The New York Rangers shocked their fans by trading into the top ten of the 2017 draft and chose Lias Andersson. but lost in the fray is Filip Chytil, almost a carbon copy of Andersson. So it begs the question: should the Rangers throw Chytil into the fire?
Filip Chytil does not turn 18 until September, and in the NHL, 18 years old playing is rather unheard of. Unless you’re the first or second overall pick it hardly ever happens.
However, an advantage Chytil has is playing in a men’s league for a full season in the Czech Republic. Having played 38 games for HC Zlin of the Czech league, the center put up eight points in 38 games. Those numbers don’t jump off the page, but it is worth noting tha he was 16 when training camp started.
Everything in Chytil’s skill set screams that he can be an effective, efficient center. Great skater, solid on the forecheck, and has a great release on his shot. Not to mention he has been used on the penalty kill both in the Czech league and international tournaments. The potential is there, but it’s best to examine each of Chytil’s playing options: the Rangers, HC Zlin, or the Hartford Wolf Pack.
The Rangers have a center position to fill and as of now, it is up for grabs at training camp. Should Filip Chytil step in and steal that roster spot away from Lias Andersson and Boo Nieves, he would most likely become the youngest player in the league. As an 18-year-old, you also have to question how much he can realistically bring to the table, even with a great training camp.
The reality is that Chytil is not Connor McDavid. He would not average a point per game as a teenager. With the Rangers trying to contend without Derek Stepan, they may need more from all their centers, and while Chytil pushing for 20 points sounds great for development, it might not be great for contention.
A major unknown would also be Alain Vigneault’s usage of the Czech. Vigneault, as we all know too well, is not always as trusting with his youth as he should be. A great way to deter proper development is playing Chytil for just five minutes a night or not play him at all. While we can hope Vigneault can turn a page, there’s been nothing that foreshadows such.
Perhaps the most realistic option the Rangers have in store is to loan Chytil back to the Czech Republic for another season. This is ultimately the safest way to approach development. If Chytil continues to play with and against men, it may lead to a better transition in his overall game, truly earning more critical roles as a season goes on. Even better is knowing that HC Zlin has a coach that is willing to trust his young guns and is one Chytil is familiar with.
The Hartford Wolf Pack
The Rangers’ AHL affiliate has fallen on hard times these past two seasons with the lack of talent on the roster. Now with college free agent signings and drafting high-end prospects like Andersson and Sean Day, the Wolf Pack look to right the ship. With a new head coach, things are looking better for the Pack and hopeful to be competitive once again. If Chytil gets assigned to the AHL, there are mostly positive repercussions.
Chytil has the talent at center and playing in a developmental league, can easily rise to a top six role immediately. 70 games of top six minutes playing against older competition still is a recipe for confidence building. Hartford would also allow Filip to get accustomed to North American rink size, and fight growing pains with a coaching staff there to fix iron out wrinkles.
If I were Jeff Gorton, I would assign Chytil to the Hartford Wolf Pack and have him adjust to North American hockey and lifestyle to make his transition easiest as possible and get the Andersson/Chytil duo ready for the 2018-19 season.
At the end of training camp, any of these three options are completely acceptable as long as he plays. If there’s one thing I’m confident in saying, it’s that Filip Chytil will be an NHL player, and perhaps sooner than later.