Will New York Rangers' Filip Chytil Start the Season As a Blueshirt?
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 23: A general view as Filip Chytil is selected 21st overall by the New York Rangers during the 2017 NHL Draft at the United Center on June 23, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Eighteen-year-old rookie Filip Chytil is turning heads at New York Rangers’ training camp. Can the Rangers’ first-round pick be in the Opening Day lineup on Oct. 5?

Prior to the NHL Draft this past June, all the questions from different media outlets were centered around how the New York Rangers will manage now that two starting centers were no longer with the team.

Despite the chaos surrounding the draft, their first-round pick is making things look a whole lot brighter today.

Filip Chytil, born in Kromeriz, CZE, has been impressing the Rangers coaching staff since training camp began on Sept. 14. This is surprising seeing as how only 10 days earlier, the team announced that Chytil would not attend the Traverse City Prospect Tournament in Michigan, the perfect opportunity to stand out against the other 22 top prospects in the Rangers organization.

Chytil had suffered a groin injury while playing for the Czech Republic U20 team at the Four Nations Tournament in mid-August, causing him to miss a prime opportunity.

Chytil flew to New York with the hope that his injury would heal up in time for him to participate in training camp. Lucky for him and the Rangers, it did. And since then, he has been able to show off on the ice and compete for a spot on Opening Day.

While he did miss one game this past Saturday when the Rangers played at New Jersey due to some tightness in the injured area, he is once again at full strength and ready to strut his stuff in these last two preseason games. He will need to show he has what it takes as he battles fellow Rangers Lias Andersson and Cristoval Nieves for one of the few spots available.

Chytil has shown a lot of speed and smarts when on the ice. He has won faceoffs, played strong without the puck as well as in all three zones of the ice. He scored the game-winning power play goal against the New Jersey Devils with four seconds remaining in overtime last Wednesday.

What I think is the best asset is his hands. He seems extremely comfortable with the puck, as was shown when he scored the goal. He scored off a Mats Zuccarello pass and did so both effortlessly and accurately.

He won the praise of fellow Rangers teammate and linemate Zuccarello, who said afterward, “he showed a lot of skill tonight.” That respect shows Chytil has made quite the impression so far with his teammates.

As hard as it is for an 18-year-old to be trying to make the NHL club, he is not alone. Another 18-year-old and first round pick this year, Lias Andersson, has been working to make the squad alongside him.

I am sure it is nice to have another person in an identical situation trying to make the team…so identical in that Andersson is also a center in his first training camp with the team. The two have played in a few preseason games in the same lineup so far and have a good chance to play in the final two preseason games as the coaching staff needs to see them play some more in order to make proper evaluations.

Head Coach Alain Vigneault had made it known that J.T. Miller would start the preseason at center this year. Miller played well there, but Vigneault was surprised at just how good his rookie centers have been playing and on Monday, made the announcement that Miller would go back to his normal wing position.

There are a few things that are assisting Vigneault’s decision to keep Chytil for the start of the season. Rangers forward Jesper Fast will not be available to the team until the beginning of November due to offseason hip surgery. This opens up another spot in the lineup that coach can use for Chytil.

The second thing that allows Chytil this opportunity is the fact that the Rangers can keep him with the team for the first nine regular-season games. Once 10 games are played, he will have to remain with the team for the season. This gives the coaching staff a little more time to see if he can handle the demands of playing in the NHL. The Rangers did the same thing a few years back with Anthony Duclair and it worked out well for both him and the team that season.

What were you doing when you were 18 years old? Completing high school, working at the mall for some cash? Filip Chytil was playing hockey for the Czech Republic in the summer, now he is skating alongside Mats Zuccarello, Chris Kreider and Henrik Lundqvist. He is trying to make the team of an Original Six franchise who happens to play at the greatest place on earth, Madison Square Garden. The thrill would be for him to make the team in his first camp, to see him skate alongside some of the best players in the world.

Filip Chytil has a lot of work ahead of him to make the team. I am looking forward to seeing him play every day in the National Hockey League as a member of the Rangers organization. He appears to have so much potential and poise for a young kid. Hope we get to see him grow in New York City, starting with Opening Day this year.

A graduate of St. John's University class of '91. I have been a fan of the New York Rangers since the days of Peter Puck. Founder of Ranger Proud, the Facebook page that covers all news, notes, pre /post-game stats, and player quotes. I can be reached at Nyrfc12@gmail.com