As I’m sure many of you already know, the New York Rangers are currently in a rebuild session. This process has been ongoing for the last three seasons, with this year finally showing some signs of real growth from the young corps. One such name that comes to mind is Filip Chytil who has been making a case for himself to become an everyday fixture within his team’s starting lineup. But that wasn’t always the case, especially last season.
A Rough Start
Chytil began his professional career with the Rangers during the 2017-18 season where he only played in a handful of games. During that season, he had only a goal and a pair of assists with a minus-five rating in nine contests. It was a very small sample of games we saw from the young Czech skater, but he did show promise at just 18 years old.
The 2018-19 season would give fans and the coaching staff a better gauge of how productive a player he would be. Unfortunately, he would struggle to take any progressive strides during his sophomore year. In 2018-19, he participated in 75 games where he only scored 11 goals and had 23 points, along with a minus-22 rating. It was a rather forgettable season, leaving the Rangers at a crossroads as to what to do with him for 2019.
Injuries weren’t a major issue for him since he played in the majority of the regular season, so we can’t use that as an excuse for his poor play. The biggest reason we could deduce why Chytil struggled to progress last year was because of inexperience. The team itself is young and inexperienced, much like him, so it would take some time for everything to mesh together nicely.
Rangers’ scouts were very hopeful about him becoming an integral member of the offense, but at the time it wasn’t panning out. It was a huge letdown for the fans and doubts started creeping into people’s heads about whether he would be a bust in the NHL or not. Patience and determination would have to be the keys to success in this situation as with similar ones. It wasn’t time to hit the panic button yet, but you couldn’t help but feel a little apprehensive despite the circumstances.
As a result, management believed it would be best to send him down to the American Hockey League with the Hartford Wolf Pack to continue gaining experience before getting another opportunity. It must have been disappointing for Chytil to accept this decision made by his bosses. No one likes a demotion at any job, but he still is very young and has a lot of potential to be someone special in the future. It was only a matter of time before he would be granted another chance to prove his worth to the organization.
Chytil Shows Signs of Improvement
As the 2019-20 season commenced, Chytil was spending his days in Hartford, Connecticut playing for the Wolf Pack. He played nine games in the AHL, scoring three goals and providing an additional six assists. Averaging a point per game is not bad, but how would it translate to the professional level?
Turns out not too bad. He finally got his opportunity to play in the NHL once again on Oct. 29, shortly after forward Mika Zibanejad went down with an upper-body injury. It’s unfortunate that an injury had to occur in order for him to get his shot, but that’s just how it goes sometimes. At any rate, he made no hesitation at all once called upon to fill some pretty big shoes.
Zibanejad is one of the team’s more talented goalscorers, so it was going to be interesting to see how he would respond to such pressure. It turns out, he reacted in a very positive way. Since his call-up, he has scored seven goals and tallied another two assists, along with a plus-six rating. In fact, he has played so well lately that head coach David Quinn has felt inclined to move him all the way up to the second line with Brendan Lemieux and Pavel Buchnevich flanking him.
Will Chytil Remain When Zibanejad Returns?
As well as he has been playing for the Rangers, I’m sure the question has entered everyone’s minds at some point during this period: What will happen when Zibanejad returns? As for now, he is projected to return to New York’s lineup for Wednesday’s contest against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Chytil certainly has made a strong case for himself as he has become more and more of a reliable forward to start on a regular basis. The Rangers are banking off of their young talent to one day grow into some of the next faces of their franchise. This is great news for both the organization and the loyal fans of this team. With that being said, it is still highly likely Chytil will be bumped down the line combinations chart.
While it does seem like a negative thing to be dropped down in the line combinations with the return of his teammate, it may not be so bad. With how well he has played recently, he deserves to remain in the starting lineup. He’s at least earned that right with all the hard work that he has been putting in. There is room for him to remain in the starting lineup come this Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden.
Chytil is one of six Rangers currently on the active roster who is 21 or under in age. The young corps of the Blueshirts still have a long way to go before they can be considered a competitive threat in the Eastern Conference, but it is encouraging to see players like Chytil starting to show more consistency in their game. It’s proving to the coaching staff that the process is working and while there will still be plenty of more growing pains to endure in the ensuing months (possibly a year or two), it’s certainly a step in the right direction. Don’t look now, but we may have a rising star in our midst playing for the greatest city on earth.
I enjoy watching and writing about hockey. My favorite team is the New York Rangers. My most memorable moment is that waffle board save Henrik Lundqvist made to stop Thomas Vanek from scoring in the second period of Game 6 of the 2014 Eastern Conference Finals.