The young centerman took a step forward this past season, but is he ready to become the New York Rangers’ next 2C?
Filip Chytil has been viewed as the future second-line center for the New York Rangers since they selected him with the No. 21 pick of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. He’s been fairly inconsistent since making his NHL debut in March 2018, but the talent and skill are absolutely there.
Chytil, who turned 21 years old in September, was surprisingly underwhelming during training camp. As a result, the Rangers sent him down to their AHL affiliate, the Hartford Wolf Pack, to begin the season.
He was excellent in his short AHL stint, recording nine points in nine games. After his call-up, Chytil played 60 regular-season games with the Rangers and recorded 23 points, coming in the form of 14 goals and nine assists.
He was on track to set a career-high in points (he additionally scored 23 points last season but in more games) and did indeed set a career-high in goals.
Speaking of goals, the 14 he scored were good for third-highest among players under the age of 21 this past season. This is particularly excellent considering the below-average line he played on for most of the year.
On five-versus-five offense, according to Hockey Viz, the Rangers were better when Chytil was on the ice. When he was playing, they recorded an xG of 2.70 compared to an xG of 2.63 when he wasn’t.
Chytil looked better than he ever has, but the inconsistency was still existent. In his final 15 games of the regular season, he recorded just three points — two goals and one assist.
This inconsistency (among other issues in his game) is an important factor to consider when determining if he can assume the 2C role next season.
In 2019-20, Chytil spent the vast majority of time as the Rangers 3C. He was promoted to the top line when Mika Zibanejad went down with a neck injury earlier in the season. From there, he thrived, but was appropriately demoted after Zibanejad returned.
The team’s 2C was Ryan Strome, who put up phenomenal numbers alongside Hart Trophy finalist Artemi Panarin. However, Strome is a restricted free agent and may not return.
Coupled with the fact that the Rangers don’t employ much depth at the position, Chytil may end up becoming the sole option. The front office may trade for a center around Draft Day, but that’s not guaranteed.
As was previously mentioned, Chytil is regarded as the team’s 2C of the future. But is he ready now?
He may be young, but he sure is big, standing at 6-foot-2, 206 pounds. He even looked like he had increased in size after returning from the stoppage of play during the summer. This is an excellent attribute to have, especially when it’s combined with skating ability and general skill.
Nevertheless, Chytil doesn’t use his body to his advantage. If he works on this issue and becomes less vulnerable and less easy to bully, his game will improve immensely.
Other issues of his are face-offs, defense, and playmaking ability. Chytil is abysmal in the face-off circle and must improve.
He did develop defensively this year, which is a great sign, but there’s much work to be done. Chytil may inevitably improve in those regards if he starts using his body more often.
His ability to make plays can be concerning, but he spent most of the season with below-average linemates. His most common linemate was rookie right winger Kaapo Kakko, who didn’t undergo the smoothest of introductions to the NHL.
It’s difficult to expect such a young kid to be a great playmaker when he’s arguably the best player on his line. This could certainly change, however, if he centers Panarin.
Strome had never been anything close to a standout centerman, but that changed when he began to play with Panarin. Artemi makes everyone around him better, and it’s not unrealistic to think that Chytil might put up even better numbers than Strome if he’s promoted to the second line.
Chytil’s versatility — he can also play on the wing — makes him even more valuable to the Rangers.
I’m someone who sees Filip as the Rangers’ long-term answer at 2C. However, I don’t think he’s there just yet. The Rangers would be better off acquiring a proper 2C before the season begins and providing Chytil with more time to grow.
The Rangers own the top pick in the draft, with which they will likely select left winger Alexis Lafrenière. I anticipate that Lafrenière will be placed on the third line to begin the season, and I think that will come to the benefit of Chytil. There should be no rush to hastily develop the young center and he needs to be given time and room to grow in order to meet expectations.
Chytil has a lot to work on, but he’s still very young and has done nothing but improve since he arrived in the NHL. He’s coming off the best season of his career, and while he isn’t quite ready to assume a top-six role just yet, he’s seemingly here to stay.