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Filip Chytil — I thought Neal Pionk’s opening preseason game was impressive on Monday, but it had nothing on Chytil’s.
There’s going to be a lot of eyes on Chytil this preseason for a plethora of reasons. I’m not sure there’s been a prospect who has been universally taken to as quickly as Chytil has -- and for good reason. I often talk about this world of social media that allows us to accurately follow the progress of overseas prospects, and Chytil’s age, experience, and skill has thrown him to the top of the charts. The reality of the situation is that Chytil turned 18 just two weeks ago, and he’s already seen a full year of experience in a men’s league, and three years playing in a league where he was at best a year younger than everyone else. It showed at the NHL level Wednesday night.
Alain Vigneault talked about how he was surprised to see Chytil go to the dirty areas of the ice in a game, even though he had done it so often in practice. I was more surprised at how polished his transitional game was. He moved through the neutral zone fluidly, and didn’t hesitate on passes. His vision is at the Mats Zuccarello level (insane), and he has a sneaky good shot. In tight, he made two or three moves that you wouldn’t expect out of a veteran, and found space to create or take quality chances.
Most impressive? His Hockey IQ. I know people use that term a lot and don’t back it up, but he knows where the soft spots on the ice are. Here’s his overtime winner:
Actually, one more of the goal + the celebration pic.twitter.com/4iCHz54wvD— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) September 21, 2017
Again, just a little two-foot shift to move himself out of the lane blocked by the low defender and into space where he could take the shot. It’s hockey smarts you don’t often see from an 18-year-old. Oh, he also won 56% of his faceoffs if you care about that sort of thing.
I’m not sure if Chytil is going to make the team this year, but I have no doubts that this kid is an NHL-caliber player at the very least.
Kevin Shattenkirk — It’s sort of amazing that Chytil pushed Shattenkirk to the second listing here, but that’s what happened. Can I say, first of all, how nice it is to have a competent defenseman at actually moving the puck out of the zone with either possession or a pass in space? Shattenkirk recorded his first assist of the night by springing Jimmy Vesey who then sprung Kevin Hayes for the goal. Shattenkirk finished the night with three assists and nearly ten minutes on the man advantage (there were, uh, a lot of penalties). He was as good as you could possibly want him to be. If not better, for an opening night.
Chris Kreider — A goal and an assist, to go along with a dominant night. Sure, he was able to push the preseason Devils around easier than he probably would an actual NHL team, but Kreider was all over the ice, hit the post once, and was generally a beast.
Kevin Hayes — On the podcast a few weeks ago we talked about whether or not we saw Hayes “breaking out” this year now that he was (seemingly) no longer going to be boxed into a two-way role. He scored a beautiful opening goal and was a factor all night. In a somewhat surprising move, however, he played the second-highest total on the penalty kill among forwards. That might be because there wasn’t much for Vigneault to work with that he knew, and the fact that both teams played about half the game at even strength, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
David Desharnais — Scored a goal, hit the post, played over eight minutes on the power play, and won over 53% of his faceoffs. I liked what I saw.
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Lias Andersson — I didn’t even realize Andersson was playing until midway through the second. He played just 12 minutes, though, which is a little bizarre. Daniel Catenacci (who is and will continue to be a career AHLer) played more than him. So did Ryan Gropp. Just odd.
Marc Staal -- Akin to Nick Holden on Monday, Staal was not one of the Rangers better defenseman. Actually, he might have been the worst, or at least in the conversation. Pionk and Anthony DeAngelo put a lot of pressure on both Staal and Holden with their game Monday night, and neither Holden nor Staal gave any real indication they should be sticking in this lineup.
Andrew Desjardins — I’ll just say that you can’t force a player to be what they’re not simply because you need it.
Matt Puempel — Not that he was bad, specifically, but I don’t see any way he makes the team as anything other than a spare forward this year. He did win his fight.
Ryan Gropp — I will fully admit this might be my own personal bias, but I didn’t notice Gropp all that much at all. I think he took a big step back last year (sure, he was a PPG, but only after Mathew Barzal came back) and I’m not seeing all that much out of him right now.