The NY Rangers Kid Line of Filip Chytil, Kaapo Kakko, and Alexis Lafreniere took the team and the NHL by storm last year, accounting for memorable goals and providing the Rangers with scoring depth. This year, the trio has been reunited a few times, and it is the most recent stretch of games that saw this line finally take off again.
There are many fair complaints regarding Gerard Gallant’s roster construction this season, notably with this trio and with Vitali Kravtsov. The NY Rangers Kid Line seems to be working again, and it has been a fantastic boost for the Rangers, their scoring depth, and the confidence for each kid on the line. But with this trio reunited, it creates other issues in the Rangers lineup.
Notably, the “top six” had both Barclay Goodrow and Jimmy Vesey. Both are fine players in bottom six roles, and both can fake it for a few games here and there in the top six. Seeing both in the top six is certainly not ideal, and unfortunately it’s something we’ve seen too much of this season. It’s a pain point for many fans, especially with each passing day that one or both remain in the top six.
It seems the initial plan Gallant had, and perhaps this is also his end goal, is to have both Kakko and Lafreniere in the top six, with Chytil centering either the second or the third line. With the NY Rangers Kid Line together, they no longer have that option, and appear to be short at least one top six winger, Kravtsov’s usage notwithstanding. There are no internal options –again without Kravtsov in the equation– to fill that gap, and external options are costly and at least a few weeks away.
There are certainly cases for and against keeping the NY Rangers Kid Line together. They have been providing most of the consistent offense lately, and have been proving a matchup nightmare for most teams. Artemi Panarin and Mika Zibanejad still command respect and the opposition’s best matchups, giving the Kid Line room to maneuver. Even without a third scoring option on the top line, Panarin and Zibanejad can still dominate and put the puck in the net.
Therein lies the concern, as Panarin and Zibanejad don’t have a third, relying on what is hopefully a short stint in the top six for Vesey and Goodrow. This also begs the question: Which is the second line? Is it the NY Rangers Kid Line? Or is it the Kreider-Trocheck-Goodrow line? Based on salary and usage, it’s the latter. But based on production, it’s the former. We may be splitting hairs here, given Gallant’s refusal to match up his forwards accordingly (subscribe to the Patreon here!). However it appears the Kid Line is still the third line based on 5v5 ice time, at least that’s how it was last night.
As long as the Kid Line remains together, the Rangers will continue to have a hole at 1RW that neither Vesey nor Goodrow can fill. Thus, the Rangers will be in the hunt for a top six RW that can skate with Panarin and Zibanejad. It does appear that Kravtsov either is not the answer or won’t be looked at as the answer, which is a whole separate topic for another day. For now, the Rangers need the Kid Line, but it creates a hole elsewhere in the lineup. It’s clear last night’s lines aren’t the final iteration.
Much like last year, we will need to wait until after the trade deadline to see what’s on Gallant’s mind, and up Chris Drury’s sleeve.