chytil is going to be a middle-six center, and Morgan Barron is knocking on the door. So much for top-nine center Brett Howden. This doesn’t even account for Patrick Khodorenko or Justin Richards.

The problem with Howden is that he’s already behind Chytil on the depth chart. The Rangers have also been trying to get Barron over to the NHL for a couple of years. They are very high on him. Even without Khodorenko or Richards, Howden is the 5C on this team.

Wing Depth Is A Major Strength

Howden did spend time on the wing, but the results weren’t that great. With Chris Kreider, Artemi Panarin, and Alexis Lafrenierre entrenched on LW, Howden is competing with Brendan Lemieux for the 4LW spot. That’s not a battle he will win.

As for RW, the Rangers have Pavel Buchnevich, Kaapo Kakko, and Julien Gauthier ahead of Howden on the depth chart. Assuming Jesper Fast departs through free agency, then maybe that’s where Howden gets into the lineup. But is 4RW really the best place for Howden to succeed?

The Rangers don’t have many options with Howden. Before winning the draft lottery, there may have been a home for Brett Howden on the wing. Now, he’s very quickly losing his spot in the lineup and could see himself on the outside looking in.

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  • He may not be happy about it but the best place for him is to learn in Hartford. The Rangers made a mistake with him. Time they admit the problem and fix it before they lose him.

    • Leadership and players love the kid, and he will get another shot to prove many Ranger fans wrong this year……In reading JD rave about the kid, JD is either setting up Howden for a trade or JD can’t see through his cheeseburgers from the skybox.

  • Summer of 2017- BSB fans- Dur our center depth is a major strength.. After Zib, we have Chytil, Lias and Howden to fill out the roster.

    Me- Just let them marinate in the AHL for a season or so.. Build a winning culture down there, shore up their games etc etc..

    Summer of 2020- Howden has played in 136 games for a total of 42 points! Chytil has played 144 games for 49 points…! Lias could barley make it out of the AHL and has already bailed on his team. Big yikes…

    Who was right?

    Game 3 vs Carolina, Howden seemed different in a good way.. It was almost like the same kid who played for team Canada a few years ago.. I’m still holding onto hope in seeing him grow under Quinn. I bet he beats Morgan Barron as the 4c, but hopefully those two can tag team on the pk.. There’s no use in sending him down now unless he really falls flat on his face.

  • He’s our whipping boy.

    He should have spent time in Hartford (although Hartford has been a disaster) and now it’s too late for that … so let’s hope we see more of the Howden we saw in Game 3 of the play-in series, at least that Howden was serviceable.

  • just posted this on another thread:

    I was all for the Rangers tear down…what I wasn’t for was tearing it down by trading the wrong players away.

    The Rangers could have signed Hayes for 5 years, 27-28mm and Miller to a 5 year 25mm deal the year before they traded them away, they couldn’t because of the albatross contracts they handed out to guys 3-4 years prior…i.e, Staal, Giradi, Hank, Boyle, Shattensht, Richards, who were still on the team or bought out and ruining the cap space.

    That is how you go 30-50 years between winning cups.

    The Bruins saw the value in Marchand, Pasta, Krug and the like and signed them to deals that paid them more before their real value kicked in and now they are bargains.

    That is how you win…you keep the guys who win playoff hockey games for you.

    Hayes has some warts but he is a big, big man with a lot of skill who knows how to protect and carry the puck.

    Miller always played with an edge…he was still developing the skills that make him who he is today.

    Graves was never given a shot…but will anchor that pairing with Makar for the next 10 years.

    Imagine having those 3 guys on our “rebuild”!

    We just paid Trouba 8mm a year and that is at least 1mm over payment.

    We will have almost 8mm in dead cap space, without counting Hank

    But now, we have to consider trading D’Angelo and Strome away because they will ask for too much…

    Let’s rinse and repeat the stupidity!

    • Jjb, I think I love you for this…

      JT is on a stupid low contract right now.. He was already better than Kreider when he was still with the team..

      The only time that Hayes would sign that deal would have been in the summer of 2017.. He built up his resume way to well as a shutdown 3c who will score you basically 50 points with bottom 6 talent (Hags/Fast/Grabner, they all had career years with him as their center). He didn’t even need the PP2 role to get those numbers. The last 3c who put up similar points like that was Jordan Staal in Pitts and he played with much better player’s and received a major PP role. Well anyways after KH 2018 campaign of 25 goals on a garbage filled team with 3-4 months worth of PP2 time.. There was no way that he was going to take that deal that you claim the Rangers should have offered up. Brooks debunk that quickly and said how his camp is willing to do 6.7-6.8 mill and no less than 6 years in term. Guy’s like Aho just joined him in the shorthanded department, that ability alone would get someone like Jesper Fast 4+ mill on the open market.

      Graves is alright, I much rather have him over Lindgren, that’s for sure. Pionk could have been something consistently good to have, (ask any Pegs fan about Trouba vs Pionk).. But Hayes and Miller will be household names for years to come in Philly and Vancouver. They’re bigger leaders on their new teams vs Kreider or Buch, ADA constantly talks about missing KH, which is a tell tale sign.

    • I was also in the rebuild camp not the tear down. But there is no going back. Now that the Rangers have committed to a youth movement they need to stick to the plan. That means you give all their young players more time to develop (including Howden). Tony DeAngelo should be signed for 3 years. Georgiev stays and Henk gets put out to pasture. Smitty, Strome and Staal stay for now, until the next injection of youth is ready.

    • The big problem with the Rangers is that they put way too much emphasis on the player’s attitude that has nothing to do with their play on the ice.

      Staal and Howden are upfront in my example (and Girardi for that matter). 2 players the Rangers’ org love who should not even be on the team, never mind getting important minutes.

      Hayes and JT Miller are examples, the other way (and Stralman for that matter). Players that the Rangers’ org felt did not fit their “model” but players that can play the game.

      The big Ranger mistake with Hayes was not signing him to a 5 year, $25M contract THE YEAR BEFORE he was let go. But let’s not make a mistake, his current contract of 7 years, $50M is atrocious, I don’t care how well he’s playing now.

      All teams’ player moves are not perfect. The Rangers are probably in the upper half of the league, believe it or not. All teams have their complaints from their fans, lol.

  • Yes, they did the kid a disservice by throwing him into the fire to justify the trade. He definitely should have stayed in Hartford for a season.

    We all know the staff loves him, however, whomever we get to as an upgrade or camp battle (Barron) moving him to wing still doesn’t solve the problem.

    His inconsistencies are way too troublesome now.
    Spending a year in the AHL will only help him mature and become more consistent in the long run.

    All parties involved will benefit from this, especially if he can’t beat out the competition during camp.

  • I think it’s most likely that Howden begins the season as the 4th line center. It’s his to lose. By the end of the season he will most likely be the player that Seattle will end up taking in the Expansion Draft.

  • And another installment of the “lets get Brett Howden off the Rangers” web series. We get it, you don’t like him………the coach, and Mgmt seem to. Deal!

    • Dave isn’t the only one who thinks Howden has a ton of room for improvement. This is a blog, bud. These are the things that are written about.

      • The same thing every day…..I’m not a fan of Howden’s either….but the team seems to like him. Until that changes, there’s got to be other things to talk about than the same kid almost every day. A fourth line player(border-line third), is not gonna be the make or break decison for this team going forward. Oh yeah…..Bud!

        • mickeydee

          These are the articles that are written. It just so happens a lot of what’s written pertains to him!

          What we say doesn’t sway the Rangers in any way,they will do,what they see fit.

          We’re just Ranger fans venting or giving an opinion.
          Giving and receiving lite hearted banter back and forth!! 👍
          Don’t sweat the small stuff that we can’t control.

          • Stop… every turn,in almost every article about the future of the team….he always seems to be the whipping boy. Which is kinda’ remarkable for admittedly, a 3rd or 4th line player. The future of the team, doesn’t rest on the shoulders of some struggling kid. I’m no fan of his, but to keep harping on him is redundant. Until they get rid of him, hes in the picture. Whether you like him or not(which has been made abundantly clear, ad nauseam, from the beginning).

          • It’s official, Howden replaces JT Miller and Dan Girardi as the sites new whipping boy. Girardi is retired but JT who apparently could never do anything right when in New York, is leading the Canucks in playoff scoring and is a leader on and off the ice.

            I am reserving judgement on any of the Rangers young players as it can take 4 or 5 years in the pros before we will know how they will turn out as a player. ADA is a perfect example as he has finally had his break out year after learning his trade in Phoenix and New York.

  • The kid works his ass off every practice and every shift unlike the premodonna from Sweden who thinks he is a star.

    He was one of the better forwards in the Canes series, particularly in games two and three. He was robbed at least 4 different ties from in front of the goal. He needs to work on his strength during this off season and some on his first step explosiveness.

    There is no question though that he needs to take the next step in his development this coming season. He is a good kid and I am rooting for him to step up.

    • 1. No one is questioning his effort. If I were a Ranger, my effort wouldn’t be questioned. But I wouldn’t be good enough, either.

      2. I’m assuming you mean Lias – kid is 21. Let’s see you move to a different continent with no family and have some professional setbacks and see how you deal with it at that age.

      3. Howden was objectively bad against Carolina. The entire team except Ryan Lindgren was bad.

      4. He seems like a real good kid, everyone likes him. That’s great. Everyone likes Marc Staal too. This isn’t a popularity contest. It’s about putting the best team on the ice and using all assets to do so.

      • Dave: all 4 of the points above are relevant in rating anyone. If management was sincere about Howden they would do what is right for him first. That would be getting big minutes in the AHL. Let him marinate there for half a season (if there is one)…if not maybe loan him to a european team ? He is not getting in done the way everyone wants him to…so why not help him and ultimately the team?

        • I think the organization wanted to show immediate benefits of the McDonagh trade, which was questionable from the start. They rushed Howden in (and Hajek), and it backfired.

      • Sorry pal. Dont agree with you. He wasnt objectively nad against the Canes. Quite the opposite in games two and three.
        In fact, JD and JG both said he stood out. Their opinion is what matters. Plus Howden only has 7 less points in 13 less games than Chytil. Does he have some work to do ? Of course but unlike Lias, he wont whine about things and thats why his rope is much longer than Lias’s. I wouldnt give up on him just yet. As a matter of fact, I moved two continents with my family who had $500 to their name before the age of 8. First to Israel right before the Yom Kippur war and then to the USA in 1975. So to a fairly large extent, I know whats its like . Plus he knows english well and was a legal adult. I was brutalized and attacked in school as a kid because I was a “commie”

        Lias is no different than other kids who were drafted out of Europe. His act is tiresome and isnt commensurate with his talent or effort. He was a terrible pick . Gabe Vilardi was sitting there for the taking and the idiot Clark picked another winner in the first round just like he has on way too many occasions .

        I agree with you on Lindgren. He was easily the teams best player against the Canes. Kid comes to play and has been great since game one of his career.

        • I thought Howden had a decent outing in the Carolina series and his play on the PK is improving. My knock on Lias is not his hockey talent it’s his attitude. From tossing his silver medal at the World Juniors to quitting the team in Hartford the kid has some growing up to do. I hope he finds his way.

    • “The kid works his ass off every practice and every shift.”

      Bro, who cares? He’s an awful NHL player. Talent should be the measuring stick not what you said.

      This statement you said is why Fast is ridiculously put on the line with Panarin. Because Fast works hard and the players love him. Just laughable.

      • He has talent. Come on pal. The kid scores at the same level as Chytil who u think is a super talent. Let’s see what he does this year.

        • LOL, all the underlying stats say other wise.

          The Rangers continue to try and make this kid a scoring/offensive player and it just doesn’t work. The only role I see for Howden, if the Rangers insist on keeping him on the team, is 4th line wing, where he can do less damage there, than at center.

          I would rather have McKegg as 4th line center, or give Baron a shot.

  • Howden is a serviceable 4th line player. He needs big PK minutes to make up for his lack of offense. As a 4th line player, he needs to use his size and bring some attitude to his play. We no longer can afford to roll only 2 lines. If after about 20 games, he still is doing very little on offense, send him to the AHL or elsewhere in the NHL.

    • Howden is one of the worst PK forwards on the team. He needs sheltered minutes or AHL time to get his game and confidence back together.

  • you cant teach desire and grit. i would use him in a trade with georgie
    we need to get tougher up the middle’

  • Best example of David Quinn and Jeff Gorton’s respective incompetence.

    Quinn because….well hes a shitty coach obsessed with Howden.

    Gorton because the McDonough trade didnt work out so yes they tried to for Howden to “work through it”.

    They tinker with rookies/youth the wrong way whether its Chytil, Buch, Andersson, Krav, Kakko.

    When you see how the Rangers have handled youth, it’s very 20th Century. You look at an org like the Avs that did it intentionally.

    The Rangers lucked out with Hank, then wasted him. They have now lucked out with Panarin, with getting a #2 pick, followed by a #1.

    Gorton might be a league avg GM overall (maybe), but Quinn is at the very bottom of coaches. Howden is an indictment of both.

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