New York Rangers: Setting the scene for Filip Chytil

The New York Rangers have recalled rookie forward Filip Chytil from AHL Hartford. The young forward is expected to play out the rest of the regular season with the NHL team.

The New York Rangers recalled Filip Chytil from Hartford on Sunday, along with fellow 2017 first-round pick Lias Andersson. Chytil and Andersson. The duo played on Monday night and are expected to play in the rest of the Rangers’ games this season, earning NHL experience without burning a year of their contracts.

Chytil made the Rangers out of training camp last October, but was quickly reduced to a negligible role and demoted. Once again, head coach Alain Vigneault’s unwillingness to work with a young player reared its head.

While Chytil wasn’t given much of a chance out of the gate, he excelled in the AHL. He scored nine points in his first six games, and didn’t slow down much from there.

As one of the few players under the age of 19, Chytil drove offense all season. His 11 goals and 20 assists were among the best numbers of such young players in recent years.

Chytil compares favorably to the likes of William Nylander and Kevin Fiala—two of the more exciting young NHLers.

However, his time with the Rangers should come with tempered expectations.

Finding a fit

When the New York Rangers started their season against the Colorado Avalanche, Chytil was slotted in as a middle-six center. The Rangers’ depth at the position was questionable, with Derek Stepan traded to Arizona and Oscar Lindberg plucked by Vegas in the expansion draft. Chytil’s preseason performance was good enough to grab a spot.

But it quickly became clear that Vigneault didn’t trust the 18-year-old. Chytil saw less than eight minutes against the Avalanche, and just 4:59 in his second game. He didn’t get a third.

Now back with the Rangers, Chytil may not play center. With the acquisitions of Ryan Spooner and Vladislav Namestnikov at the trade deadline, the Rangers are suddenly deep at the position.

Ideally, Cody McLeod and Peter Holland will come out of the lineup to make room for Andersson and Chytil. Mika Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes are the top two centers.

Considering his usage in October, it’s likely Vigneault chooses to put Chytil on the wing to build a scoring line. Whether Jesper Fast moves down the lineup and Chytil draws in with Zibanejad and Chris Kreider, or someone like Jimmy Vesey gets pushed to the fourth line, Vigneault has options.

Setting the bar

Chytil is expected to be a big part of the New York Rangers’ future and his play in Hartford doesn’t cast doubt on that. He has the skill set and size to be a game-changing center the likes of which the Rangers haven’t seen since the 90s. His speed, shot, and strength on the puck make an attractive package.

However, the Rangers drafted Chytil at an extremely young age. Had he been only a few days younger, he wouldn’t have been eligible for the 2017 draft. At 18 years old, playing real minutes in the NHL will be a challenge.

The Rangers should hope that Vigneault is willing to let Chytil play through the growing pains. If he does, Chytil will get plenty of good looks, and will likely chip in a point or two over the last seven games.

On the other hand, Vigneault is notorious for keeping young players on a tight leash. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Chytil’s minutes remain low, especially if he makes an early mistake or turnover.

For the sake of the Rangers’ future, Vigneault should ignore those plays, and let Chytil play up to his lofty expectations. His talent will make itself known, and he can only get better if given time.