Is Filip Chytil ready to take the 2C role in 2022-2023?

Filip Chytil is one of many question marks, as a stagnant salary cap is bad for the Rangers.

The Rangers are getting into their offseason planning, and must face a difficult decision. Center is a position of need for the Rangers, and their first priority is figuring out what they will do at 2C. Ryan Strome is likely to price himself out of New York, and Andrew Copp may as well. This leaves the Barclay Goodrow and Filip Chytil only rostered centers. With his stellar postseason, is Chytil ready to take on that role?

If you asked this question during the regular season, the answer would have been completely different. Many, including some of us here at BSB, had him as trade bait for a youngish, cost controlled, top six center. The thought process made sense, as Chytil hadn’t really produced consistently and was looking more like a 3C than a 2C. That’s fine, of course.

But following the playoffs, where Chytl was easily the Rangers best forward in terms of generating chances consistently, the conversation has changed. Chytil had 7 goals and 9 points in 20 postseason games, which doesn’t sound too impressive, but did it entirely at even strength with no powerplay time. He and Kaapo Kakko were the only two Rangers forwards above 50% expected-goals.

But it’s not just the numbers for Chytil, it was the presence he had. He was dominating play, using his body to get to the net, and putting himself in a position to score. We all remember “The Shift’ above, but there were also plays like his first goal in that game.

What’s so amazing about his first goal, not from The Shift, is the attention he draws in front of the net. He had three Lightning players on him, giving Kakko the freedom to sit behind the net. Chytil then read the play beautifully and put himself in a position to score by simply backing up a step or two.

This is the kind of offensive awareness you expect from a 2C, and Chytil was showing it throughout the playoffs. The scoring line doesn’t pop at you because he only played 12 minutes a night, almost entirely at even strength. In theory, given how he has driven play when healthy, more ice time will lead to more points. Chytil also has documented success as a center with Artemiy Panarin.

For Chris Drury and Gerard Gallant, this is perhaps the most important question that needs answering. If Chytil is not viewed as a 2C, then they need to go out and get one. That changes the entire landscape of the offseason. Top-six centers don’t grow on trees, and Russ laid it out pretty clearly that the free agency options are expensive. The best bet for the Rangers, assuming there is no surprise trade coming, might be to see how Chytil as a 2C, and fill in the gaps with a middle-six center.