Filip Chytil: Kid No Longer

Despite his recent scoring slump, Filip Chytil has arrived.

No combination of New York Rangers forwards has received more five-on-five ice time than the trio of Filip Chytil, Alexis Lafrenière, and Kaapo Kakko. We know them, we love them–with their powers combined, it’s the Kid Line. But these days, “Kid Line” is something of a misnomer. Yes, Kakko could still be a senior in college, and Lafrenière couldn’t buy a beer in the US until last October. Sure, their games are still developing, especially Laf’s. But Filip Chytil, at the ripe old age of 23, is a Kid no longer. After breaking out during last year’s playoffs, Chytil has established himself as an important piece of the Rangers roster. He’s no longer a prospect to dream on. He’s gone from a scrawny-looking, 17-year old draft pick to a bona fide middle-six center on a playoff team.

When the Rangers drafted Chytil with the 21st overall pick in 2017, I, like many, was somewhat confused. I hadn’t heard of him, and he seemed to be something of a reach with “sure-fire” prospects like Eeli Tolvanen, Kailer Yamamoto, and Klim Kostin (lol) still on the board. Draft prognosticators had wildly different opinions on him, ranking him anywhere from a late-first rounder to an early third. On these very electronic pages, Big Boss Joe Fortunato proffered a sensible theory about the Rangers approach: they took a big swing on Chytil, a high-variance prospect, since they already snagged a high-floor center who was all but guaranteed to be an NHL contributor: Lias Andersson. (I’m not totally ragging on Joe here; let us not forget that this was the consensus on Lias at the time).

For my part, I instantly fell in love with Chytil. I attended the preseason game in which he scored his first goal–an overtime, powerplay game-winner set up by Mats Zuccarello. It may sound silly, but it’s one of my favorite hockey memories–my friends and I on the edge of our seats, the catharsis of an OT winner, screaming “THE BOY!” as Chytil’s teammates swarmed him, hoping that he could be a bright spot in the looming dark age.

Chytil played nine NHL games that season. While it wasn’t the worst debut, he was clearly raw. And, well, yeah, he was barely 18 years old. With the rebuild fully underway during his sophomore season, Chytil became a regular, appearing in 75 games under David Quinn. He was mostly invisible, from what I recall, generally looking like a string bean on skates. This continued into his third year, and he failed to make the team out of camp. Undeterred, Chytil put up nine points in nine games for Hartford, earned a recall, and managed to stick around from then on.

The next two seasons he scored an identical eight goals and 14 assists through 42 and 67 games respectively. While the point production underwhelmed, Chytil’s metamorphosis began. Tantalizing moments of speed and skill peeked out more often, and during the 2022 playoffs, those flashes of talent coalesced into a blinding light. In 20 playoff games, Chytil nearly matched his regular season total with seven goals as the driving force of the newly-christened Kids Line. The experience gave Chytil the last piece of the puzzle: confidence.

Chytil’s offensive breakout has continued this year. He has looked more dynamic, stronger on and off the puck, and more authoritative. Plus, he’s not afraid to shoot. Production has followed, as he’s already potted 19 goals and 18 assists, career highs, while anchoring the team’s third line. Those are solid numbers, but the box score stats undersell how good he’s been this year.

Chytil sees little powerplay time, so of his 37 points, only five (three goals, two assists) have come on the man advantage. At five-on-five, his 14 goals are tied with Chris Kreider for second on the team, trailing only Artemiy Panarin’s 16. He also ranks third on the team in primary points at five-on-five, behind Panarin and Mika Zibanejad.

But here’s the kicker: Chytil has done all of this while seeing third-line minutes; on a rate basis, his scoring becomes even more impressive. He is second among Rangers in 5-on-5 Points/60 with 2.2 (Panarin has 2.4), and Chytil actually leads the team in both 5-on-5 Goals/60 (1.14) and 5-on-5 Primary Points/60 (1.87).

For context, Seattle’s Jared McCann leads the league (min. 500 minutes) in 5-on-5 Goals/60 with a whopping 1.94. Chytil currently sits at 47th in the league, edging out Nathan MacKinnon (1.13) and ahead of names like Sidney Crosby (1.12) and Kirill Kaprizov (1.07). Now, before you rush to the comments, I’m not suggesting Chytil is anywhere as good as those guys, and it is worth noting his 14.5 shooting percent is a tad high. But even stipulating some regression, Chytil has become a solid secondary-scorer and driver of play.

Chytil’s emergence is crucial for the Rangers. When rebuilding, the Gorton and Drury regimes catalyzed the process with hefty signings and extensions. While that strategy certainly can work, it necessitates an ability to draft and develop prospects who can step in and contribute while their cap hits are still low. Given the Rangers’ mixed results with such players, especially forwards, they needed a strong year from Chytil, and they’re getting one. Not for nothing, he’s the first center the Rangers have drafted to become a contributor since J.T. Miller– and even then, Miller often played wing for the Blueshirts.

Though Chytil’s importance this season is clear, his future with the team is murkier. K’Andre Miller and Alexis Lafrenière will become RFAs for the first time as their ELCs expire. Chytil, too, will become an RFA as his bridge deal expires and he gains arbitration rights; he will undoubtedly require a raise on his $2.3 cap hit. With Zibanejad and Trocheck entrenched as the Rangers’ top two centers with a combined cap hit of $14.125 million until the late 2020s, a long-term contract for Chytil may not be in the cards. Perhaps another bridge deal is in the cards, but the Rangers have a difficult cap situation going forward.

But one thing is certain: the Rangers are built to win now, and they must be thrilled that the 17-year-old, small town Czech Republic kid has grown up and into an important contributor on Broadway.

Stats courtesy of and are current as of 3/14.