There are a lot of ways to put Filip Chytil’s ability at barely 18 years old in context. Following this past weekend, we can add this to the growing list; He might just be the most important skater on the Hartford Wolf Pack.
As I alluded to a few days ago, the Hartford Wolf Pack were overly reliant on goaltending just to navigate a five-game stretch without Filip Chytil (stomach virus) in which they accumulated a 2-1-2 record. They scored just 11 goals in five games (including a few OT efforts), which would be low by NHL standards and is even worse in the higher scoring AHL.
Chytil returned to action this past Saturday and scored twice for Hartford in the first period en route to a 4-1 win over the Utica Comets.
Chytil’s line, including Cole Schneider and Vinni Lettieri, was dominant the entire night, generating sustained offensive zone time and setting up multiple near-goals on top of Chytil’s first.
While Chytil’s offensive ability has been on display since training camp, his defensive awareness is also picking up. He has become more comfortable with the system, and perhaps the language, and isn’t losing his assignment in the defensive zone as often. He also is making good reads on the fly, such as this spontaneous goal-saving deflection off a Lettieri PP turnover.
Chytil has five goals and six assists in nine AHL games, which is incredible production for any prospect and insane for someone so young. Here is how he compares to other 18-year-old AHLers in recent years.
It is unlikely that he’ll continue to shoot 20%, but even with a drop of four or five percentage points he will still continue to produce. If he can finish the season within even moderate range of David Pastrnak, William Nylander, or Jesse Puljujarvi, then it will be an incredible achievement that foretells a special NHL career.
The calls for a promotion to the NHL will come, and I get it. However, I still do not think the time is right for the Rangers to mess around. He has a good thing going in Hartford and is still figuring out life in North America. Let him continue on this rhythm and we can re-visit on New Year’s Eve.
Again, as I wrote a few days ago, Vinni Lettieri was Hartford’s best skater in Chytil’s absence. He assisted both of Chytil’s goals in Saturday’s game and also scored one of his own.
He also had a brief fight, giving him the Gordie Howe hat-trick. Lettieri now has 13 points - eight goals and five assists - in his last 14 games for Hartford. With the coaching staff unimpressed with both David Desharnais and Paul Carey, and Lettieri playing both sides of the puck well, it seems pretty clear what decision should be made.
Finally, congrats to 2016 sixth-round pick Gabriel Fontaine on scoring his first professional goal.
Chytil is obviously going to get big minutes, and there’s a more immediate need for the Rangers to see what they have in Adam Tambellini. Thus, Fontaine, a 20-year-old shutdown center, is getting bottom-six minutes and is on the back burner for now. This will be a good adjustment season for him, and he’ll surely assume a bigger role in Hartford next season.