Rangers’ Filip Chytil should be centering the second line come opening night

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Feb 6, 2023; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers center Filip Chytil (72) during the second period against the Calgary Flames at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

The time has come for New York Rangers center Filip Chytil to take the second-line center position when the 2023-2024 season begins in October.

Chytil has shown improvement in all areas of his game. He has grown into a strong two-way player exhibiting consistency, strength, and poise; traits which earlier in his career were big question marks.

In his debut year with the team, he appeared in only nine games, managing one goal and three points. The organization wanted to send him back to the Czech Republic to grow his game, but he fought hard with former GM Jeff Gorton to be sent to the AHL to play with the Wolf Pack.

That decision gave Chytil the confidence to show he belonged playing hockey in North America.

He has since become a reliable and trusted player over the past six seasons; so much so that the team gave him a hefty contract extension this past March.

Filip Chytil took a big step forward in 2022

A four-year contract worth $17.75 million will keep Chytil in a Rangers sweater through the 2026-2027 season. Chytil had a breakout season last year reaching career highs in goals (22), assists (23), and points (45).

The 23-year-old understands the work is far from over, yet acknowledged his improvement since he arrived in New York as an 18-year-old:

“I know the production wasn’t there that much the first years, but this year, finally, it’s coming along with my game,” he said. “It’s about the process and about the hard work that I’m putting in. I’m happy that I can see that hard work pays off ? and it’s not finished. It’s just a start for me.”

Vince Mercogliano of Lohud

Moving on Up the Rangers’ lines

Chytil has been part of the “Kids Line” for the last couple of seasons centering between Alexis Lafreniere and Kappo Kakko. The line has given the team a boost of energy filled with grit and speed. They were one of the main catalysts for the team reaching the Eastern Conference Finals two seasons ago.

When Peter Laviolette was hired last month as the team’s new head coach, he referenced that he would give players opportunities to get more ice time or play on different lines.

Most of this conversation has been about Lafrenieere and Kakko moving up to the top two lines, but essentially, it also means Chytil can earn an opportunity to center the second line, most likely between Artemi Panarin and newly signed Blake Wheeler, leaving Vincent Trocheck to center the third line.

Chytil will need to vastly improve his faceoff winning percentage which currently ranks third behind Trocheck (56.07%) and Mika Zibanejad (49.5%).

His game on the defensive side of the puck has been another area the team is happy with. His 200-foot game is a testament to his conditioning. Chytil’s backchecking ability and hockey IQ overall make him one of the smartest guys on the ice.

Chytil understands what it takes to be a center in the NHL and the commitment required to check the opponent off the puck, anticipate where the play is going, and know when is the right time to transition to offense without sacrificing scoring opportunities in the team’s own side of the ice.

Challenges are something Chytil has never shied away from. Improvements are as much a part of the game in hockey as scoring goals and he will be able to get all aspects of his game to a level where he can have the most success for himself and the club.

Filip Chytil has Rangers pride

Chytil has only ever played for the Blueshirts, something that he is proud of:

“We have a great team, great chemistry, we have all the people in the club, we have fantastic people. … I’m here since I was 18 years old and they’ve helped me so much in my career. I’m the player I am because of them.”

Mercogliano

It’s rare when a player is drafted by an organization and has the opportunity to become a star on the same ice as that team. Filip Chytil is on that path.