Rangers’ Young Forwards Building Chemistry

The last few weeks have been exciting for the New York Rangers as Adam Fox has been fantastic, the team’s power play is heating up and Vitali Kravtsov made his long-awaited NHL debut. All of those positive developments have overshadowed the excellent play of New York’s “Kid Line,” with Filip Chytil centering Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko. All three have played well together recently and all three have tremendous potential.

Filip Chytil

Filip Chytil began the season centering a line that included Lafreniere and was off to a hot start, including scoring a beautiful goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins. However, he suffered a hand injury in the Rangers’ fifth game of the season and was out for a month. After returning, he played with a lot of different wingers, including Julien Gauthier and Colin Blackwell. 

Despite the injury, Chytil has shown a willingness to drive hard to the net and has used his size effectively. After getting three points in his first three games back from his hand injury, he went through a slump but has broken out of it since he was reunited on a line with Kakko and Lafreniere.

Filip Chytil New York Rangers
Filip Chytil has centered the Rangers’ ‘kid line (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In his last six games, Chytil has two goals and three assists, giving him seven goals and seven assists in 26 games this season. He’s done a nice job on the forecheck and has shown quick hands in front of the net. He would be on pace to set career highs in both goals and assists had this been a normal 82-game season. Faceoffs remain a weakness in his game, as he has won just 39.7 percent of his faceoffs this season. Despite that, he’s played well and has shown improvement from last season.

Kaapo Kakko

While Kaapo Kakko has had some offensive slumps, including a 19-game stretch where he had no goals and just two points, the statistics don’t do justice to how well he played this season. A large portion of that drought came immediately after he missed two weeks due to COVID-19 protocols, but even when he struggled to score, he was excellent defensively.

Kakko has gotten stronger this season and is winning 1-on-1 battles for the puck, backchecking effectively and using his stick to deflect passes and shots. He has also been very strong on the puck and used his body to shield it from defenders to help the Rangers maintain possession of the puck. His Corsi for percentage is 54.3 this season after it was just 44.1 last season.

Kaapo Kakko New York Rangers
Kaapo Kakko has played very well lately for New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Recently, Kakko has produced more offensively, with four goals and three assists in his last 10 games, including a goal and three assists in his last three games. He has been the driving force behind the success of the “Kid Line” and could easily have more assists as he has repeatedly set up his teammates. He has six goals and five assists in 33 games and is plus-2, after ending up minus-26 last season. He also has 23 takeaways and only six giveaways.

Alexis Lafreniere 

The first pick in the 2020 NHL Draft got off to a slow start this season, but Alexis Lafreniere broke through for his first point in his seventh game with an overtime goal to beat the Buffalo Sabres. He didn’t get any points in his next eight games, but has started producing more offensively since then.

Lafreniere has six goals and six assists in his last 25 games, including the first goal of the game against the rival New York Islanders in the Rangers’ 4-1 victory on Friday. He has gotten more confident as the season has gone on and has shown quick hands in front of the net.

After bouncing back and forth between the Rangers’ top line and fourth line, he seems to have found the right fit playing alongside Chytil and Kakko. While he’s known for his skill, he’s also played with grit, has been effective on the forecheck and has shown he’s not afraid to drive to the front of the net. That mentality has helped him to consistently create scoring chances and has been a key part of the recent success of the “Kid Line.”

Moving Forward

The play of this line has provided the Rangers with a spark late this season — more importantly it’s a great sign that these skilled young players are developing chemistry and improving together. All three have the potential to be great and all three have shown improvement as the season has gone on.

Alexis Lafreniere New York Rangers
Alexis Lafreniere has gotten better as the season has gone on (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Rangers are a long-shot to make the playoffs this season but they are still playing in meaningful games down the stretch, which will provide these young players with valuable experience. The “Kid Line” will be an important one for the team going forward this season and their impressive play of late is a great sign for the future of the Rangers.

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