Filip Chytil has become a decent player for the New York Rangers and is in the midst of his best year despite starting the season in the AHL with the Hartford Wolf Pack. He is just 20 years old and has shown that he has the potential to develop into a star; however, he has yet to play at such a high level consistently.
2017 NHL Draft and Quick Rise
The Rangers selected Chytil with the No. 21 overall selection in the 2017 NHL Draft. Many analysts expected him to be selected in the second round or even the third round. He was not very well known at the time and was one of the youngest players eligible for the draft.
During training camp, Chytil quickly showed that New York’s decision to pick him was not a reach. Despite the fact that he had just turned 18, he proved that he was not overmatched by older prospects and NHL players. As training camp went on, his confidence grew and he demonstrated impressive puck handling and playmaking skills.
Chytil punctuated his strong training camp and preseason with a dramatic goal just before time expired in overtime to beat the New Jersey Devils. His impressive play earned him a spot on New York’s opening day roster.
While making the team was an impressive accomplishment, Chytil played just nine games with the Blueshirts. He scored his first regular-season goal but spent most of the season with Hartford. He had an encouraging season there, finishing with 11 goals and 20 assists in 46 games.
Chytil’s 2018-19 Season
The Rangers made a lot of big changes after Chytil’s first season, including firing the team’s head coach, Alain Vigneault, and hiring David Quinn to replace him. That move meant Chytil would have to prove himself to a new coach. New York also announced that they were beginning a rebuild and were committed to developing young players, which benefited him. He had another impressive training camp and preseason, which once again earned him a spot on the opening day roster.
Chytil’s 2018-19 season was a very inconsistent one. He failed to score a goal in his first 17 games, then scored in five consecutive games, a stretch that earned the nickname “Chytilmania.”
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Unfortunately, he had just one goal in his next 20 games and at times disappeared on the ice. His defensive coverage was sloppy and he was easily knocked off the puck. Still, the team stuck with him and he had another short stretch of offensive production, when he scored three goals in five games. Two of them were electrifying coast-to-coast goals that showcased Chytil’s potential.
As the season went on, Chytil appeared a bit worn down. He played in 75 games, all with the Rangers, after he had played just 55 the prior season, the majority of which were with the Wolf Pack. He still chipped in a few more points offensively down the stretch but struggled defensively and at times made poor decisions leading to scoring chances for opponents. One of his weaknesses was taking faceoffs, as he won just 38.9 percent of the ones he took. Still, he finished with 11 goals and 12 assists and showed improvement from the previous season.
Chytil’s 2019-20 Season
Chytil’s third preseason did not go well. He looked lackadaisical and made sloppy plays with the puck. His struggles resulted in a demotion and he began the season in Hartford. He handled it well and instead of sulking about the decision, he played well with the Wolf Pack and produced nine points in nine games. His improved play quickly earned him another chance with the Rangers.
He responded to the opportunity by scoring 7 goals in his first 14 games of the season. His production has slowed down significantly, but he still has 14 goals and 9 assists in 60 games. More importantly, he has shown improvement from last season.
He was much more effective on the forecheck and did a better job protecting the puck this season. I think his most noticeable area of improvement from last season is his decision making – Chytil has had fewer unnecessary turnovers. Last season he would often try to go 1-on-2 or 1-on-3 in the neutral zone. This season he has shown that he’s willing to dump the puck in instead of trying to make plays that weren’t there. He has also been more responsible defensively, although he still needs to be stronger in his own zone.
There are still a few areas of Chytil’s game that need improvement. He has won just 38.4 percent of his faceoffs this season. In order for him to develop into a first or second-line center, that will have to improve.
Chytil has also still struggled to produce consistently in the NHL. He has had some great hot streaks but he also has too many cold streaks. As he gets older, stronger and more accustomed to the rigors of an NHL schedule, he should be able to avoid having the long scoring droughts he has had so far in his career.
The Rangers expect Chytil to be an important part of the team going forward. They have shown that they are committed to keeping him at center despite his struggles on faceoffs. They’ve also shown that they have high expectations for him and when he didn’t play up to those expectations he was sent to the AHL.
Chytil has proven he doesn’t get fazed easily. He looks comfortable playing in Madison Square Garden and he responded well when he was sent to Hartford.
Chytil has shown in spurts that he can be a great player and he has improved each season since being drafted by the Rangers. If that trend continues and he can become more consistent, he will be everything they could have hoped for when they drafted him.