The New York Rangers had their season end much earlier than people expected this year, and while not one of the key areas of blame, their youth did not perform well in the postseason. The “kid line” of Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil, and Kaapo Kakko, combined for two goals (one an empty netter) over the seven-game series.
Over the past few years, these three players have been under a microscope: Chytil, Lafreniere, and Kakko all have high expectations and none have lived up to the bargain. But, all of them have had steady increases in points under the Gerard Gallant regime.
Now enter Peter Laviolette: the experienced head coach was introduced as the next Rangers’ head coach Tuesday morning, and one of the questions right off the top has to be how he will get the Rangers’ youth involved. Laviolette did start his NHL career as a Ranger, playing 12 games for them during the 1988-1989 NHL season.
So how will this work for players like Lafreniere, Chytil, and Kakko?
First, we have to look at the experience. Laviolette is the winningest American coach ever in the NHL and he is sure to bring a regime different than these players have seen. While Gallant was more of a players’ coach and David Quinn buried the kids in the lineup, Laviolette’s style is more hard-nosed and playoff-like from day one.
This will be especially important for these three players. With the Rangers’ current cap situation, all of them should have increased roles on day one. If Laviolette incorporates the kids into his lineup, especially the top six, it would go miles for their development. All three need to rebound too, with the 2023 Stanley Cup Playoffs not being their brightest spot.
Then again, the top six are still crowded. For Lafreniere, Chris Kreider and Artemi Panarin occupy the top two left-wing spots, and that is Lafreniere’s best position. Chytil still has Vincent Trocheck to beat out to be the second-line center, and you have to think Trocheck will be in that position for day one of training camp. Kakko has the easiest opportunity of the three: the Rangers do not have a true top-six right winger on the roster, especially if Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrick Kane do not return.
So what does this mean? Laviolette will have to find ways to incorporate the kids just like Quinn and Gallant did. The Rangers have a talented lineup, and to get them involved, it starts with the coach. This goes beyond those three: players such as Brennan Othmann, Will Cuylle, and others are waiting for their opportunity.
Right now, it’s hard to guess what Laviolette will bring, but it’s not far off to say the kids have a fresh start. It’s up to them to prove it to a new coach in order to grow.