One of the common narratives in any NHL Draft is bloodlines. The sons or nephews of past NHL pros getting their opportunity to hear their name called. Maybe they will continue the family name. Maybe they will elevate it. Maybe they will add to the legacy. Of course, the hockey world is bigger than the NHL. Switzerland has a deeper hockey tradition than you might think. The father and uncle of today’s subject played in the lower leagues of Swiss hockey for many years. He would at least knows what a pro career may look like in this sport. But Brennan Othmann may be the one to make to the NHL.
Who is Brennan Othmann?
Per Elite Prospects, Brennan Othmann is a left-shooting left winger who was born on January 5, 2003 and is listed at 6’0” and 174 pounds. Othmann played for the Flint Firebirds of the Ontario Hockey League in 2019-20. In that rookie season, he put up 17 goals and 16 assists in 55 games - tied for tenth in rookie scoring that season along with Martin Chromiak. He is still a member of the Firebirds but with the OHL not having a 2020-21 season, Othmann had to make other plans like several other draft-eligible players.
Before going into Brennan’s 2020-21, a few words about the aforementioned father and uncle. Brennan is the son of Gerry Othmann. Gerry played for Markham in the COJHL for a handful of years before jumping to Switzerland during the 1989-90 season. He played for six different teams throughout the 1990s before returning to Ontario and starting a family among other ventures. Gerry’s brother Robert Othmann had a longer career in Switzerland, which still ongoing off the ice. Robert went to Canisus College in the latter end of the 1990s and then moved on to Switzerland - for the next 16 seasons. It was between National League B and Swiss Division 1, but it was still pro hockey. Since retiring after the 2015-16 season, he went into coaching, which he is doing today for EHC Zunzgen-Sissach of the Swiss Division 2 - a team he started his post-season coaching career with and a team he was a player-coach for in two seasons before then. Of note, Robert played five seasons for EHC Olten in the mid-2000s.
That is a notable coincidence because Brennan Othmann ended up with EHC Olten on loan for this season. Brennan Othmann, born in Scarborough, Ontario and currently a member of the Flint Firebirds of the OHL, needed a place to play with the OHL on hold and eventually cancelled for 2020-21. Olten had a spot available and Brennan was able to secure a loan early enough to get into 34 season games and four playoff games with the Swiss League (which is a level below the National League) team. He also had the fortune of playing alongside 2021 draft eligible Mason McTavish for a little bit. In those 34 games, Othmann put up 7 goals, 9 assists, and 64 penalty minutes (most among Olten forwards - settle down, maybe?). While 16 points is not a lot, it was good for seventh among all Olten skaters in scoring. In the postseason, Othmann contributed a goal, an assist, and no trips to the penalty box.
While Othmann had Swiss national eligibility, he has been a member of Team Canada. Othmann did appear for Canada Black at the World Hockey Challenge, an Under-17 tournament, back in 2019-20. This year, Othmann was selected by Canada for the World Under-18 Championships in Frisco, Texas. He impressed, especially in the Gold Medal final against Russia, with a statline of three goals and three assists in seven games. While others produced more, he was on a line with fellow 2021 draft eligible Dylan Guenther and 2022-eligible phenom Shane Wright. Othmann got plenty of attention from that tourney and presumably those following the loaned out junior players out of the OHL. Unlike his dad Gerry and uncle Robert, Brennan will be drafted by a NHL team this month.
Where is Brennan Othmann Ranked?
Stop me if you read something like this before: Like a lot of potential first-round prospects in the 2021 NHL Draft class, there is some variation among the people who rank them; but the player is likely to go with the first thirty-two picks. Brennan Othmann is another one of those prospects in this year’s class.
- #21 - Elite Prospects Top 32 (Final Ranking)
- #17 - FC Hockey (Spring Ranking)
- #27 - Neutral Zone Top 32 (December Ranking)
- #22 - McKeen’s Top 32 (Final Ranking)
- #8 North American Skater - NHL Central Scouting Services (Final)
- #31 - Sportsnet - Sam Cosentino (May 12, 2021 Ranking)
- #26 - Recruit Scouting (February Ranking)
- #21 - Dobber Prospects Top 32 (March Ranking)
- #25 - Smaht Scouting Top 32 (Final Ranking)
- #19 - The Hockey Writers - Peter Baracchini (June Ranking - Final)
- #18 - The Hockey Writers - Matthew Zator (June Ranking - Final)
- #21 - The Hockey Writers - Andrew Forbes (May Ranking)
- #42 - Scouching - Will Scouch (Post-Lottery Rankings)
- #27 - The Draft Analyst - Steve Kournianos (May Ranking - Final)
- #23 - The Athletic ($) - Scott Wheeler (Final - $)
- #21 - The Athletic ($) - Corey Pronman (Final - $)
For whatever reason, Othmann did not catch the attention or the favor of Will Scouch. The only blurb on Othmann in his rankings listed him among a bunch of prospects with “somewhat limited ceilings but solid floors of talent.” At the opposite end, I am surprised that Central Scouting Services ranked Othmann as high as eighth among North American skaters. That is higher than Cole Sillinger, Chaz Lucius, Francesco Pinelli, and others. Clearly, those who rank prospects are sure in their own assessments and I respect that. If Scouch and CSS are the two extremes, then the remaining consensus for Othmann is that he is slated to go somewhere in the back-half of the first round. But what does he do as a winger? What would interest those teams with picks from 16th overall through 32nd overall - like the New Jersey Devils?
What Others Have Said About Brennan Othmann
Othmann made his debut in major junior hockey last season with Flint of the OHL. As such, a good place to start is to read up on how he was seen after the 2019-20 season. Fortunately, Brock Otten at OHL Prospects has this assessment from his initial Top 30 OHL Prospects for the 2021 NHL Draft. He ranked Othmann fifth, stating the following:
I think it is easy to see his game translating well to the NHL; he’s composed and mature on the ice beyond a typical 16 year old forward. Two things really stand out about him. The first is his shot. He can rifle the puck, possessing both a great wrist shot and one timer when positioned near the dot. The potential for him to develop into a high end goal scorer is high. The second is his understanding of how to play without the puck in all three zones. His defensive awareness is terrific and his effectiveness as a defensive player will only improve as he gets stronger. Bottom line, Othmann is just a very efficient and intelligent support winger. The big thing that I’ll be looking for this coming season is improvements in his skating, both in his power/start ups and his top gear. If he can really upgrade that area, he’ll be weapon as the F1 on the forecheck and an even more dangerous goal scorer.
Otten found his shot and off the puck play to be a strength, but his skating to be something that could use improvement. Skating is important. Just about every player of any role will need to be able to effectively and efficiently get from Point A to Point B. I can understand how this assessment led Otten to rank Othmann behind Brandt Clarke, McTavish, Francesco Pinelli, and Daniil Chayka.
While there was no OHL season, Otten did reach out to his connections among the scouting and OHL world for his media/scout poll in January. Othmann ended up third on the list. By this point, Othmann was with EHC Olten so the quotes included with this ranking did take that into account. While it includes a rather complementary one from Otten where he compared Othmann to Jack Quinn in how he may rise up rankings, these two stuck out to me:
“Othmann is one of few that has been able to ply his trade overseas this season. I’ve caught some of his playing in the Swiss league, and I’m very happy with his progress. I did consider bumping him over McTavish, but without seeing McTavish in 2020-21, didn’t feel comfortable in doing so. Othmann’s offensive awareness is extremely impressive, including finding lanes for himself and passes. His shot is one of the best in this class. I really like the progress he’s made in his first two steps, showing great acceleration. Playing against men overseas, Othmann may be the prospect I’m most excited to see when/if the OHL kicks off.” - Josh Bell
Bell is a Director of Content and a scout with Future Considerations. McTavish would end up with EHC Olten eventually so this is a good snapshot of what was considered for this poll. Bell specifically noted that Othmann has done well at finding spaces on offense for himself and others, which adds a dimension to his offensive game beyond his shot. Bell also thought his skating was making some improvements, which can only help given the pre-2020-21 assessment that Otten gave earlier. Unfortunately, there would be no OHL season to see how Othmann would stack up after his time from Olten.
“Another OHLer playing abroad, Othmann is proving his worth in the Swiss second level men’s league. Playing against men is a new and unique challenge but he has proven up to it. In a span of about 20 months, Othmann went from playing with the Don Mill Flyers to Flint with the Firebird to Switzerland playing against men. That unique journey has allowed him to continually add to his game and develop a well rounded game. He is known for his slick playmaking and excellent shot but he has added a level of physicality in Switzerland that will present a new challenge for opposing OHL teams when he gets back to the Firebirds.” - Tony Ferarri
Ferrari is the Director of North American Scouting for Dobber Prospects. Like Bell, he has made the effort to see how he has done in Switzerland so far. Like Bell, he has included praise for his offensive skills. While Ferrari does not mention anything about his skating, he did specifically mention his physical game. Othmann is not a big man, but one does not need to be big to play physical (or dirty). That may explain the relatively large number of penalty minutes he took with Olten.
I would recommend reading the other quotes, but they do align with Otten’s preliminary statements about Othmann: skating needs work, but he can shoot, he can attack, and he can perform off the puck. Incidentally, Othmann ended up ahead of Pinelli and Chayka in the media/scout poll. Otten just finished his list of the Top 50 OHL prospects for the 2021 NHL Draft. Othmann finished third in Otten’s eyes as well, an improvement from fifth from earlier in the campaign. Here is a snippet from Otten’s explanation of the ranking:
This is my kind of winger. I think his shot is a major weapon and can even be developed further. He has that touch and the hands to use a one timer when working that half wall area on the powerplay not unlike Steve Stamkos or Alex Ovechkin. However, Othmann also has an excellent wrist shot, which he disguises well and releases quickly. Othmann is also a physical player and someone who prides himself on being difficult to match up against. He is, by very definition, a power winger. Additionally, Othmann projects as a capable two-way player who can play in any situation.
The area of Othmann’s game that does seem to be most criticized is his skating. He’s never going to be an elite NHL mover, but I think the concerns are overblown. It is obvious that he has worked hard on improving his explosiveness and his ability to build speed (much like Mason McTavish). This was something that I really looked closely at in his U18 appearances and not once did I notice him behind the play or unable to find space because of his feet.
Othmann certainly left a strong final impression in 2020-21 and it appeared his time with Olten was beneficial. The World U-18s are worth specifying for a bit. Again, he was on a top line for Canada at the World Under-18 Championships and certainly stood out in the Gold Medal final against Russia. Steve Kournianos recapped the tournament and highlighted who he felt were standout 2021 prospects. Othmann was one of them. Here is a bit from his review at The Draft Analyst:
The race between McTavish and Othmann for the title of”my favorite Canadian player in the tournament” was neck and neck until the final game, when the latter blew up two or three Russians, scored the go-ahead marker with a sharp-angle snipe, and nearly tallied a second time via a through-the-legs trick shot. Othmann’s toughness and big-hit proclivity were prevalent throughout the tournament (ask Simon Edvinsson), but he also showcased his smarts under pressure and soft hands, as well as a plus-plus shot in transition after corralling long stretch passes. His skating was never a concern of mine but I never pegged it as elite. In Texas, however, Othmann was super quick in all directions and on multiple occasions raced back for a stick lift and swipe, followed by an immediate directional change for a counterattack the other way. The intimidation factor was very real with him on the ice and it allowed linemates Shane Wright and Dylan Guenther to exploit the forced errors made by the puck carriers Othmann targeted.
While Othmann’s skating issues may have not been resolved by the time he got to Frisco, I do appreciate Kournianos’ description of his movement. At a minimum, it did not keep him from making a positive impact in the tournament for Canada much less hurt the team. That is usually the concern with a prospect with skating issues - it can limit what they could do well. Clearly, that did not happen. From my reading of Kournianos’ description, it appears that Othmann did a lot of “dirty” work which allowed Wright and Guenther to thrive - while Othmann also had his moment in the proverbial Sun.
On April 22, Josh Tessler put up this complete profile of Othmann at Smaht Scouting, which covered his 2020-21 season. If there is one profile you should read about Othmann, then you should make it this one. Tessler compared him to Brendan Morrow almost right away, even noting that Tessler normally does not jump into comparisons. But he felt the two players were similar in terms of how they played. Tessler’s profile goes through his game. He noted that Othmann’s offense was a plus, with this section sticking out:
Othmann has shown that he can find open ice in low danger situations as well. But, he will also go down low when teammates are beyond the red line in low danger and identify spots in high and medium danger for them to thread passes to.
Once he finds an opening for his teammate(s) to pass to, he has proven that he silky smooth hands that pave the way for dynamic shooting ability. His hands are as smooth as butter. His shot is swift and accurate. Othmann has scored highlight goal after highlight goal and it’s a complete mixed bag when it comes down to how he put the puck in the back of the net. He will deliver five hole goals at net-front, one-timer net-front goals, silky wrist shots from range and more. Othmann constantly proves that he has one of the best shots in the 2021 NHL Draft class. Now, it doesn’t beat Dylan Guenther, Mason McTavish, Samu Tuomaala, Simon Robertsson or Chaz Lucius‘ shooting ability, but it is still one of the best.
Again, it is essentially further confirmation to me that Othmann’s shot is an asset and the player is more than just a shooter. Tessler also had other compliments and details of praise for Othmann’s play in the defensive zone. However, Tessler also identified some areas of improvement. I expected to see skating be one of them and it was. Tessler actually went into the mechanics of his footwork and his strides, such as:
Aside from his ankle flexion, Othmann has shown during gameplay that there are a few issues that he needs to overcome. He has a “heavy foot stride” and that will slow him down when he is utilizing a power stride to pick up acceleration. In stride, you will also notice that there are many instances in which Othmann struggles to complete a full skate recovery.
In addition, his edges and stopping ability need improvement. Othmann will struggle to keep his balance when deploying inside edges and his edges will hurt his adaptability on the forecheck. His edges aren’t always smooth and if the attacker keeps his feet moving, it becomes a challenge for Othmann. Also, his stopping ability needs to become crisper and he can not rely on a wide glide stop consistently at the NHL level. For instance, sometimes you will see Othmann use a “pizza”, which is what most skating and skiing instructors refer to as a wide glide stop. Unfortunately, it’s a slow way to stop especially if you are skating at full spee
I appreciate Tessler going into this level of detail. Whoever drafts Othmann or is considering to draft Othmann will need to be honest with themselves as to whether they have the coach (or coaches) to help the player address these specific issues. While not every NHL player is an ideal skater, it is always worth addressing and improving these traits before the habits really set in at the pro level. What surprised me was that Tessler had similar criticisms of Othmann’s stick-handling:
Stick-handling alone is very much a developmental need for Othmann and it’s extremely evident when you watch Othmann on the rush and/or completing a controlled zone entry. Othmann can swing around the defender when the defender’s gap control isn’t well-rounded. But, when it comes to facing tough defensive competition, he struggles to be a deceptive puck mover and has challenges when attempting to swing the puck around the defender. Othmann has shown that he can rebound from stick-handling complications, but he will need to beef up his stick-handling to excel at the next level.
And defending transitions (Tessler thought he did well at offensive transitions):
From a defensive transitional perspective, Othmann seems to struggle to keep pace and has to chase the puck instead of playing preventive defense in the neutral zone. With that being said, he will attempt to stick-lift and poke-check to make up for being late when defending the rush.
I do not think Tessler was being harsh or too nitpicky. I think it is good that he made these observations to show that Othmann does have some ways to go beyond “be a better skater.” And, again, Tessler likes the prospect enough to compare him to Brendan Morrow, a good player who has played in 991 games over 15 seasons. That is a strong compliment. I think Tessler’s concerns may be shared by pro scouts. Whoever is interested in drafting the player will need to be confident enough their staff can help Othmann so he can reach the next level.
As a final take for this section and a second opinion about Othmann’s season as a whole, here is a shorter profile by Ben Kerr at the Last Word on Sports. Much of Kerr’s profile aligns with what Tessler wrote and what Otten and his voters also wrote. He indeed notes that skating is an issue with Othmann, although he does not go into the mechanics like Tessler did. He praises Othmann’s shot, calling it among the best in the whole draft class, as well as his passing and forechecking. He even likes his defensive work, although he notes that this is an area where improvements to his skating could help him out. Kerr’s conclusion is worth quoting as I think it gets to why his rankings by others are so varied:
Othmann is a smart and physical player, with a high-end work ethic. He has the type of makeup that coaches will love and will be given every opportunity to develop into a top-six forward in time. However, he needs to work on his skating if he wants to really make an impact at the NHL level. He’s a bit of a safe pick though, as Othmann will likely be able to carve out a career on the bottom lines if he doesn’t hit his ceiling. If he does, he will be an outstanding complimentary piece, doing the dirty work for his line.
I was not surprised to see this written about Othmann as I got that sense between reading about what he was good at and what he was not. While much was written about the flaws to his game, there was even less written about his potential. I have learned that if a scout or an observer or an evaluator does not mention a player’s potential as being particularly good or particularly low, then it is likely to be more limited than not. It is less of a question of whether the player will be a NHL player but what role they will serve. This is another issue the pros have to ask themselves of Othmann and their own roster: Would they be fine if he turns out to be a useful but limited bottom six forward? Would they be fine if he turns out to be a useful but limited middle six forward? Those players tend not to go high in a draft unless a team really, really likes them.
A Little Video
In terms of videos, there is no shortage of little clips and bits here and there of Othmann with Flint. In terms of highlights and clips of his games, it is a little all over the place. I can recommend the following two videos.
First, here is an official highlight reel from the OHL of Othmann when he played with Flint for the 2019-20 season. It is a little over four minutes of a 16-17 year old Othmann doing notable things with the Firebirds prior to this past season. If nothing else, you can get a sense of what others were writing about Othmann at the beginning of this draft cycle.
Second, the duo at Devils in the Details have a treat of a shift-by-shift video for you. This is a 16:05 long video of a game between EHC Olten and HC Sierre in the Swiss League - the second best league in Switzerland - on March 21, 2021. Othmann is wearing #78 in the video and you can see plenty of the player in action. You will see him at a wing and in a netfront position on a power play. You will see him as the first forward in a forecheck / neutral zone play. You will see him charge hard into the zone on dump-ins. You will see him drop back on defense. Obviously, the video is edited to when he is on the ice, but you will notice him among the men in the league.
An Opinion of Sorts
Brennan Othmann is a player who may be available for the New Jersey Devils with their second first round pick this year. Emphasis is on the word “may.” As with a lot of this year’s draft class, a prospect could arguably go much earlier than 29th overall or much later and there would not be much outcry either way. If Othmann is on the board and the Devils are interested in a forward, then it could be an OK selection. However, I would want to know who else is available.
On the one hand, there is plenty to like. Othmann is a competitor. He made a jump to Swiss hockey for most of 2020-21 and came back to help win Canada the Gold at the World U-18s while on a line with superior talents at forward. He is not a scrub. His shot is talked up as one of the better ones in the class and his off the puck skills have garnered praise, even if they could use some work. That seems to be the main trend with most of his areas of improvements: they could use some work. The skating could use some work. The stickhandling may need some work. Handling transitions on defense may need improvement. None of these areas are lost causes for Othmann. Improvement can only make him more effective when he turns pro. And the impression I get is that he will be a pro player.
On the other hand, that is what makes me less excited about the player. Let us say that he makes those improvements to his skating mechanics. Let us also assume he will get better at handling the puck with and without pressure. And even that he learns to handle oncoming players better - which may be another result if he becomes a better skater. What is the end result? A second line winger at best? A third line winger? I understand that at the back end of this first round, beggars may not be able to be choosers. But would Othmann be the most appealing option? Should the Devils aim a bit higher? Or would this be, well, fine and I am overthinking a 29th overall selection in a not-so-strong 2021 Draft Class?
Ultimately, I would be fine with an Othmann selection. I would be more fine if the Devils opted to go with a forward and more appealing options were already taken by the time the Devils return to the first round. I am just unsure if that would be the case.
I know that Brennan Othmann has his fans among the scouts and evaluators. I do not think it would be a bad player to select for New Jersey’s second first round pick. But I do question whether he would be the best available player - assuming he is available at all. At the least, he will have the best shot of being the most successful hockey player yet in his family by way of having a shot at the NHL. Now I want to know what you think. What do you think of Brennan Othmann as a prospect? What did you learn about the player? What about Othmann excites you and concerns you? If he does fall to the Devils’ second first round pick, then would you take him? Do you think he will? Please leave your answers and other thoughts about Othmann in the comments. Thank you for reading.