New York Rangers youngsters stepping up when it counts
Going into this season, there was a lot of attention on the New York Rangers‘ younger players. Specifically, emphasis was placed on what kind of season Filip Chytil, Kaapo Kakko, and Alexis Lafrenière would have.
A little more than halfway through the season, it has become clear that all three have taken major steps forward. Aside from these three, Braden Schneider has further proven that he deserves the permanent spot on defense. Will Cuylle has also gotten off to a solid start.
Meanwhile, K’Andre Miller is emerging as star in his own right and a fixture on the top four of the Rangers’ blue line. You can read more about Miller here.
New York Rangers Filip Chytil on fire
Filip Chytil has recorded seven goals in his last eight games. Playing between Kaapo Kakko and Alexis Lafrenière has significantly elevated his game. It is evident how much his confidence has grown and how he has been able to shift to a shoot first mindset.
“I’ve said it so many times, I love scoring goals,” Chytil said after beating the Canucks on Wednesday. “It’s a great feeling, but it’s a great feeling because we’re winning games and getting the points. That’s what’s most important.”
This is the player the Rangers have needed him to become. Injuries have gotten in the way of his development at times, but now that he has been healthy for an extended period he has been able to find consistency. With his contract up this season, Chytil is certainly making a case for a hefty extension.
Kakko and Lafrenière heating up
The chemistry of the Kid Line is undeniable. Recently, when this trio has gone to work, good results have followed. Kakko has proven to be an excellent complement to Chytil, finding ways to get him the puck.
He has recorded six assists in the last six games, four of which have been on goals by Chytil. The remaining assist was on Lafrenière’s goal against the Florida Panthers. With only ten goals on the season, it would be ideal for him to collect some more. However, as long as he is playing with Chytil and Lafrenière, it would seem that his primary role is as a passer.
Alexis Lafrenière has also shown improvement of late with three goals and four assists for seven points in the last seven games. His overtime winner against the Calgary Flames on Monday night earned him the honor of wearing the fedora (aka Broadway Hat).
Obviously, since he was scratched for a game in December, it can be easy to talk about how he should be better than he is at this point. However, this is still only his third NHL season. He seems to be finding his way now alongside Chytil and Kakko, so he should be given more time to develop.
No doubt about Schneider
In recent years, the Rangers have had success with young defensemen. Adam Fox, K’Andre Miller, and Ryan Lindgren all quickly became extremely valuable assets. Braden Schneider adjusted to the pace of the NHL exceptionally quickly, and locked down the fifth spot on the Rangers’ defense.
In only his second season, he has continued to demonstrate his reliability in the defensive zone. He also quietly has 13 points on the season so far. Playing alongside Ben Harpur has been a good fit for him. They have made a solid stay at home defensive pair.
Of course, Schneider is now going to have to adjust to his fourth partner this season with the addition of Niko Mikkola. That being said, there’s nothing to suggest the 2020 first-round pick can’t handle it.
Cuylle bringing grit
While Will Cuylle has only played four NHL games, he has already sent a message. With fights in his second and third games, he has shown that grit is a part of his game and that he can handle this aspect of the NHL. If he consistently plays hard and a physical game, he could be a valuable piece on the fourth line. With time, the points should come as well.
Overall, the Rangers have a group of young players that are beginning to contribute in a more significant way. This is an important key to the team being a serious cup contender.
Note: All stats come from nhl.com and hockeyreference.com
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