The 2020-21 season was set up perfectly to be the one that saw Filip Chytil breakout in a big way and securing his role as the New York Rangers’ second-line center of the future. The former 21st overall pick was lining up behind Mika Zibanejad and Ryan Strome on the center depth chart and began the season with fellow youngster and future cornerstone Kaapo Kakko on his wing.
The 21-year-old Czech center took advantage of his opportunity and looked to primed to take that next step, getting out of the gate hot with points in three of the Rangers’ first five games of the season only being held off the scoresheet in the opening night full team no-show against the Islanders and in the January 24th game that saw him exit the contest almost halfway through it.
That opening stretch of games saw the 3rd line of Phil DiGiuseppe, Filip Chytil, and Kaapo Kakko serve as the engine for the Rangers’ offense as the trio drove play over those six games to the tune of a 69.34 CF% and a 61.46 xGF% (data via Evolving-Hockey.com). Included in that stretch was probably one of the prettiest individual efforts we have seen from a Rangers forward in a while.
Those first six games really highlighted what Chytil could bring to the table for the Blueshirts as he showed an improved sense of play in both the offensive and defensive zones. This allowed Chytil’s strongest traits; his transition game, his skating with and without the puck, and his silky smooth hands to shine through leading to a budding chemistry with Kaapo Kakko. The Czech pivot was on his setting a course for the Rangers’ top two lines, especially with both Mika Zibanejad and Ryan Strome stumbling at the onset, then things went sideways.
About halfway through a January 24th contest with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Chytil collided with Penguins forward Evan Rodriguez forcing the center out of the game with an upper-body injury. While never clearly stated, it was an injury to his hand that forced Chytil from the lineup and it was later revealed that Chytil also contracted COVID-19 while he was rehabbing from his injury. All of that led to the young forward missing a full month of time and 14 games when all was said and done. In an already condensed season, missing a month is a big chunk of time and it did halt Chytil’s momentum a bit as he returned to the ice.
While there was some adjustment time for Chytil, he soon found himself skating alongside both Alexis Lafrenière and Kaapo Kakko forming what was known as the “Kid Line”, though the trio did not see the underlying success that everyone would have liked, it was a taste of what could be and allowed us to imagine the three of them together at their peak. After Chytil returned to the lineup he finished the season with 8 goals and 22 points over 42 games good for a career high 2.4 points/60.
Even with the bumps and hurdles that Chytil faced during the season, there is still a lot of good to take away from his 2020-21 season as he continued to build off of a solid underlying foundation and is developing into a strong two-way center that should get more time on the power play this season under a new coaching regime.
My Grade: B
Average Grade: B
Final Thoughts: While things remain up in the air regarding Chytil’s future, he is currently a Restricted Free Agent, the Rangers should make it a priority to retain the 21 year old and hope he continues to build on the past three seasons of success in what everyone hopes is a full, healthy 82-game campaign.