I listed my top-25 off-season questions last week. Throughout the summer and early-fall, I will cover each of those questions, hoping to finish before the draft or free agent, Rather than place a link to each one in the first paragraph, I will post the link following the completion of each blog in the table below that contains all 25 questions.
In this blog, I tackle question #6: "Can Filip Chytil be the second line center if Strome is not brought back? (update: is his future at center or wing?)" Part of this question was tackled way back during the pandemic when I wrote an analysis of each player, bridging off Larry Brooks' columns of the same. For Chytil, the blog was titled Thoughts on Lias Andersson, Pavel Buchnevich and Filip Chytil.
Here is what Brooks wrote in his column:
When Chytil returned from Hartford for the Rangers’ 10th game of the season immediately after Mika Zibanejad suffered that neck injury on Patrice Bergeron’s reverse hit, he brought a positive attitude, strong work habits and a more comprehensive game with him to New York.
He had become a pro.
And so he played, essentially all season on the third line after an initial stretch on the second unit filling in for No. 93 between Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich. He played every game, got an average ice time of 14:50 and recorded 14 goals and nine assists for 23 points.
That, by the way, represented the third-highest number of goals scored in the NHL this year by a player under the age of 21, with Andrei Svechnikov and Brady Tkachuk notching 24. Not too bad for a third-liner with limited power-play opportunity. Not too bad at all.
Listed at 6-foot-2, 208 pounds, he is becoming a big body out there whose ability to skate should turn him into at least a quasi-power center who can back in opposing defenseman, open the ice for himself and his linemates, and take it to net. Of course he has to improve his play away from the puck, but he was notably more diligent in the battles, in getting to the dirty areas, in being a presence in front and in getting back on transition. What he isn’t, at least, at this point, is a developed playmaker.
Actually, though the club’s surge into playoff contention represented a most welcome, if unanticipated, development, it also denied David Quinn with a post-deadline opportunity to experiment. I’d have liked to see how Chytil would have handled the responsibility of centering Panarin on a regular basis. Maybe it would have been too much for him, maybe Chytil would have felt under pressure to force the puck to the Bread Winner. Maybe it wouldn’t have worked. But maybe the combo would have flourished.
Now, let’s change tenses. Maybe it will work next year. Maybe it will flourish. Maybe, after a season in which David Quinn allowed the 20-year-old sophomore to develop in understated fashion, maybe the coach will add more to the center’s plate.
But of the myriad maybes, here’s one that isn’t: This was a good year for Chytil, a good one whose work could one day completely change the narrative of the ’17 first round
This is what i wrote at the time:
We all railed at the start of the season when Chytil was sent down. But he forced his way back after nine games. Chytil stayed in the lineup the remainder of the way, though as Brooks noted, his performance was uneven, yet showed promise for the future.
We have come to expert every first rounder and rookie to explode on the scene and dominate action. Only the elite of the elite do so, and some who become elite, struggle out of the gate. The hope is that Chytil is one that falls into the latter category, though the jury is still out.
His own and neutral zone play needs improvement, same with when he is away from the puck. As he continues to gain strength, we should see him use his improved physical status to drive harder to the net and create scoring opportunities. If Strome does move on, Chytil may get the first chance to replace him. If not, the third line with him and maybe Kakko with possibly Vitali Kravtsov should be a more than productive trio.
i think we all believe Chytil could develop into an elite or at least top shelf player. Reaching that status is all up to him. This is a key offseason for him.
Taking a look at what I wrote five months ago, little has changed. We saw snippets of what Chytil can be but the consistency was lacking. At times, he displayed he could be a power player. Others, we saw flashes of the playmaking skill. But he has yet to put the pieces together, especially with any sort of consistency needed for New York to rely on him as a second or even third-line center.
His weakness between the dots is well-known and an area he should spend countless hours on this off-season remediating. As of now, the plan seems to be for Chytil to be the 3c, but he also could end up on the wing, where he spent time during the season. I don't think he is any way, shape or form ready to be the second line center. The hope, and I believe expectation, is that he can and will develop into a top-six player. But that requires way more consistency in effort and performance, including better play in all three zones in addition to on draws to get to that level.
Chytil will be 21 in just under two weeks. He posted 23 points for the second straight year but in 15 fewer games. Not at the level we want or expect but progress, especially as he scored 20 of his 23 points at even strength and the 14 goals he tallied were three above the prior years. Chytil's play away from the puck, which was a major weakness his rookie year, showed marked improvement last season. Now, it's a matter of tying together all the positives into a latticework where each piece links and becomes the standard and norm, rather than the exception. Prospect growth isn't linear, it comes in starts-and-stops, so patience is needed, as difficult as that may be.
He has all the tools, save for faceoffs, to potentially become a second line center. That ascension however should not be next season. Have him start the year again on the third line, where he could be joined by Chris Kreider or Kappo Kakko or Alexis Lafreniere, giving him substantive talent around him, enabling Chytil to excel in the final year of his ELC. If the requisite growth is seen, Chytil could be the second line center in 2021-22, depending on what New York does with Ryan Strome and/or who might be imported, see Monahan, Sean, Danault, Philip, etc.
6) Can Filip Chytil be the second line center if Strome is not brought back? (update: is his future at center or wing?)
7) With Nils Lundkvist and K'Andre Miller in the pipeline, does New York have enough D to get the next level?
8) Will Vitali Kravtsov be in the Opening Night lineup?
9) Is Pavel Buchnevich now "expendable" due to Lafreniere coming on board or will the Rangers regret dealing him based on his untapped potential? (new)
10) Do the Rangers need to name a captain? If so, should that be Mika Zibanejad or Chris Kreider? Regardless of your view, did Kreider's comments in the Game 3 press conference sway your view?
11) Which is the true Brett Howden, the one that did little from October to March or the one we saw against Carolina?
12) Do you view the three-game sweep as a good learning experience, as mentioned by several including Davidson, for the neophytes on the team or is it too early to make that call?
13) Were you satisfied with the growth seen from Kappo Kakko and what's your realistic view as to what we should expect in years 2 and 3?
14) If Lundqvist is not back, do you want Alexandar Georgiev as Igor Shesterkin's 2020-21 backup or are you dealing him for additional assets? If bringing him back next year, are you signing him for more than one season?
15) Are you concerned with Artemiy Panarin's small late-season swoon? No goals in the last eight games before the pandemic and just one goal in the three-game sweep?
16) What is the identity of this Rangers' team? Do we know? Is one needed?
17) Can Brendan Lemiuex repeat how he played in Game 3 against Carolina or was that the aberration and not the norm?
18) What should be done with Lias Andersson? (from Tommy G on 8/7)
19) Who will be Jacob Trouba's partner next season if it's not Smith? (from Tommy G on 8/7)
20) How does the looming Expansion Draft affect the decision made for a particular signing/trade/buyout? (from Hedgedog 8/8)
21) If buying one player out, presuming that it's not Lundqvist for a variety of reasons, is it Staal or Smith, or do you not buyout anyone?
22) Presuming Lafreniere is the pick, on which line does he start the season? If New York makes no major acquisitions, what is your top-nine and fourth line? Is Morgan Barron on the team to start the season? (new)
23) Who do you want to target in free agency or via trade? (please be realistic in your proposals. That applies to who New York could get and what they would give up, so no 4-for-1 offers where the team grossly overpays. (new)
24) Does Gord Murphy end up on the coaching staff for 2020-21 or is someone else brought in to helm the defense and the penalty kill? (new)
25) When do you think New York contends for the Cup? 2021-22, 22-23 or other? (new)