The New York Rangers need Filip Chytil to be more than just a caddy for Alexis Lafreniere

New York Rangers, Brett Howden, Filip Chytil
Jan 4, 2020; Vancouver, British Columbia, CAN; New York Rangers forward Brett Howden (21) and forward Filip Chytil (72) defend against Vancouver Canucks defenseman Troy Stecher (51) during the second period at Rogers Arena. Mandatory Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Many are anxiously awaiting for the New York Rangers debut of first overall pick Alexis Lafreniere. However, an important part of the Lafreniere’s and the team’s success will in part, rely on the improved play of linemate Filip Chytil. The 23-year-old Czech native will need to be more than a guy who gets the puck to Lafreniere and then just gets out of his way.

After beginning the 2019-20 season in the AHL, the young forward was recalled and tallied 23 points in 60 NHL games. He struggled on a line with the up-and-down Kaapo Kakko and Brett Howden. The basic thought was that this combination was not a good mix to create a productive line.

Chytil did show some of his true skills early last year when he filled in for an injured Mika Zibanejad. While centering a line with Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich on his wings, he helped the trio snag a stellar 63.4% expected goals for percentage across 110 minutes of five-on-five ice time.

Even though Chytil will be expected to be on the third line with Lafreniere and Julien Gauthier, he may not last long if he does not play well. Waiting in the wings to take a shot of playing on this line is Brett Howden or even the highly touted prospect.

This year, things can and need to be different. One of the things that Chytil did well last year that can help his teammates was that of his nine assists, six were primaries, showing his involvement in creating plays. He also showed flashes of superb puck handling, by making moves on defensemen look easy. He was at his strongest when he had the puck on his stick and was equally proficient in driving to the net with the puck, utilizing his size, strength, and speed. The more ice Chytil receives, the more confident he looks and it earned him more ice time last season. All of these are needed this year to make this third line click.