Yesteryear the New York Rangers assembled “The Kid Line”, fizzing with bombastic chemistry as a third rotation checking unit.
“The Shift” became the status quo for stretches in the 2023 season, where the baby Blueshirts all made exceptional strides in their development and point totals.
Until they didn’t. Among the colorless performances in seven post-season matches, the kids got schooled.
Even the most unalike disciplines can teach us that growth is not linear. With that said the NHL moves quickly and leaves minimal room for patience, the rumor machine calculating what could equal a Kakko or Lafreniere barter.
Somehow, someway, the New York Rangers are at their spending ceiling to the point of contemplation.
To trade two cup rings and the team’s Swiss army forward in a Barclay Goodrow, or to trade a former 1st round pick in one of the young guns?
With the possibility that the Kid Line is not broken up because of experimentation but difficult money talk, I ask, which kid is the most valuable?
Filip Chytil: 81 GP, 23 G, 27A, 49 PTS
Filip Chytil’s draft day highlights featured the same few videos on repeat. The second longest-tenured Ranger is now leased for another four seasons at 4.4 million dollars annually.
“Filda” has matured off the puck and this has allowed him to morph his north-south speed game down the center lane of the ice full-time rather than shifting to the wing, something we saw in his first few seasons in New York.
Chytil-mania yo-yoed from the AHL to NHL and became a roster full-time asset in 2020, and out of the three kids, his 2022 playoff performance was the most outstanding. The question begs, could he build upon that?
He answered the 23-year-old’s 2023 campaign placing the Czech center 6th on the team in points. His play off the puck has seen the most growth, forechecking with pace and energy, and thriving in transition to support his linemates when he is not driving play.
Chytil arguably becomes the most important bottom-six asset and has matured into a player with a nice pair of mitts, edge to his game, and old-school hockey speed down Santa Clause Lane.
Kaapo Kakko: 89 GP, 19 G, 23A, 42 PTS
The Finnish flank set a career-high of 40 points this past season. What is most impressive about Kakko’s game that continues to prove as a desirable intangible is his puck protection skills, work in Gretzky’s office below the hashes, and growth in his game as a puck possession monster.
It is common to speak to observe the 2019 second-overall pick as a playmaking European-style skater that uses his 6’2 frame to his advantage to create time and space in his respective offensive end.
Couple that with incredible improvement in his defensive end from his first professional season to the covid bubble year and you have a reliable and unique attacker.
Long gone are the days of a potential 50-goal scorer. Kakko has a package that generates offense with limited risks involved in his pass selections and puck management.
Speculation around Rangers town is that he could be in for a top-six role as a positive compliment to the struggling top dogs. Kakko has one season remaining on his bridge extension worth 2.1 million dollars.
Alexis Lafreniere: 88 GP, 16 G, 23A, 39 PTS
Alexis Lafreniere supporters continue to bank on his prowess from his major junior days as a beacon of hope, drawing connections to NHL mega stars such as Nathan Mackinnon and Tage Thompson as career trajectory models.
This season saw an upward trend, but not to the level that came with the ping pong ball announcement of 2020 first overall.
Lafreniere has developed a style of play reminiscent of Alexander Mogilny, a forward that can potentially produce points but has an edge to his game. We’ve seen Lafreniere fight Steven Stamkos, and drive spark plug plays with heavy checks.
Exiting his ELC, are the trade rumors of linking with former general manager Jeff Gorton and his hometown team the Montreal Canadiens, or to a rebuilding Canucks harsh on the 21-year-old, warranted, or somewhere in between?
His array of 0’s across the board from the post-season doesn’t boast well for the winger, but it’s hard to believe a player of his junior caliber won’t continue to improve on a cheap contract extension.
Who do you feel is the most valuable kid? Do they remain a line, or is it time to see growth through a varied deployment? Which Kid is the most expendable? As of June 2023, who can we conclude has the highest ceiling?