Rangers’ aren’t helping themselves by limiting Filip Chytil


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There has been a suitable amount of angst expended on the ice time that has been awarded to the Rangers’ pingpong-ball twins, Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko, both lodged in support roles without significant power-play work through their young careers.

But obscured to a large degree is that Filip Chytil, the erstwhile Kid Line component who has taken the greatest strides and has produced the most this season, has been straitjacketed into a third-line slot in which his ice time has been unjustly limited.

I get the concept of competing interests, that this team’s and this coach’s mission is to make the playoffs and not act as a development program even as the kids require room to grow. But playing the young guys can at times satisfy both agendas. This is one of those instances.

Giving Chytil — who went to the net to poke home the 3-3 tying goal at 13:35 of the third period in Tuesday’s exhilarating 4-3 shootout victory at the Garden over the Wild — more ice time and more responsibility fulfills both agendas. It makes the Rangers better today and allows for the prospect of much better tomorrows.

Chytil got 16:43 of ice in this one, opening between Lafreniere and Jimmy Vesey, then skating on units that on different shifts included Kakko or Barclay Goodrow after the Blueshirts lost Chris Kreider to an upper-body injury midway through the third period. He had jump. He made plays.

Filip Chytil fights through traffic to score the Rangers’ second goal in their 4-3 win over the Wild.
Charles Wenzelberg / New York Post

And he was irrepressible on that game-tying shift on which he, linemates Vesey and Goodrow and defensemen Adam Fox and K’Andre Miller kept the puck low, grinded, created scoring chances and finally capitalized after Fox put the puck in front rather than going for a wraparound.

“It felt good, it felt good,” said No. 72. “When you have the puck and you’re shooting, you’re creating chances for not just yourself but you’re creating rebounds for your teammates and that’s what we had the whole shift.

“And then Foxy made a good play and I just jumped to the blue paint. I’m happy I got the goal.”

The goal was Chytil’s 12th, which is two shy of his personal-best that he achieved in 2019-20. Last year, he scored eight. Moreover, Chytil’s 1.17 goals per 60:00 at five-on-five leads the Rangers among players with at least 300 minutes.

And that has been accomplished by being short-shifted most of the season playing behind minutes-eaters Mika Zibanejad and Vincent Trocheck. Chytil has gotten only six games to work with Artemi Panarin, with head coach Gerard Gallant believing that his “perfect lines” include the combination of Panarin and Trocheck.

At the start of the week, 400 forwards had played at least 20 games. Trocheck ranked 37th in even-strength minutes, Zibanejad 69th and Chytil 191st. Including special teams, Zibanejad ranked 10th in overall minutes by forwards, Trocheck 27th and Chytil … 247th.

Two-hundred-forty-seventh out of 400 for the Rangers’ brightest young star up front who, by the way, is a pending restricted free agent due for a hefty increase over his current AAV of $2.3 million and is only two seasons away from unrestricted free agency.

It is difficult to imagine the 23-year-old, 21st-overall selection of the 2017 entry draft signing on long term if stuck in a third-line role in which he gets scant power-play time.

Rangers' Filip Chytil
The Rangers’ Filip Chytil
Getty Images

It is impossible to endorse an approach under which the Rangers may never find out what Chytil can do before it becomes too late. The Blueshirts are 12-2-2 over their last 16 games, so Gallant is likely loath to switch things up, but this is the exactly the time to elevate Chytil into a second-line spot with Panarin on his left. If there are worries about the defensive side of the puck, Goodrow or Vesey can play the right side while Trocheck and Vitali Kravtsov shift down to skate with Lafreniere.

Chytil continues to make progress. Yes, he is 23, but he is in his fifth full season. Or, as he told me after this wildly entertaining match in which the Rangers unleashed 33 shot attempts in the second period, “It’s not my first week in the NHL.”

The center out of the Czech Republic recently went through a couple of down games in which he suffered from a stomach virus. He is recovering well.

“It’s not like you can be good after one day, but I did the hard work and had the right mindset,” he said. “That means, even when things don’t go your way, stick with it and play the same game.

“I’m smarter now. I should be. I have experience. And I’ve been watching and talking to Mika and learning from him and our older players for six years.”

There are strides to go, strides that Chytil can take. The Rangers should accelerate the growth by giving him an extended look with Panarin on the second unit.

That would be good for today and perhaps even better for tomorrow. Win-win for the victorious Rangers.

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