After not seeing the first-round of the NHL entry-draft since 2012 (selected D Brady Skjei 28th overall), the Rangers had the luxury of two first-round picks this past June: their own 21st overall, and the 7th overall acquired from Arizona in a trade for Derek Stepan. The team, in typical Ranger fashion, went a little off the board on both picks, selecting Swedish forward Lias Andersson seventh, and Czech forward Filip Chytil twenty-first. Considerable prospects like Casey Mittelstadt and Kyler Yamamoto were both available at these positions, leading to some backlash from the New York fanbase.
Andersson’s and Chytil’s numbers were not as shiny as some of the other available players, but the former was praised as the closest NHL-ready pick at that position. After a solid camp, Andersson was sent back to the SHL’s Frolunda HC to develop. Frolunda produced another considerably talented Ranger named Henrik Lundqvist.
What made Chytil so appealing to the Rangers was the fact that he was the youngest player in the 2017 draft, and played the entire 2016 season in the top professional Czech league against players years older than he is. If Chytil was born only ten days later, he would have been eligible for the 2018 draft, making his eight points last year against tough competition look much better. After an exceptional camp, Chytil was sent to the Rangers’ AHL-affiliate Hartford Wolfpack to become acclimated to the North American style of hockey, where he is currently the youngest player in the league.
So how is he performing in the early stages of the season?
Well, in only nine games with the Wolfpack this season, Chytil has posted five goals and six assists for 11 points while sporting a +3 rating. And before anyone questions how much of this production is due to linemates, Chytil recently missed five games with a stomach bug and in that stretch the team went 2-1-2 while only scoring 11 goals. In his first game back, the dynamic Czech centerman scored two quick goals in the first period of a game against the Utica Comets, while driving possession the entire night. His 1.22 points per game is a very promising stat which looks even better when compared to other players in their 18 year-old AHL seasons, most notably David Pastrnak’s 1.12 PPG in 2014-15, and William Nylander’s 0.86 PPG in the same year. Chytil is currently shooting at 20%, a number that could dip somewhat as time goes on. But comparing again to these players, Pastrnak shot at just about 15% that season, Nylander at 19%, making Chytil’s production very possible to maintain.
The season is still young, but if Chytil can keep this pace, all signs point to his becoming a very good NHL player with a very promising future. Such a prospect is even more valuable to a Ranger team that made a gaping hole at the center position after trading Derek Stepan this past offseason. The team has still not filled Stepan’s role, making Filip Chytil a name to keep an eye out for in the near-future.