Hartford Wolf Pack have bright future despite disappointing end to 2023-24 season

Brennan Othmann Credit: Hartford Wolf Pack

Another season is in the books for the Hartford Wolf Pack after being swept by the Hershey Bears in the Atlantic Division Finals.

The New York Rangers AHL affiliate continue to show growth in a year that saw the loss of their head coach Kris Knoblauch after being hired in-season by the Edmonton Oilers. Additionally, they dealt with a multitude of injuries and call ups to the big club en route to a fifth-place finish with a record of 34-28-7-3 for 78 points.

Hartford also won two series in the Calder Cup Playoffs beating the Charlotte Checkers and Providence Bruins. Their postseason record was 5-5.

Related: Rangers sign monster-sized prospect

Hartford Wolf Pack bright future

Hartford Wolf Pack vs Hershey Bears (Photo: John Mrakovcich / Hartford Wolf Pack)

Dealing with adversity

For two consecutive seasons, Hartford advanced to the Atlantic Division Finals. Determination helped the club in their last two playoff runs, which was forged by dealing with adversity throughout the season.

The injury bug hit in November, which resulted in constant roster juggling. Hartford also lost their captain, Jonny Brodzinski to a call up, and veteran defenseman Ben Harpur for the season due to injury. Furthermore, Kris Knoblauch departed the organization to become the head coach of the Edmonton Oilers.

Despite losing all these key parts, the Wolf Pack continued to perform well. That should earn interim head coach Steve Smith, a real shot of taking over as the new bench boss. Under his leadership, they defeated the Charlotte Checkers in Round 1 (best-of-3 after dropping the regular-season series with a record of 1-5-2. Hartford then stunned the Providence Bruins once again in the playoffs, eliminating them in Round 2 (best-of-5). Unfortunately, they fell to the defending Calder Cup Champions, and should be proud at what they accomplished.

Strong rookie seasons

Hartford’s offense was led by two impressive rookies. Brett Berard recorded 48 points (25 goals, 23 assists) in 71 games. He was third on the roster for production and ranked 5th among AHL rookies for points.

Brennan Othmann recorded 49 points (21 goals, 28 assists) in 67 games. He was ranked second on the roster for production and ranked 4th among rookies for points. Both prospects performed well offensively and showed tremendous growth throughout the year.

Brennan Othmann

Othmann, 21, had a quiet start and gradually found his game offensively. Once he got rolling, Othmann posted lengthy point streaks and gained experience on the power play. He was reliable in all situations, and had a knack of sparking the team when necessary. The forward’s defensive game was a work in progress, but he showed improvement towards end of the season.

Brett Berard

Berard, 21, made an immediate impact and was a consistent offensive threat. He has a strong arsenal, from an impressive wrist shot and very good speed. Similar to Othmann, he is not afraid to shoot the puck, with a knack for being in the right place and time.

When training camp arrives, I expect both players to compete for a spot with the Rangers. These two players are the most NHL-ready and can help the Rangers middle-six next season.

Impactful late-season additions

Joining the organization late in the season through ATOs were defenseman Victor Mancini and forward Jaroslav Chmelar. Both rookies will begin their entry level contract next season.

Mancini, 22, proved to Hartford’s coaching staff his readiness for the professional ranks as the prospect skated in seven regular season games and 10 postseason contests. In those 17 matches, he recorded six assists.

Chmelar, 20, showed glimpses of the offense he can bring to the Pack lineup in his limited action. Through seven regular season and 10 playoff games, he recorded five points (four goals, one assist).

New Heights

For a second consecutive season, Hartford’s front office experienced an increase in attendance. The organization welcomed 196,416 fans in 36 regular season games for an average of 5,456. Excluding the 201-11 season (outdoor game brought average above 5,000), this was the Wolf Pack’s highest attendance since 2003-04. In addition, Hartford saw a 17.4% increase in attendance from last season, the second highest in the AHL. The players enjoyed the attendance jump as well.

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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