As the Rangers prepare for the Coyotes in Game #33 of 82 later at MSG, I can’t help but wonder if Filip Chytil would be better served playing in the upcoming World Junior Championship.
The IIHF Under-20 WJC is a marquis event which begins on Boxing Day. Call it a late Christmas present for hockey fans. It’s honestly the most exciting prospect tournament to watch. Every winter, we are lucky to see the world’s best young prospects compete against each other between the final exciting week of December and the beginning of the New Year. It’s awesome!
Maybe it’s because I’m partial to this wonderful tournament. Or perhaps it’s due to how bad the Rangers really are. If not for Henrik Lundqvist, they’d have a lot less wins and be right where they should be. In other words, competing with the Blackhawks, Kings, Blues, Canucks (yes) and startling Flyers for the Jack Hughes Draft Lottery. That btw also features Kaapo Kakko (try pronouncing it five times), Dylan Cozens and Vasily Podkolzin. Notice I included Vancouver despite Calder shoe in Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser, and excluded the Devils. I also don’t believe the Flyers will remain in the cellar. I’m skeptical on the underachieving Panthers, who probably need a coaching change.
Which brings me back to the Rangers. What’s best for Chytil’s development? He could play all 82 games and continue to remain in the top six in his rookie year. Currently, he has five goals and six assists for 11 points in the first 32. Still just 19, there’s no denying his talent. The skating and ability to make plays with the puck are cause for excitement on Broadway. He also is showing better effort to come back defensively unlike some of his older teammates. When he puts it altogether, it should be fun to see.
With the Blueshirts bringing a 14-13-5 record into play, they do have 33 points. A decent number considering how few players will be here in two years. Three tops. But as the last 10 games have proven since Thanksgiving, it’s fools gold. The 9-1-1 stretch is long gone. So is the hard work they put in to overachieve, infuriating coach David Quinn and Lundqvist. I’m glad he gets the night off. Alexandar Georgiev is finally back for tonight.
As much as I’d love to see Chytil get assigned to his home country, the Czech Republic for the WJC, he will probably stay due to the Rangers. The roster is paper thin right now. Particularly up front. Outside of Mika Zibanejad, Kevin Hayes and Chris Kreider, it’s not good. At least Pavel Buchnevich is continuing to show improvement after returning.
Mats Zuccarello looks stale. I have no clue what they’ll get for him in February. The wear and tear is showing. Jimmy Vesey has performed well, but now is back on the third line with the ice cold Brett Howden and Vladislav Namestnikov (also freezing). The fourth line is not good right now. Ryan Strome is wasted when he’s not with skill types. He was good after the trade for Ryan Spooner. But he isn’t a fourth liner. Lias Andersson needs more ice time. They seem to think he should stay up. I hope he can find some consistency.
Without Jesper Fast, the Rangers are weakened. He will never blow you away with skill, but his second and third effort is why he’s well respected. Quinn already loves him. Just like Alain Vigneault did. He wasn’t wrong about Fast. His energy rubs off. I notice some of the same qualities in Vesey this season. That’s because this coach utilizes him the right way.
I believe if they had more numbers, the Rangers would send Chytil to the WJC. Missing a few games to play in such a prestigious tournament competing against his peers would be more beneficial. It would be a great experience for him. Instead, he’s likely stuck here, which means more losing the next two weeks.
At the very least, Garden Faithful can be excited about what they see from Chytil. He is learning on the job. I’m glad he’s playing in the top six. He gets to play with more experienced players like Zibanejad, Zuccarello, Hayes and Kreider (power play). If Hayes goes in two months, at least Chytil will be a replacement. That bodes well for the future.