Filip Chytil Should Start the Season in the AHL

The Rangers’ top prospect could benefit from starting the season in Hartford.

When the Rangers stepped onto the stage at the 2017 draft and selected Filip Chytil out of the Czech league with the 21st overall pick, many were...well, let’s say surprised to say the least. Chytil was one of the youngest players selected in the 2017 Draft, and the scouting reports all talked of there being raw skill and upside there in the young center. After going safe by selecting Andersson with the 7th overall pick, it seems the Rangers went for long range upside with Chytil with their 2nd first-round pick that year.

Going into the preseason there were some questions on whether Andersson and/or Chytil should or could make the team, then this happened:

Chytil impressed in preseason, so much so that he actually earned a literal cup of coffee with the Rangers, playing in two games and getting a whopping five minutes of ice time in each game. Because Alain Vigneault knows how to deal with young players. Anyway, young Filip was then sent down the AHL to work on his game as a top center for a mostly bad Hartford Wolf Pack team. Being sent down to the AHL didn’t seem to affect the 18-year-old all that much; being one of the youngest players in any league is a rather daunting task no matter player and Chytil handled himself well to the tune of 31 points in 46 AHL games last season.

Filip then earned himself a call up at the coda of what ended up being a funeral dirge of a season for the Rangers with both Chytil and Andersson playing in the team’s last seven games, during which both rookies picked up their first NHL goals. In between that, Chytil also played a starring role for the Czech Republic World Junior team in late December and handled himself well in that role, though he did seem a bit inconsistent.

All of this leads up to what has been one of the more fascinating, albeit quiet, offseasons in recent Rangers memory. The Rangers are rebuilding and this season seems like it is going to be one focused on seeing what the franchise has in some of their younger players and making tough decisions on the more experienced players on the roster. One of the bigger questions seems to be what to do with Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil, more so the young Czech rather than the young Swede, but I think the answer is pretty obvious.

Filip Chytil should at least start the season in the AHL in 2018.

I know, I know. After seeing the brief flashes from the teenager it is very tantalizing to let #ChytilMania run wild and pencil the kid into the Rangers’ top six to see what they have there. While very tempting, I think we have to add some context and pull back a bit on the reins here. Let’s take a basic look at Filip Chytil’s professional hockey career for a second because it is very, very brief.

Above is a screenshot of Filip Chytil’s HockeyDB page. His entire professional hockey experience consists of 93 games, 55 of those in the Western Hemisphere. Compare the above to his draft mate, Lias Andersson;

Andersson had 86 games of professional hockey under his belt before he came across the ocean to play with the Wolf Pack. This also doesn’t include national team play, either and Chytil has very little experience there too. The point is, what we’ve seen from Chytil has been impressive but there is very little of it that says he’s ready.

Now, I’m not saying that Chytil should stay in the AHL for long, but keeping him there for another half season or even for the first few months of the season is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, let's take a look at some notable 18-year-olds to play in the AHL in the last dozen years or so.

(NHLe numbers courtesy of Manny Elk’s most recent NHLe factors)

William Nylander and David Pastrnak I think are the two names that will stand out here, two young highly skilled forwards who tore up the AHL in their first seasons in the league as 18- year-olds and who have gone on to dominate in the NHL just a few years later. Both saw more than one season of service in the NHL’s primary developmental league, and the results speak for themselves.

In his next season, Nylander was kept in the AHL and tore the league apart for half a season before getting called up to the Maple Leafs full time and David Pastrnak established himself in the NHL as a player on the rise on a solid Bruins offense. Now could Chytil follow in Pastrnak’s skate grooves and make the jump right to the NHL? Sure, but there’s also no need to rush a player that is looked upon as a cornerstone of the next great contending Rangers team.

The fact of the matter is that the Rangers are not going to be a good team next year.  Playing Andersson and Chytil in a limited role and/or shifting them to the wing to force them into top six roles on a team that is not ready for them yet won’t help their development.

Andersson right now can probably slot in as the Rangers third-line center behind Mika Zibanejad and Kevin Hayes, allowing Boo Nieves or some other limited ceiling player take that fourth line spot while Chytil helms the top line of what should be a revamped Wolf Pack team.

One thing a rebuild requires is patience, not just from the fanbase but also the front office. Filip Chytil is a key part of the future of this team. Let’s not try and force him into the present just yet.

Where should Filip Chytil start the 2018-19 hockey season?

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