New York Rangers: An early look at the center depth chart

(Photo by Joe Puetz/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Puetz/NHLI via Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Joe Puetz/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Puetz/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Veterans

As mentioned above, Zibanejad is the team’s presumptive number one center, at even strength as well as on the power play. Barring a massive under-performance from him or a surge from Hayes or perhaps Chytil, expect Zibanejad to retain that spot next season.

The intrigue in center depth begins with Kevin Hayes. As of this writing Kevin Hayes has yet to sign, he has the most uncertainty regarding his immediate and long-term future.

It is not unreasonable to think that Hayes could end up slotting into the number one, two or three spots. He could slot in at number one because of his effectiveness and historic production at five on five. In addition, Zibanejad playing more on the power play might lead to him playing less than Hayes at even strength.

The prevailing assumption here though is that Hayes slots in behind Zibanejad, likely playing less at five on five and more on the penalty kill, along with some power play time.

However, if Quinn is more inclined to put Chytil in a top-six role and keep him at center, then Hayes could fill in the role of a third line defensive oriented center. Although I think that doing so for any significant amount of time is a disservice to Hayes and the team by not tapping more into his offensive acumen.

While some, like Larry Brooks of the New York Post, think that Hayes is a lame duck, he is still relatively young. He will only be 26 entering next season. Therefore, if the Rangers are ready to compete in say three seasons, at 29, he will not be too old to still be effective.