Which New York Rangers need to find another level to help team make playoffs

kaapo kakko chytil
Jan 11, 2020; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; New York Rangers center Filip Chytil (72) is congratulated by right wing Kaapo Kakko (24) after scoring during the first period against the St. Louis Blues at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Rangers have added crash to their flash this offseason. It did come at a price when they opted to trade Pavel Buchnevich for pennies on the dollar due to cap concerns.

The Blues sent over big winger Sammy Blais as part of the package, but the move was really to avoid committing a big cap hit to Pavel. St. Louis signed Buchnevich for 4 years at $5.8M per season soon after the deal.

That decision means someone must pick up the offensive slack on the top line. There’s several possible candidates to do so, but one stands out.

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Kaapo Kakko must produce better offensive numbers

Kaapo Kakko was selected second overall in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. The 6-3 winger is now 20 years of age and must take a giant leap forward in his development. He finished the 2020-21 campaign with 17 points on the strength of 8 goals in 48 games.

“Of course I would like more points,” Kakko told YLE News. “When I played in Finland, it was all working for me. Now the last few seasons (in the NHL) have been quieter for me.” Still, Kakko views last year as a step in the right direction. “I’m pleased with [how I played]. I was able to improve my game.”

Gerard Gallant has been pretty adamant about giving young players an opportunity. He’s also openly stated that he doesn’t believe top prospects should be utilized on the fourth line. “I don’t think young players can sit on the fourth line and get a lot out of that,” Gallant explained his philosophy on development. “I think young players with a lot of talent if they are first, second, or third line hockey players you’ve got to play them.”

Can Kakko do it? The good news for the Rangers is when you look at Kakko through some different lenses, there’s small signs that he can pick up Buchnevich slack. He still ranks first in goals for all players selected in the 2019 Draft with 19 tallies. He also ranks second in points with 40.

Bottom line, with the physicality on the bottom six addressed, Kakko may very well be one of the most important players to the Rangers and their playoff hopes for this season.

Jacob Trouba must pick up his play on the ice

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Bruce Bennett/POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports

When the Rangers lost Trouba to a concussion in the first period of crucial game against the Islanders in April, it had major ramifications. Without the 27 year-old defenseman, the Blueshirts lost that game and were quickly removed from the playoff picture after a serious push that started in March.

Trouba’s importance to this team goes way beyond his on-ice efforts. Thanks to his calming influence, rookie defenseman K’Andre Miller had an outstanding inaugural campaign. Miller also publicly cited how helpful Trouba has been to him personally on and off the ice.

He currently wears an A, and is being considered for the next Rangers captain. However; the Rangers need him to return to his 2018-19 form. In his last season with the Jets, prior to the Blueshirts trading for him, Trouba scored 50 points in 80 games. So far in NY he’s only scored 39 points in 108 contests.

If the Rangers want to make the playoffs, he needs to produce more offensively while being the team’s go-to shutdown defender late in games.

Filip Chytil must find another level

He showed real promise this past season despite an injury to his wrist. In 42 games, he scored 22 points a .14 points per game improvement over his previous year. The young center, who still seems better suited at wing is now signed for two season at $2.3M AAV.

Chris Drury has reshaped the bottom six of his lineup in order to diversify the way the Rangers play. Barclay Goodrow could center the third line and allow Chytil to play the wing and thrive. If Gallant also drop Chris Kreider to the 3rd line LW, that unit could not play a heavy game, but could add some scoring punch.

Regardless, this is a big season for the former first round pick, 21st overall in the 2017 Draft. He is a trade chip for Chris Drury, but if he remains, Chytil must find that other level or find himself elsewhere to make way for other prospects like Will Cuylle or Brennan Othmann.

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Anthony Scultore is the founder of Forever Blueshirts and has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL... More about Anthony Scultore

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