Filip Chytil made his debut on LW last night against Colorado. The 2017 first round pick was drafted as a center, but has been one of many Rangers to have scoring struggles through the first two weeks of the season. In five games, Chytil hasn’t scored yet and has a pair of assists. It’s not like any of the other Rangers were scoring either, but that’s neither here nor there.
It’s a little early to be looking at some of the possession stats, but it should be worth noting that despite the lack of goals and points –again, a team wide problem– Chytil actually leads the team in xGF% at 64.71%. He’s been on the ice for two goals for (he assisted on both) and one against. He’s also in the middle of the pack for possession stats. It’s again incredibly early, but there was no real statistical evidence to show he was struggling.
When it comes to a shift from center to wing, the largest impact on the player will be in the defensive zone. In David Quinn’s defensive zone system, the center is tasked with covering the high slot in his unique 2-1-2 defensive zone system. I need a little bit more time of sustained defensive zone pressure to be 100% confident, but that’s what it looks like.
The wingers, on the other hand, are tasked with pressuring the points and disrupting the cycle. Their goal is to limit time to setup and cause quick turnovers. It’s less pressure on the winger from a coverage standpoint, as they aren’t tasked with protecting high danger areas. The shift takes one aspect of the game out of Chytil’s mind, and allows him to focus on creating offense.
Young players often shift from center to wing when they first get to the NHL, as it is eases the transition significantly. For someone with Chytil’s potential elite level skill, the move is designed to help him worry about offense first, be creative, and use those elite level skills. Chytil is a smart player, so the move is more about getting him going than it is about any perceived defensive zone issues.
But perhaps the most logical reason for the shift has nothing to do with stats or making the on-ice role simpler. Brett Howden’s play has earned him a top-nine center role, and there is a need to keep Chytil in the top-nine for playing time purposes. Kevin Hayes and Mika Zibanejad already have solidified top-nine center roles, and Howden makes three. To keep Chytil in the top-nine, a shift to wing is needed. After all, the simplest explanation is most often the correct one.