Where should Brennan Othmann play for the Rangers?

The Rangers have made their first “big splash” of the new year, recalling top prospect Brennan Othmann. This was in response to Tyler Pitlick’s upper body injury, and he will be out a few weeks. It looks like Othmann will get an extended look. But the big question is where should Brennan Othmann play?

Othmann has been playing RW LW (sorry, I got that mixed up) in Hartford, with a little center mixed in here and there. RW is the scoring issue right now, and that’s also where the injury occurred, but there may be a reluctance to put Othmann on his off wing, even if he played it in Juniors.

If we’ve learned anything from Peter Laviolette’s lineup decisions this year, it’s that he doesn’t like to blow things up. He will let lines cook, and only make changes after a long enough period of time has passed with unfavorable results. The only significant line change we’ve seen –that wasn’t due to injury– was swapping Blake Wheeler and Kaapo Kakko. Everything else has stayed the same.

So where should Brennan Othmann play?

Which leads us again to the question: Where should Brennan Othmann play?

First things first: Othmann should not play on the fourth line. It would be a waste of his talent and put him in a position to fail. That line does not play to Othmann’s strengths. These aren’t the AV or Gerard Gallant Rangers, where the fourth line is a bunch of scrubs. This fourth line has a role, it is a shutdown line. That is not Othmann’s skill set.

We can also assume Othmann won’t be on the second line, as the Artemi Panarin, Vincent Trocheck, and Alexis Lafreniere line is the only line capable of generating 5v5 offense right now. So that leaves two options: 1RW or 3RW.

The lines this morning, per Vince Mercogliano, has Othmann on the fourth line right now.

This is a significant bottom half of the lineup blow up. This may start the game, but it may not finish the game. This may take “easing him into the lineup” to a new level.

The case to play on the top line

Eventually, we will want to see Othmann on the top line. So why not just put him there right now? Blake Wheeler simply can’t keep up anymore, and isn’t really suited for a top line role. They didn’t bring Wheeler in to play on the top line either.

If the Rangers put Othmann on the top line, it might give them a nice youthful jolt with some much needed speed on the wing. Othmann’s style might also be a solid complement to Mika Zibanejad, a pure shooter, and Chris Kreider, the best net front presence in the NHL. Othmann sees the ice well and isn’t afraid to go into the corners, driving play.

When Kaapo Kakko was on the top line they drove play very well, but they hit some poor shooting luck to the tune of a 4% shooting rate. The same logic applies here, putting a play driver on the top line. But Othmann appears to have more offensive upside than Kakko.

Perhaps this is more of a long term goal, and not something for Game 1.

The case to play on the third line

While we may eventually see Othmann on the top line, it may set him up for failure if he gets thrust right into that role immediately. That line draws top competition and doesn’t get sheltered offensive zone starts. Maybe the best bet is creating a “Pack line” with Will Cuylle and Jonny Brodzinski at center.

Based on the practice lines, Othmann and Brodzinski will at least play together, but possession and offensive black hole Nick Bonino is their center, so make of that what you will.

If we eventually see a Cuylle-Brodzinski-Othmann line, it would be a pain to play against. However it would be risky with two rookies and a 4-A player. Teams might try to target this line in their matchups, as possible. High risk, high reward.

As of right now, it’s the fourth line for Othmann, which is not something we should expect to be long term.

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