Before the Rangers drafted Vitali Kravtsov and Kaapo Kakko, Filip Chytil was the most skilled prospect in the system. The 21st overall pick in 2017 when he was just 17 years old, Chytil played very will in Hartford right after his draft year (11-20-21 in 46 games) before getting a 9 game call up at the end of the season.
Last season Chytil played in 75 games, putting up 11-12-23 while bouncing around the lineup. Chytil had a stint where he scored in five straight games and had a separate stint where he scored a pair of highlight reel goals. By the end of the season, Chytil was averaging 13 minutes a night at all strengths. He seemed more comfortable in his role, even if the points weren’t coming. The Blueshirts went 3-8 in that span, so it’s not like he was the only one struggling, either.
As currently constructed, Chytil is lining up as the 2C, playing as the pivot between likely Chris Kreider/Artemi Panarin and Vitali Kravtsov/Pavel Buchnevich/Kaapo Kakko. So he’s going to be playing with skilled players. The expectation to produce will be there, even if he will be turning just 20 years old in September.
The talent is there. If Chytil were born a week later, he would’ve been a top-ten pick in 2018 instead of a top-30 pick in 2017. It’s a matter of him taking the next step forward, something he already did in the latter half of last season. Playing consistently with the talent he will be lined up with could do wonders for him. It’s actually why I’m in favor of playing him with Panarin. The ability to learn on the fly is something the great talents have, and Chytil has that potential.
However the Rangers, for the second time in three seasons, are banking on a kid taking a role that is a big question mark. The difference is that the Rangers –despite the influx of elite talent this offseason– are not in a position to truly compete yet. Yes, they can surprise some teams and should be better, but they are still counting on prospect growth, something that isn’t guaranteed. Chytil is just one of many kids being put in this position.
The good news for Chytil is that he’s not going to be the focus. Panarin and Kakko will have the overwhelming share of attention. Kravtsov is likely #3 on this list. Adam Fox might actually be #4 on the list, so Chytil, while under the expectation of taking the next step in his sophomore season, isn’t really under the microscope. That likely plays into his favor, as it should be relatively stress free for him.
For Chytil, it’ll be about continuing to drive offense and learn on the fly with some more seasoned talent. The eventual goal is for him to be able to drive offense and possession on his own, and not be reliant upon or ride the coattails of a Panarin or a Kreider. This is a big year for Chytil. It’s not make-or-break, but his progression will really help drive the Rangers’ successes this year.