The New York Rangers have seldomly drafted in the first round, but after moving Derek Stepan and Anti Raanta for an additional first round draft pick for the 2017 draft it seems the Blue Shirts have some legitimate A+ talent forcing their way onto the team.
Filip Chytil was selected just 14 picks after Lias Andersson by the Rangers, and the hopes for both of the young Rangers were high, but Chytil is raising the bar already with an absolutely stunning preseason performance through the first 4 games. His play is not just among the best of the rookies, but among the best of all the forwards in the preseason.
His game-winner in overtime against the New Jersey Devils will surely build great fan support already, but his fight to make the roster will be an unprecedented challenge. Chytil would be the youngest player to ever make the Rangers roster having just turned 18 three weeks ago.
The young Czech forward has displayed tremendous skill through the first five games of preseason action with stand-out moments in crucial parts of the game while also showing incredible skill with open-space in both overtime and on the powerplay. The 6’2″, 192 lb playmaker has both the size and skill to make the team, however his poise and maturity will be a major dealbreaker for Rangers’ head coach Alain Vigneault.
Though the defensive gaffes and occasional carelessness with the puck have been evident throughout preseason, Vigneault has kept him around now to the end of preseason and it is clear that he recognizes the play of the young forward by giving him extra ice time and praising his play in post-game interviews.
His lack of experience will be difficult to address with the language barrier as well, but he has been able to answer for himself in multiple interviews and express his excitement for the team without a translator.
“I enjoy every moment on the ice. … I’m looking forward to the next day, the next practice. … The guys help me before games. They told me some things for working along the boards,” he said after the Rangers’ win against the Devils.
While many expected JT Miller to satisfy the 3rd-line center role, it is becoming more realistic that Chytil will steal the role and shift Miller to wing to start the season.
For the majority of his ice time, Chytil has centered both Nash and Buchnevich and developed great chemistry with Buchnevich especially. However, the exact lineup is not exactly determined, but it’s reasonable to expect Nash to remain the top-6 forwards. If he is able to improve his defensive game he may get more second line ice-time with Nash, but otherwise he may find himself centering JT Miller on the third line.
“JT is gonna start on the wing. [Chytil and Andersson] have played well … we’ve got some tough decisions to make here as far as who we’re keep with our team,” Vigneault said in a press conference Monday.
Right now, while many young Rangers have shown tremendous talent in the preseason, it seems the signs are pointing toward Chytil starting at center and giving the Rangers even more center depth — and more questions for the exact shake-up of what this team will look like going forward.
If Chytil does continue to shine and put up points, the Rangers will be looking at the potential for another deep playoff run.