Lost in the excitement of the New York Rangers’ first three games in 2019-20 is how their depth at center is already starting to haunt them.
The 2019-20 season has already been a relatively weird one for the New York Rangers.
After starting the year playing just five games in 16 days, with two stretches of four days off or more, New York has yet to really see what its lineup looks like during a consistent schedule.
Despite the inconsistencies the NHL has given the Blueshirts’ to start 2019-20, there’s one dilemma the Rangers is already facing just three games into the regular season: their personnel deployment.
Aside from Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich, head coach David Quinn continues to look for answers up and down his lineup. He and general manager Jeff Gorton decided it would be best for former first-round pick Filip Chytil to start the year in the AHL to develop, while Ryan Strome has been centering a line of Chris Kreider and Kaapo Kakko.
While the decision to keep Chytil in Hartford to start the year is understandable, one can’t help but wonder if going with Strome centering the second line is the right way to go. What makes this even more mindboggling is the fact that Lias Andersson, another former first-round pick, is averaging just 8:42 seconds a night.
Strome’s career has been nothing short of up-and-down moments. After coming to the Blueshirts in an early-season trade a year ago, he was a solid depth piece who produced at a level no-one saw coming. Through three games this season, he’s picked up just one assist on the first career goal for Kaapo Kakko. Aside from that, it’s been a relatively poor start.
So what exactly are the Rangers to do?
The immediate answer is for Quinn to mix things up with his lines as he did towards the end of Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers. Quinn moved Brett Howden to play with Kakko and Chris Kreider while Strome took his place in between Greg McKegg and Jesper Fast. While the switch didn’t lead to any goals, it signals the start of the many possibilities Quinn can turn to.
New York could also turn to Hartford and call upon the likes of Filip Chytil, who is off to a good start with four points in three games. A player with Chytil’s skill and size should be able to work well centering Kakko and Kreider along with the fact that there is already some chemistry between the three after playing together in the preseason.
Should the Rangers feel Chytil needs more time in Hartford, then Lias Andersson needs to be given the minutes to finally see what type of player he is capable of becoming. Andersson was supposed to be the most NHL ready player in his draft class two years ago, yet he continues to struggle to get more than nine minutes a night.
If not Andersson, then allow Howden to continue to see minutes on the second line a player Quinn seems to have a little more trust in at the moment. Howden has an offensive track record in his past while already establishing his ability to play in the defensive zone in the NHL.
Development has been the constant theme from the Rangers so far in 2019-20, and if they are going to preach it, they might as well follow what they’re saying. If they don’t, they will continue to hurt the development of these younger players moving forward.