This Rangers player ‘could have major impact’ next season, coach says

NHL: Stanley Cup Playoffs-Florida Panthers at New York Rangers
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

When the puck drops on the 2024-25 season, it’s reasonable to expect that Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Adam Fox, Igor Shesterkin and even Alexis Lafreniere will play starring roles roles for the New York Rangers.

But there’s a player who might be overlooked that coach Peter Laviolette sees as one who could have an influence on the Blueshirts’ success next season.

Filip Chytil.

“I think he’s a heckuva player,” Laviolette said Tuesday at breakup day. “I think, healthy, he could have a major impact on this team.”

Of course, Chytil’s health is a big part of the equation here. The 24-yar-old forward played only 10 regular-season games this season because he sustained an upper-body injury believed to be a concussion Nov. 2 against the Carolina Hurricanes. When it appeared he might be getting closer to a return in January, Chytil had a relapse with the injury and missed the rest of the regular season.

But Chytil never gave up on making a healthy return to the Blueshirts. And he did just that, six months after the initial injury, Chytil played in Game 3 of the second-round series against the Hurricanes. After sitting out a few more games, Chytil appeared in five of six games in the Eastern Conference Final against the Florida Panthers.

“When he was shut down for the season and the Rangers were like ‘take all the time you need,’ it was [Chytil] who was pushing and working,” ESPN’s Emily Kaplan told Forever Blueshirts. “He was the one that told them ‘I’m making significant progress, I’m ready to go.'”

That drive by Chytil certainly was noticed and appreciated by Laviolette, the front office and his teammates. Though he was far from his best in six scoreless postseason games, it was a victory simply to have him in the lineup again.

“With all that time off it’s tough to come back,” Laviolette noted.

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Chytil never doubted that he’d make it back, despite the complications he dealt with.

“No. Never. I know what was going on. Of course, it was harder to go through it but I never had it in my mind that I would never play again,” Chytil said Tuesday. “This is not how I would give up.”

Playing those six games, even without recording a point and largely playing on the wing and not at his natural center position, has Chytil feeling good heading into the offseason. And it didn’t hurt that there were flashes of his old self.

“It was huge,” he said. “I don’t know how many people expected that I’d be back and that I’m going to jump into conference finals. … That was great for me personally and for my head that I’m able to play.”

Laviolette thought Chytil was on his way to a big season before he was hurt. Centering Artemi Panarin and Alexis Lafreniere the first 10 games, Chytil had six assists and nice chemistry with his linemates.

“He has been in his career a really good player and we were hoping this would be the year he would take off,” Laviolette explained. “That looked like it was going to happen at the start when he was playing with Artemi and ‘Laf.’ Their line was excellent. Their numbers were excellent and we were really happy the way that was going.”

Laviolette was asked if Chytil is a center or wing moving forward, since he played right wing mostly upon his return with Alex Wennberg entrenched as third-line center and Vincent Trocheck, of course, a fixture with Panarin and Lafreniere.

“I think he’s a centerman.”

No matter his position, Chytil wants to get back to where he was in 2022-23 and build from there after this lost season. The former first-round pick established NHL career highs with 22 goals and 45 points that season.

“In the summer, I will work hard like always, maybe even harder because that six months was a long time,” Chytil said. “I will do everything I can to come back in September and be a better player than I ever have been before.”

And that would provide the major impact that Laviolette envisions next season for the Rangers.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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