Grant Potulny tasked with developing Rangers prospects as new Wolf Pack coach

Grant Potulny was named the eighth head coach in Hartford Wolf Pack history Thursday morning, one day prior to the 2024 NHL Entry Draft. Hired by Hartford’s NHL parent club, the New York Rangers, Potulny will be expected to help develop some of the Blueshirts top prospects moving forward.

The 44-year-old was head coach the past seven seasons with Northern Michigan University in the NCAA. Prior to leading NMU, Potulny spent eight seasons with University of Minnesota as an assistant coach. So, his background is teaching and development.

Potulny is getting his first opportunity to coach professionally and is now responsible for leading Rangers prospects and seasoned professionals in Hartford after the Wolf Pack reached the Atlantic Division Final for the second straight season, marking the first time it advanced beyond the first round in consecutive seasons since 1998 to 2000.

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Rangers pick Grant Potulny to unlock prospects’ potential with Wolf Pack

Grant Potulny

Potulny could have the opportunity to work with several important Rangers prospects next season.

Rangers draft picks Brett Berard (25 goals) and Brennan Othmann (21) were 1-2 in goal scoring for Hartford last offseason. Goalie Dylan Garand had another strong playoff run and was reliable when veteran Louis Domingue was injured. Defenseman Victor Mancini joined the team late in the season and was impressive in the playoffs, and forwards Bryce McConnell-Barker and Adam SYkora are key Rangers prospects in Hartford, too..

Potulny is experienced in bringing out the best in young players, and could be more in tune with that role than interim coach Steve Smith, who replaced Kris Knoblauch last season in Hartford after Knoblauch took over as coach of the Edmonton Oilers.

He was WCHA coach of the year in 2017-18 and had numerous playoff runs, posting a regular season record of 128-113-17 (wins-loss-ties) at NMU

Rangers general manager Chris Drury and Hartford GM Ryan Martin selected a candidate with extensive experience coaching players who are in early development stages of their careers. Selecting a collegiate coach allows for an easier adjustment to the AHL and progression must continue from a player standpoint.

Potulny also has experience as an assistant coach on the international stage. He was an assistant for the United States at the World Junior Championship in 2013, 2017, 2018, 2022, and helped the U.S. win gold medals in 2013 and 2017 and a bronze medal in 2018.

He will also be tasked to continue developing a winning culture, which began under Knoblauch. Playoff experience is important because prospects will get a taste of playoff hockey prior to a potential arrival to New York.

Potulny will looked to be a better game manager than Smith, who struggled at times in key situations last season. It is crucial to have the next coach understand the roster and be able to steer the ship correctly.

A struggle last season for Hartford was its inconsistency at both ends of the rink. Potulny is known for putting players in the best situations to succeed, which will only help their development. His patience with the younger players will be crucial, as well.

The individual and collective results will mark Potulny’s success or failure in his new role with the Wolf Pack. But after Knoblauch’s solid run, it’s exciting to see another young respected coach take over in Hartford.

Ricky Milliner is a Hartford Wolf Pack season ticket holder. While growing up, he discovered hockey by attending a... More about Ricky Milliner

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