Is Filip Chytil’s New York Rangers future as a winger?

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Dec 12, 2021; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers center Filip Chytil (72) and right wing Julien Gauthier (15) skate against the Nashville Predators during the first period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Filip Chytil was a scratch for the New York Rangers against the Arizona Coyotes in the team’s second to last game before the NHL Pause. He was reinserted into the lineup in the team’s next game against the Vegas Golden Knights after Artemi Panarin missed the contest with a lower-body injury.

Head coach Gerard Gallant opted to leave Barclay Goodrow as the third line pivot against Vegas and play Chytil on the wing. It’s a move that could have meaningful impact going forward.

“I talked to him the other before the game and told him you might get some more time [on wing] and play with different line mates,” Gallant revealed after practice yesterday. “He said, ‘Coach, put me on the ice I’ll play,’ – he’s an easy-going kid.”

Chytil at center wasn’t working

Some may beg to differ, but Chytil for all his talent doesn’t seem like a great puck distributor. That’s a key facet to a center’s game. In 212 career games, he has only 41 assists to go with 37 goals. For his career on draws, he’s only won 39.8% of them.

Last season, despite injury, Chytil had a promising campaign averaging .52 points per game. This year, playing exclusively as a center, he has just 7 points in 26 games for an average of .27 points per game. Putting him back on the wing, where he’s had productive stretches in the past makes sense.

Plus, the Rangers need to know what they have in Chytil before giving up an asset at the trade deadline to acquire a forward to play in top six for the remainder of this season.

Of course, there’s seems to be a stubbornness about moving him away from the middle because they lack organizational depth at that position. Chytil himself says he’s a center and that where he wants to play. That was echoed by Chris Drury and Gerard Gallant before the year began.

“He’s a guy that wants more ice time,” the coach said during the preseason. “He wants to be play center, we want him there.”

The fact is, the Rangers are having trouble scoring and have no depth on RW, especially after losing Sammy Blais for the season. With Barclay Goodrow able to play center, Gallant and Drury need to see if Chytil and all his talent can solve that issue.

“We want to give him a shot over there (on wing) because of injuries and different reasons,” Gallant explained. “He just wants to get on the ice. I think last game Fil went out there, he played the wing and played fine.”

Chytil’s future with Rangers seems to be on the wing

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Feb 19, 2020; Chicago, Illinois, USA; New York Rangers center Filip Chytil (72) celebrates his goal against the Chicago Blackhawks during the first period at United Center. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The 22 year-old was selected by the Rangers in the 2017 Draft in the first round, 21st overall. He debuted at the end of the 2017-18 season for 9 games picking up three points as an 18 year-old.

For the next three seasons, the Rangers moved him around the lineup but David Quinn felt Chytil produced better on the wing. This season, the team really wanted to get give him a long look down the middle, but he’s been unable to get going.

“[Chytil] prefers center, there’s no doubt about that,” Gallant said after practice on Monday. “He’ll play the wing and be happy about it. We’ll do what’s best for our team and he’s fine with that.”

In the team’s last game, Chytil played right wing on a line with Alexis Lafrenière and Ryan Strome. With Panarin back at full practice, he should be back in usual spot.

Where will Chytil play?

Yesterday’s practice showed Chytil back as the the third line center but Ryan Strome did’t practice in what the team called a maintenance day. They hit the ice again today, so it will be interesting as to where Chytil slots.

The Rangers have a glaring hole. They also have a gifted offensive young player that can help solve the problem. Should Chris Drury extend Ryan Strome, it would pigeonhole Chytil to the third line for years to come. That’s why it makes sense that his future should be as top six right wing and fill the void left by Pavel Buchnevich.

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