Rangers forgotten prospect thriving in OHL playoffs

Bryce McConnell-Barker in action.
Bryce McConnell-Barker in action (Photo credit: Bob Davies / Soo Greyhounds)

The New York Rangers prospect pipeline isn’t stacked as it once was in the early stages of the rebuild started in 2018. That’s mostly because players like Alexis Lafreniere, Kaapo, Kakko, Filip Chytil, K’Andre Miller, and Braden Schneider are all NHL regulars. However, no one should interpret that as the Blueshirts’ well of prospects being completely dried up.

In the summer of 2023, New York selected forward Gabe Perreault in the first round, 23rd overall. After a freshman season that saw the 18-year-old score 60 points (19 goals, 41 assists) in 36 games, including leading Team USA to Gold at the World Juniors with 10 points (3 goals, 7 assists) in seven tournament matches, all eyes have been on him.

If it isn’t the offensive exploits of Perreault that has everyone’s attention, focus then shifts to NHL-ready prospect Brennan Othmann. Currently, the 21-year-old is finishing his first pro season with the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack, and has notched 46 points (19 goals, 27 points) in 65 games. Prior to that, the winger was a point-producing machine in juniors. In his final OHL season split between the Flint Firebirds and Peterborough Petes, Othmann scored 67 points (29 goals, 38 assists) in 56 matches. He also led the Petes in playoff scoring with 8 goals and 17 assists for 25 points in 23 playoff contests winning the OHL Championship.

There are certainly other prospects grabbing the spotlight, with hulking forward Matt Rempe earning the adoration of the Rangers’ Faithful with his fists and hard hits on Broadway. This is all great news for the organization as young cost-controlled talent is the key to success in the NHL’s salary cap era. That’s why what Bryce McConnell-Barker is doing right now is all the more important.

Related: Wolf Pack call ups for Rangers’ playoff roster

Rangers’ Bryce McConnell-Barker deserves attention

Bryce McConnell-Barker (Photo credit:  Bob Davies / Soo Greyhounds)
Bryce McConnell-Barker (Photo credit: Bob Davies / Soo Greyhounds)

The Rangers drafted this promising center in the third round (97 overall) of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft. Self-described as a two-way center, he’s living up to his own assessment during his junior career with the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds.

McConnell-Barker, 19, is in his third and final year of junior hockey as he’s expected to make the jump to the Wolf Pack next season. The captain of the Greyhounds is coming off a decent regular-season with 51 points (22 goals, 29 assists) in 52 games, but is turning it up and leading Soo’s playoff charge.

On Wednesday, with his team down 2 games to 1 in their second-round series against the Saginaw Spirit, McConnell-Barker scored two goals and an assist in a 4-0 win. The effort has pushed him into the top-10 in OHL playoff scoring with 12 points (4 goals, 8 assists) in eight games.

“Your top players need to be your top players,” McConnell-Barker said prior to round two. “It’s crunch time now and every game is a big game. I think I’m a player who’s built to play in the big moments.”

There’s no denying the 6-foot-2 pivot’s confidence, and general manager Chris Drury, who was a former NHL captain is definitely pleased.

Last March, the Rangers signed McConnell-Barker to a three-year, entry-level contract with a cap hit of $870,000. He later joined the Wolf Pack for their 2023 Calder Cup run, but did not play a single game.

Heading into the 2024-25 campaign, that won’t be the case. As one of the very few center prospects in the Rangers’ pipeline, McConnell-Barker is likely to get top-line minutes in Hartford to develop his game for a future on Broadway.

For now, his focus is on winning an OHL title like Othmann did in his final junior season. Better yet, McConnell-Barker is happily putting the team on his back to achieve that goal.

“Our captain is doing captain things right now,” said head coach John Dean. “He’s got a style of play that’s both defensive, but threatening offensively. Bryce is a player who wants to find success for himself and his teammates.”

Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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