When Filip Chytil went down with an upper body injury last week, the Rangers were going to be without their best performing center this season. Chytil was clicking with Phil Di Giuseppe and Kaapo Kakko, and the third line was the Rangers best line through the first two weeks of the season. But when Chytil went down, they lost that. The Rangers center depth has been exposed since.
As the top-six continues to struggle for consistency, the lines have been thrown into a blender. The emergence of Colin Blackwell was a positive, but he’s was more of a wing than a center. As it stands today, the Rangers have a struggling Mika Zibanejad, a Vlad Namestnikov-esque Ryan Strome, Brett Howden, and Kevin Rooney as their four centers. It really strikes fear in the opposition.
Few Centers In the Pipe
The Rangers don’t have much help at center in the prospect pool. There’s Morgan Barron, whom the Rangers are high on. He’s likely to project out as a 3C in the future. It’s unclear if the Rangers recall him following the Blackwell injury, but the Rangers did feel Barron needed time in the AHL.
After Barron, it’s bare. Patrick Khodorenko is a name to keep an eye on. It’s safe to assume the Rangers think Barron has the higher ceiling though. Karl Henriksson is the next closest prospect to turning pro, and he’s a few years out.
If the Rangers want to improve their center depth, the trade market may be their only option. Pierre-Luc Dubois was clearly too expensive for the Rangers, but other options will be there.
Sam Bennett has just requested a trade from Calgary, and we will have more on that tomorrow. He’s not a top-six option though. Phillip Danault was an interesting option this offseason, but unclear if he still wants out of Montreal. If Arizona is set on blowing things up, then Christian Dvorak (not Nick Schmaltz) is an interesting option.
There’s the running joke about Jack Eichel, but that isn’t happening yet. Another fun name is Aleksander Barkov. There might be a match there since the Panthers need cheap talent. But that likely isn’t a real option until next season, if it ever becomes a real option.
Suffice it to say, the Rangers will need to address their center depth at some point soon. They fancy themselves contenders starting next year, but won’t get far with Ryan Strome as their 2C. At some point, it’s an area they need to address. It may not be this season, but expect them to address it soon.