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Othmann debut for NYR tonight

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Othmann says NHL debut for Rangers ‘going to be fun’

No. 16 pick in 2021 NHL Draft to face Bedard, Blackhawks; injured Kakko skates for New York



© Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

ByDan Rosen
@drosennhl NHL.com Senior Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- Brennan Othmann will make his NHL debut for the New York Rangers against the Chicago Blackhawks at Madison Square Garden on Thursday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSCH, MSG), skating opposite two-time World Junior Championship teammate Connor Bedard.


Othmann, the No. 16 pick by the Rangers in the 2021 NHL Draft, was recalled Wednesday from Hartford of the American Hockey League, where the 20-year-old had 23 points (nine goals, 14 assists) and a team-high 95 shots on goal in 28 games.


He will skate on New York's third line with Nick Bonino and Jonny Brodzinski, who was on Otthmann's line in Hartford before he was recalled to New York on Nov. 28.

Othmann will replace Tyler Pitlick, who is week to week with a lower-body injury.


"Just a lot of excitement," Othmann said after New York's morning skate. "Obviously, first NHL game and you want to do well but at the same time you're just happy that you're getting that shot to play.


I'm just going to be excited to go out there and play and take the regular-season MSG crowd in. It's going to be fun."


Othmann said he was told he was being recalled before Hartford's practice Wednesday. He participated in practice, joking that it was a power-play practice but that because he was leaving he had to be on the penalty kill and he was "a bit lost there."


He called his parents, Gerry and Paige, after practice. They were scheduled to fly to New York from Toronto on Thursday morning.


"I told my parents on the way home yesterday from the rink and they were pretty ecstatic and they're a bit emotional," Othmann said.


Othmann scored Hartford's first two goals of the season in a 3-2 shootout win against Providence on Oct. 13. He said he feels his game has progressed since, particularly with the smaller details such as stick and body positioning in the defensive zone.


Rangers coach Peter Laviolette said Othmann was recommended by Hartford's coaching staff.


"From what I understood from management, talking to Hartford, his game, he was playing well," Laviolette said.


"When I spoke with Brennan he made a point to say he is getting coached up every day with video and he was really learning.


If you're willing to accept and learn from what you do out on the ice you can really become better. You can take that information and improve your game. That's the process that was happening. We're in need of a player. It seems like the right time, the right fit."


In addition, forward Kaapo Kakko participated in the Rangers morning skate Thursday wearing a red no-contact jersey. It's the first time he has skated with the team since he sustained a lower-body injury in a 5-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 27.


Laviolette said Kakko will travel with the Rangers for their game at the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday. The No. 2 pick by the Rangers in 2019 NHL Draft, who has three points (two goals, one assist) in 20 games, is not ready to return.


"I think the next step in the progression is to start skating with us, and he was at that point to join us so it's great to have him out there," Laviolette said. "He looks good. He's moving well. That's all positive stuff."

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NEW YORK — During preseason games, Rangers prospect Brennan Othmann noticed cries of, “Let’s go, Rangers!” between verses of the national anthem. But they were scattered and soft — nothing compared to the succinct, forceful chant he heard when the song played in a full arena on Thursday.


“The whole building is screaming it,” he said following his NHL debut, a 4-1 win against the Chicago Blackhawks. “It’s pretty special.”


As he stood on the bench, soaking in those cheers moments before puck drop, it hit him. He was in the NHL.


Shortly before the anthem, Othmann skated onto the ice alone for warmups and took the traditional rookie lap. When the rest of the Rangers joined, defenseman Braden Schneider gave the newcomer an encouraging stick tap, and Othmann stayed on the ice for almost the entire warmup period.


His parents, grandparents and sister caught flights in time to make it to the game, and he spotted them cheering during warmups. He stopped from time to time, looking around Madison Square Garden as he prepared for a moment he long dreamed about.


“I worked 20 years for this,” said the forward, who turns 21 on Friday. “Good early birthday present for tomorrow.”


Playing third-line left wing, Othmann showed offensive instincts early, putting three shots on net in the first period. His best scoring opportunity came in the second period, when Nick Bonino found him alone in front of the net.


Chicago goalie Petr Mrazek cut off Othmann’s angle and made the save, but Bonino and Othmann nearly connected for another goal that same shift. When Chicago managed to get the puck out of the Rangers’ offensive zone, the New York fans recognized the flurry of chances with a small round of applause.


“I think I did a good job creating,” Othmann said. “Obviously, I want to create more, but our line played well. We tried to stay out of our own end most of the game. The chances I created were good and positive, so it’s a good confidence-builder going forward.”


Coach Peter Laviolette liked what he saw and rewarded his play in the third period, temporarily moving him to the top line while Blake Wheeler was in the penalty box for fighting Jarred Tinordi. Othmann was pleasantly surprised at the opportunity but thought he handled it well. First-liners Mika Zibanejad and Chris Kreider are always in the right spots, he said, so playing with them felt easy.


Othmann finished the night with 12:26 of ice time. He wasn’t on the ice for any goals for or against, but had five shots and added three hits. His line with Bonino and Jonny Brodzinski played 8:13 together at five-on-five, and the Rangers had 81.54 percent of the expected goals share during that stretch.


“I noticed him all night,” Laviolette said. “His speed and his skill, his ability to create probably at least a half a dozen chances at the net, some good scoring chances. … He played a good game.”

Othmann has 23 points in 28 AHL games for the Hartford Wolf Pack, and he found out before practice Wednesday that the Rangers were bringing him up.


He should get a somewhat extended look at the NHL level while Tyler Pitlick (week-to-week) recovers from a lower-body injury.


In August, The Athletic’s Corey Pronman ranked Othmann the No. 5 prospect in the Rangers pipeline, writing that he plays with a high compete level and has an above average shot.


“He’s a highly physical and competitive forward who can frustrate opponents,” Pronman wrote. “His skating isn’t the best, but his compete should allow him to have NHL success as a second-line wing.”

One pro scout who has seen Othmann play with Hartford said he’s had a great start to the season and called him a “very good prospect.”


“(He) has shown very good offensive instincts and the ability to make plays and score at the AHL level,” the scout said. “His play without (and) away from the puck can be better, but he will play harder and differently in the NHL.”

Othmann had familiar faces on the ice during his debut.


He played with both Chicago forward Connor Bedard and defenseman Kevin Korchinski at last year’s world juniors, during which he scored six points in seven games for Canada and had two assists in the gold-medal game against Czechia. Both young Blackhawks praised his role in their country’s tournament victory.


“That’s the player that wins you games,” said Korchinski, who received a friendly stick tap from Othmann during the game. “He competes out there, gets in front of the net (and) has a high-end shot.”

Othmann is even more familiar with Bedard, the Calder Trophy frontrunner.


The two won gold at two world juniors tournaments (2023 and 2022), as well as the 2021 under-18 championships.


Bedard, who sent Othmann a congratulatory text Wednesday evening, remembers his former teammate laying a massive hit on an opponent their first game together and being both surprised and impressed. It showed he was more than just a goal-scorer.


“Overall, he’s really physical and good in all areas, along with his offensive abilities,” Bedard said. “It’s fun to see those guys that kind of do it all.”

That’s what he tried to bring in his debut.


“I was a bit nervous my first couple shifts, but Jonny and (Bonino) did a great job calming me down,” Othmann said. Everyone was great today leading up to the game and even during the game, so I just wanted to have fun, enjoy the moment. You only get your first game once.”

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