On July 17th, 2021 the Vegas Golden Knights acquired Brett Howden from the New York Rangers. A 2022 fourth-round pick and prospect Nick DeSimone went the other way. We will have to wait and see if those pieces will become anything for the Rangers. But for the Golden Knights, Howden is thriving right now.
The 23-year old forward has seven points in his last six games which included a four-game goal streak. Howden has been a healthy scratch at times this season for head coach Peter DeBoer. But with the way he is playing now, the thought of scratching Howden may never come up again.
we don't know if Brett Howden wants ice or no ice in his glass of water
but we do know he has ice in his veins pic.twitter.com/1WrFAU8bAw
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) February 9, 2022
Sudden Depth at Center
Howden was acquired at a time when the Golden Knight’s center depth was severely lacking. They had just lost to the Montreal Canadiens in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs. A big part of their failure was a result of their lackluster center depth. So naturally, in the offseason, they added some depth centers with Howden, Nolan Patrick, and resigning Mattias Janmark.
But fast forward to February 2022 and the Golden Knights now have a guy named Jack Eichel in their lineup. Eichel combined with William Karlsson and Chandler Stephenson gives the Golden Knights an elite one, two, three center punch. But someone is going to have to move to the wing as a result.
Projected line combinations for the Golden Knights Wednesday are certainly interesting #VegasBorn
Pacioretty- Eichel- Dadonov (no Stone)
Janmark- Karlsson- Smith (misfit line broken up)
Marchessault- Stephenson- Roy (Roy winger)
Carrier- Howden- Patrick (no Kolesar, Brooks)
— Owen Krepps (@OKrepps85) February 14, 2022
Interestingly enough in Monday’s practice, DeBoer opted to go with Howden as the team’s fourth-line center instead of Nicolas Roy, Nolan Patrick, Michael Amadio, or even Keegan Kolesar.
“I think what Jack (Eichel) allows us to do is that he really gives us some center depth and potentially creates some mismatches. Is Nicolas Roy a better center than a winger? He probably is. But he also should be a really good winger for somebody,” said DeBoer.
Howden’s Path to the NHL
Like fellow Canadian Nolan Patrick, Brett Howden was a high draft pick that was dealt by the team that drafted him. He was selected in the first-round 26th overall by the Tampa Bay Lightning but then was traded to the Rangers as a part of the Ryan McDonagh deal in 2018.
Howden spent three seasons with the Rangers with his rookie season being his best. There he scored 6 goals 17 assists and 23 points in his 2018-19 debut season. This season he already has eight goals, nine assists, and 17 points which means he is on pace to finish the season with 34 points.
Assuming he plays the remainder of the 2021-22 season Howden will surpass his career totals and potentially solidify his spot as a regular NHLer in the league.
Good for Brett Howden, honestly.
That kid needed something like two FULL seasons in Hartford and instead the Rangers shoehorned him into an NHL lineup every damn night.
Good on him for persevering— glad he’s finding success now. pic.twitter.com/gNT4FofJfU
— Sam Stern (@SammmyStern) February 8, 2022
What is Brett Howden’s Ceiling?
Given the fact that he is only 23 years old, has four seasons of NHL experience, and is just now coming into his own, the Golden Knights may have found a diamond in the rough here. Howden has great speed, a solid shot, can win faceoffs, and even kill penalties if needed.
Usually, your fourth-line center is someone who embraces the role of a fourth-line center. Someone like Brian Boyle or Matt Cullen are good examples. But for Howden and the Golden Knights, I see the fourth line as less of a traditional fourth line and more of just the fourth scoring line this team has.
Again, going back to Jack Eichel, his debut in the lineup will give the Golden Knight so much to work with in terms of line combinations. We have seen the fourth-line generate quality chances in the past and there is a bit of chemistry growing between Howden and Patrick. Hopefully, it will continue.
Re-Sign Him Before It’s Too Late
Like most players on the roster, Brett Howden has that “misfit identity” as he was ditched by two teams in the NHL before he was even 24. This offseason he is a pending RFA having completed his entry-level contract which he signed with the Lightning.
He is eligible for arbitration but for general manager Kelly McCrimmon this should be a no-brainer to keep Howden. The offense that he has provided despite his limited ice time on the fourth line has almost guaranteed his next contract to be with the Golden Knights.
Hopefully, for the Golden Knights, he can continue his offense for the rest of the season and into the playoffs, a place where Howden has little experience.