Figuring out that center depth – the future bodes well

While the blue line is going to take most of the focus as the rebuild enters its second full year, there will also be a focus on the center position. The Blueshirts have a pair of potential elite level wingers in Vitali Kravtsov and Pavel Buchnevich, although the latter is more than likely going to fall into the “good to very good” category. They have their 1C –for now– in Mika Zibanejad. But the question remains about who will be that elusive 2C.

Don’t think it’s that important? Think about the 2017-2018 season, and how much better it would have gone had the Rangers not misfired on Lias Andersson’s timeline to the NHL. Center depth is the common denominator in almost all post-lockout Cup winners. The good news is that the Rangers have figured out the hardest part: Finding the 1C. The rest, while difficult, is easier.

Skipping the 2C spot for a second, the 3C/4C spots can be held by any combination of Ryan Strome, Lias Andersson, Brett Howden, or Boo Nieves. If you assume that the kids hit their potential, then the Rangers will really be cooking with Andersson as the 3C and Howden as the 4C. Remember when Brian Boyle was the 3C? The Blueshirts fell just short. When the Rangers acquired Derick Brassard and made Boyle the 4C, the Rangers went to the Cup Final. Same concept, different players. If Anderson is your 2C, you’re likely not deep enough. If he’s your 3C, then you’re deep enough.

Which brings me to the wild card, and that is Filip Chytil. Drafted as a center but moved to wing this year, Chytil has shown flashes of brilliance while adjusting to the NHL game both during games and at practice. It is significantly easier to adjust to the NHL at wing than at center, which makes sense for a kid you want to ease into the lineup. With Chytil getting Tuesday’s game at center, transitioning him back to that position would fill that 2C hole.

In a perfect world, Chytil develops into the 2C sometime next season, and eventually develops into a 1A/1B situation like the Rangers had with Brassard and Derek Stepan. As Zibanejad gets older, Chytil would be able to take up that mantle as the 1C, and the center rotation would be complete.

A lot of this is dependent on proper development, but it also depends on Jeff Gorton and company recognizing that they may have that 2C in their midst already. Giving Chytil that chance should be priority numero uno next season. After that, bottom-six centers are easy to identify. As long as they aren’t David Desharnais.

The blue line is going to be an arduous task to rebuild, but the center depth is almost there. When you consider that Zibanejad is the elder statesman here by half a decade at the ripe old age of 25, then the future does bode well. Imagine, for a second, Chytil and Andersson hit their potential over the next two seasons. The Rangers trot out Zibanejad-Chytil-Andersson as their 1-2-3 centers. Not many teams will be able to match that.

The future bodes well for this group down the middle.

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  • barring them going on a late roll here or brutal lottery luck and falling backwards, this is shaping up to be their highest draft pick in as long as long as I can remember. so I really need to see how this draft pans out before passing full judgement. chytil, I think has had a good year. is now getting 3-4 shots a night and has missed only 3 games this year. he’s on pace for more shots than buch or Vesey last year. I still see him as a center as I see him as more of a playmaker. That being said i still think they need to take the best player available here. if that’s another C – so be it. next year will be lias third year with org – if he doesn’t show tangible progression I can see them shopping him.

    • The keyboard cowboy is gonna have a field day with the punctuation on this ! Chytil Is playing better but is still looking over his shoulder. Also needs to work his skating if he wants to play the middle and has to be more responsible in the D zone. Whom ever they pick needs to be 6’2” or better.

  • I think Chyil will ultimately be our 2 C. But they could also try Kravtsov in that spot. He played Center at the WJC. We also have a somewhat off the radar C in Morgan Barron. I See him more as a bottom six, but his game has really improved this year.

  • Our biggest need is a scoring wing. Our second biggest need is a scoring wing, also our third biggest need. See where I’m coming from?

    Have we forgotten folks that Chytil is only 19, and Andersson is what 20? Let’s give these kids time to develop, and grow both physically, and mentally. The only way I’d consider a center in this draft is if Hughes fell into our lap, otherwise I’m looking at Kakko, or Cozens, Podkolzin, or a d-man like Kokkkonen, Broberg, or Byram. We are loaded with centers on the current rosters, we are short on good wings, and solid d-men who can defend!!!!!!!!!

    Let’s address our biggest needs first, and foremost…….

    • I’m grabbing Kakko with any pick, including the 1st to be honest. Yes, some will scoff at that suggestion but I think over time he will develop into the more dominant player — something tells me Hughes will be more fragile.

    • None of this year’s crop of D-men are 1st pair potential except for Seider and possibly Byram. Kokkonen showed me nothing special when I saw him, Broberg is a carbon copy of Skjei. Soderstrom is a good defender, shows a little bit of offence, Stralman is a good comp.

      I wouldn’t pick any of them before 20.

      With the NHL rules the way they are, it’s hard for anybody to defend effecitvely, so use those lottery tickets on skilled forwards who really put up points but can also be effective coming back.

      Kakko drives play, has a big body and plays a man’s game. Hughes drives play, is going to need to fill out a little bit or move to the wing for a while.

  • We need our 2C to put points on the board. While we have good quantity of quality centers, I am still not sure who can put up 50 points there. A scoring winger would greatly help any 2C we place there. I am guessing/hoping we have 2-3 new forwards in the lineup come opening day next season.

  • We continue to think our current crop of kids, who showed very little this past year, are going to pan out. Let’s just say only one of the 3 pan out – Chytil. This is good for the #2C, but still leaves holes at 3C and 4C. I cannot bet on Howden and Lias yet, as they have had soft years. I do not want Strome to be more than a 4C on this team, because he just isn’t that good. We still need to draft the best player available, regardless of the position. We also need to bu a FA or 3 who can put the puck in the net.

    We had 8 defensemen, who would all be third pair on a good team. How about we try to upgrade there? I would not trade for a new center, but I would try to trade for/buy a scoring winger and a 1D.

  • Barring any major changes to the roster, your potential centers are Zibanejad, Chytil, Andersson and Howden. Strome if need be and Namestnikov if he is still here. Those players are all in the center mix. Vlad Namestnikov is 26. . Mika and Ryan Strome round out the elder statesman at center and they are only 25 going on 26. Howden and Andersson are 20 and Chytil is 19.

    Next year is gonig to be much like this year, and in some ways it will appear to be a step backward because the Rangers will no longer have Kevin Hayes and the Mighty Zuccarello. As much as humanly possible, I’d like to see them try to throw Chytil, Andersson and Howden into the center roles next season and see what happens. Strome and Namestnikov can be insurance in case any of the kids looks to be burning out. You don’t want to ruin a kid by giving them too much responsiblity but you also want to see whether they can grow into the role. Quinn is going to have a lot of work to do.

    I have to respectfully disagree with David’s focus on the blue line. I believe that the Rangers are in a relatively good place there because of the kids that are presently with the club and because there are more in the pipeline while Staal’s contract will be over with in a couple of years and Shatty for a few more. Smith at least can shuttle back and forth between wing and defense. So when the kids in the farm start to mature the older players will be phasing out as their contracts run out.

    I’d be much more concerned about wingers. Kravtsov is likely still a couple of years away, or at least one. Lemieux and Vesey aren’t gong to burn up the league but they can fill roles in the bottom 6. I’d go searching for potential top six wingers that are young and just about NHL ready if possible. I’d also look to draft some, although you still want to draft the most skilled players.

    Finally, remember the expansion draft. All moves will have to be done with it in mind.

    I am optimistic. We all need to accept the fact that the team is still in transition and that development takes time and patience. I very much do not want to see them jump into the free agent market until the kids develop more and the expansion draft is over and done with. I figure that is about the time the team will be more ready to compete.

    • A very patient outlook. My only thoughts are that not unlike Chytil and Howden, our young defensmen need a year of NHL play under their belt. We need at least 2 rookies on defense next year – and not to become superstars, but to learn how to play NHL defense.

      While a deep dive into free agency will not help next year, you have to go after great young players when they are available. They also will need some time to gel with new teammates. Getting a Panarin won’t change the team too much next year, but it could bare fruit in the following year. It also makes the PP more dangerous.

      • The reason I’d disagree about Panarin is that the team is two years away from being at all competitive and because he is going to cost a huge bundle. He will turn 28 next season and 29 the next. He is going to want a long term deal that would end when he was about 33 or 34. I’d pass.

    • I agree with most of what you say – but let’s forget about the expansion draft, except when it comes to NMCs. Look, the Rangers get to protect eleven players and a few guys will be exempt because they are first or second year. So Seattle is going to grab the 15th or 16th best player the Rangers have. I actually hope they take a good player because I would like to believe that the Rangers progress to a point where the 15th or 16th best player is pretty good.

    • Howden has 4 points in his last 35 games. That’s worse than 4th line NHL center production.

      • So we’re gonna forget his 13 points in the first 25 games? Not to mention, he is just 20 years old. I can see him easily being a 3C and if needed 2C in the future.

        • Howden has been one of the worst players in the entire league, both in possession and production numbers, for the past 3 months of the NHL season. I think that’s more of a sample size than a two-week long hot streak at the beginning of the season.

          Not saying the kid isn’t talented—he’s physical and has decent hands—but he’s been worthy of a demotion to the AHL for weeks. Right now he’s not an NHL-caliber player.

  • The rebuild: You need twelve forwards and six defensemen, so it is mostly about acquiring forwards. Since the rebuild was announced, the Rangers have basically added (not counting minor players) Howden and Kravtsov up front and Hajek, Lindgren, Rykov, Miller, and Lundqvist on the back end. A strong emphasis on the back end. This makes all the sense in the world. Defensemen take longer to develop and so you get the young defensemen first and then acquire the more quickly developing forwards. So, as you would expect, the present forward group is abysmal. Excluding Hank’s hot streak, the only time the Rangers were decent this year was when Zibanrjad and Zuccarello were playing 20-25 minutes a game.

    This is not a concern. It is all planned, but the notion that the defense is a problem and the forwards will take care of themselves is way off base. Sure, if Chityl, Andersson, Howden all hit high end expectations, the Rangers are in great shape at center — but that is not going to happen. Some players disappoint. So it always will be. Truth is the situation on defense now is pretty simple. Throw DeAngelo, Pionk and maybe Day into the group I mentioned above and if four of those guys really pan out, the Rangers will be in very good shape. If it’s only two, we start again. But that is so much of this game when you get away from elite players — try to hit on four of eight. Up front, we’re imagining hitting on everybody – no way.

    The truly interesting day is draft day. Who will the Rangers grab with their second, third and fourth choices? If they are still grabbing defensemen, it means they don’t believe in the kids they have now and the rebuild has a long way to go. If the focus is on forwards, they think they are getting close.

  • I demand apologies from all you downward knucklers. Fast will not play for the rest of the season. He was hurt for 3 months possibly longer. When I said he was playing like shit, I would get stupid responses. I am the blind one. When I said he was an anchor, you low DQ people put me down. Your love for a person made you blind to reality.

      • I’m with you , Fast is a slow 4th liner , nothing more nothing less. It was a waste of development putting him in front of these kids to I guess prove a point ? He had no business playing top 6 minutes.

        • I saw your independence in thought. I think the people that defended Fast are the one on the high horse.and should be red faced like Tonto. Pardon my joke, its just a little Indian lingo.
          James 1090 you could not refute what I said because you are intellectually inferior and morally blind and can’t see the truth if it bit you in the ass.

    • I am almost embarrassed to be a Ranger fan. I thought we had the best and smartest fans. We deserved AV and now DQ. Is anyone honest?

  • As Walt stated we need an elite scoring winger…and I’ll add to that …a right shot scoring winger

    mostly we need to get rid of the dead wood

    Dylan Cozens…if must trade up and get this lad

  • You can never have too many centers … and it’s easier to move certain types of centers on the wing than it is to try and get a winger to play at center.

  • If a centerman shows up as best player available for our 1st round pick, you absolutely take him. None of our kids have in any way solidified an NHL center spot yet. I like Cozens or Dach as they are both righty shots with size

  • At this point, I’m starting to believe leadership is going to be a big concern soon. We’ve traded just about everyone who can help these kids learn the NHL lifestyle on, and probably more importantly, off the ice

    When the last crop of youngsters started their careers, they had real good professionals to help them. Callahan, Staal, Dubinsky and Co. could look to and lean on guys like Jagr, Shanahan, Drury, Straka, Nylander, etc to show them how to play and what it takes to prep yourself. I worry this group does not have that type of leadership to help them find their way.

    It’s great to see the NYR letting the kids play in this rebuild. But IMHO, I think they need at least 1, but probably 2 veterans on this roster that have strong leadership skills… preferrably with Cup winning experience… for all these kids to learn from. We can’t forget the guys behind the bench are very inexperienced as well. I don’t mean to take time away from the youngsters. But I think of a guy like Ruslan Fedotenko when he was here. Strong middle six player, Cup winner, professional, didn’t really make mistakes, and almost all the teams he played for made the Playoffs. I don’t know what he was like in the locker room. But I think they try to find a player or 2 like that for short term deals this summer. I think it will make a big difference a few years from now.

  • On a lighter note , How About That Hayes ? He’s on a tear since joining a stacked team !!

    • Funny you mentioning Hayes, was thinking the same way. Even with a stacked deck, he still sucks donkey pecker!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • I didn’t want to see Zuc go but him wanting the terms they say and the FO not talking we would have ended up with 0. Hayes hurt leaving but there’s no way you can give that guy what he was wanting, not even close! I haven’t seen much of his play with the Jets, they have him listed as RW?? I doubt he gets resigned there!!

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