GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Thirty-seven players, including all six of the Rangers’ picks from last week’s NHL Draft, were present at the first day of the organization’s Prospect Development Camp at the team’s practice facility Monday.
Most of the players at the camp are years away from the Rangers’ roster, but forwards Will Cuylle and Brennan Othmann are two who seem a lot closer than that. Cuylle, 20, and Othmann, 19, are expected to challenge for a spot when training camp opens in the fall.
“I want to play on the Rangers, and that’s my goal,’’ Cuylle said Monday. “That was my goal last year, and this year is another opportunity to make the team.So this week, I’m just taking it one day at a time and really trying to show my skills and be a leader around here . . . I’m definitely looking to make the team.’’
Cuylle, a second-round draft pick in 2020, has good reason to believe he has a chance. He got to play a few games for the Rangers’ Hartford team in 2021, when junior-eligible prospects were allowed to play in the AHL while their leagues were shut down because of COVID-19. Last season, when he returned to his junior team (Windsor of the OHL), he had a monster year with 43 goals and 80 points in 59 games and another 15 goals and 31 points in 25 playoff games.
Cuylle, a 6-4, 209-pound left wing, will be with Hartford this season if he doesn’t make the Rangers, but it’s not as simple for Othmann.
The Rangers’ first round pick in 2021 was the second-leading goal-scorer in the OHL last season with 50 (plus 47 assists) in 66 games for the Flint Firebirds. He would appear ready to make the jump, but because he has junior eligibility, he is not allowed to play in the AHL this season. So if he doesn’t make the Rangers’ roster, he will have to go back to juniors.
“Obviously, playing for the Rangers is a big step,’’ Othmann said. “If I can come here and if I can learn, get a few [NHL] games in, stay as long as I possibly can, I think that’d be great for my development. I think it’d be great for everybody. If I don’t end up making the team this coming September, then hopefully it’s always next year. Hopefully it’s this year. And I feel like I can do it.’’
Rangers director of player development Jed Ortmeyer used the word “excited’’ to describe how the organization feels about Cuylle and Othmann.
Asked if he worries that sending Othmann back to juniors might stunt the 6-foot, 179-pounder’s development, Ortmeyer said: “We feel like we drafted some guys with a higher character, and he’s highly motivated. He wants to be the best that he can be, whether it’s [in juniors] or for the New York Rangers. So we’ll take it one step at a time and see where he fits.’’
Notes & quotes: The Rangers made qualifying offers to restricted free-agent forwards Kaapo Kakko, Tim Gettinger and Austin Rueschhoff and defenseman Libor Hajek, preventing them from becoming unrestricted free agents. Kakko, 21, is an RFA; the others are RFAs with arbitration rights.