Kravtsov or Chytil as the Rangers 2nd line center

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While analyzing the terrific offseason and unexpected acceleration of a rebuild that Jeff Gorton declared to New York Rangers fans less than 18 months ago, it’s become clear that the organization believes they have set a foundation in place for the team to contend once again via drafting, free agency, and crafty trade acquisitions.

Youth Movement

Speaking of drafting, it’s astounding to think that the Rangers have made six – yes, six – first-round selections over the course of the last three NHL Entry Drafts. Now, while it’s unclear whether all of the young talents the Rangers have accumulated over the past few years will reach their full potential in the NHL, there’s an abundance of reasons for excitement in Rangerstown after several years in which their prospect pipeline was severely depleted in favor of a ”win now” strategy.

While observing and analyzing the Rangers lineup for the 2019-2020 season, there seems to be one question that has yet to be addressed or answered by Rangers management this offseason; who will be the second-line center when the puck drops at Madison Square Garden on October 3rd?

Veteran Ryan Strome did an admirable job in 2018-2019 as David Quinn’s second line pivot, the Rangers current salary-cap complexities may force Strome to relocate before the end of the summer. Although Strome was very productive after being acquired for struggling forward Ryan Spooner in November, it’s reasonable to assert that his ridiculous 22.5% shooting percentage is likely bound to regress next season and beyond. Given the Rangers need to alleviate salary, it’s possible that the Rangers sell high on the Canadian-born forward this summer while replacing him internally.

Chytil or Kravtsov

Today, I will focus on two players that the Rangers have drafted in Filip Chytil and Vitali Kravtsov to assess the type of impact they may have on Broadway in 2019-2020 and if they are capable of playing as the Rangers’ #2 center behind Mika Zibanejad.

Filip Chytil

Filip Chytil was drafted 21st overall by the New York Rangers at the 2017 NHL Entry Draft in Chicago. During the 2017-2018 regular season, the Czech-born forward who started and ended the season on Broadway, got his first “cup of coffee” in the NHL, recording his first career NHL goal while adding two assists in just nine games of NHL action.

After the firing of former bench boss Alain Vigneault and the hiring of David Quinn, who is known as a coach that specializes in developing young players, Chytil was expected to make an impact in the Big Apple in 2018-2019.

In the young Czech forward’s first full season in the NHL, he suited up for 75 games while recording 11 goals and 12 assists for a total of 23 points. Seven of his 23 points came with the man advantage, including his three power-play tallies in 2018-2019.

Now, while Chytil’s numbers in his most recent NHL campaign may not turn heads or look too impressive on the surface, it’s important to consider that Chytil was playing on a weak team and was constantly being shuffled from line to line, as well as from center to wing, as rookie Head Coach David Quinn attempted to allocate enough ice time for the plethora of young talent on the Rangers roster.

After getting off to a sluggish start and failing to tickle the twine through the first 17 games of the 2018-2019 season, there were many questions surrounding the youngster and his NHL-readiness at that time. However, a power-play-goal in a mid-November game against the Vancouver Canucks sparked a five-game goal streak in which Chytil showed flashes of the player that he can hopefully become for the Rangers in the near future. 

I believe that Rangers management and coaching staff intends to eventually use Chytil as a center, it’s just a matter of when the organization believes he is ready to handle full-time 2C responsibilities. In order for the organization to truly understand the type of talent they have on their hands with Chytil, it will be on the Blueshirts coaching staff to give the Czech-born forward more ice time going forward. Chytil averaged 13:47 TOI in 2018-2019, which is a number relative to that of a third-line forward.

Quinn will need to deploy the former first-round pick in more situations in order for the Rangers to have a clearer indication on whether Chytil will eventually mature into a center or a winger. That being said, I still believe that Chytil has the ability to become a center in the NHL and a really good one at that.

Vitali Kravtsov

Vitali Kravtsov was drafted ninth overall by the New York Rangers at the 2018 NHL Entry Draft in Dallas. When Kravtsov was drafted, the Russian-born forward was a relatively unknown player to most Ranger fans and many were outraged to see the Blueshirts select Kravtsov over American forward Oliver Wahlstrom, who was selected by the Islanders. However, Kravtsov was a very effective player in the KHL over the last few seasons and appears to be ready for NHL action in 2019-2020. In addition to this, Kravtsov is staying in America this summer in preparation for this upcoming season as well as continuing to learn the English language. 

Kravtsov played last season for Traktor of the KHL, recording eight goals and 13 assists for a total of 21 points in 50 games, a really good season for the 19-year-old playing on a subpar team in the KHL. Kravtsov has “elite” potential and will likely be one of the centerpieces of the New York Rangers for seasons to come.

Kravtsov is listed as a right wing and has played as a winger throughout the majority of his career. That being said, he played center for the Russians at the U20 Four Nations tournament this past November in Honodin, CZE. Kravtsov also has experience at the center position in the MHL, where he was used as a center out of necessity, as well as his skill allowing him to be more involved in the play as a center.

Kravtsov also played as a center at the WJC earlier this year, recording six points (2G, 4A) in seven games as his unique playmaking ability and high hockey IQ allowed him to acclimate to playing an unfamiliar position and succeeding. That being said, it’s been stated that Kravtsov prefers playing on the wing and, in my opinion, is more likely to hit his ceiling as a winger.

I believe that Kravtsov will ultimately end up as the Rangers second or third-line right wing this season and that Chytil will be in the 2C spot whether the Rangers trade Strome and/or Namestnikov before the commencement of the 2019-2020 NHL season. Time will tell, but there are a lot of big decisions for David Quinn and his coaching staff as the Rangers attempt to become legit contenders once again.

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