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.