At 22 Years of Age, is this a Pivotal NHL Season for New York Rangers’ Center Filip Chytil?

by Deb Seymour

In a day and age in which 44-year-old Zdeno Chara landed a second and possibly final, career-bookending contract last week with the New York Islanders — after a lengthy NHL career spent with the Islanders (who had originally drafted him), the Ottawa Senators, the Boston Bruins, and the Washington Capitals — one has to wonder if the average age of NHL players is, albeit slowly, in the process of creeping up. After all, 38-year-old former Chicago Blackhawk and current Edmonton Oiler defenseman Duncan Keith is still under contract and active on the Oilers’ roster, and 37-year-old goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury just signed with the Chicago Blackhawks this past offseason. The average age of the current NHL forward, however, is between 26 and 27 years old; and although in 1981 the average forward’s age was between 24 and 25 — the jump by two years by 2021 doesn’t represent that much of a difference considering a time span of 40 years.

Ages of NHL players
 John Barr | Feb 27, 2021 | Sound of Hockey

It’s noteworthy that goalies tend to be of higher average age than either forwards or defensemen, certainly worthy of discussion at another time. But if the average forward is 26.9 years old, then 22 is, rather unbelievably, not that young anymore for a starting forward in the league. In other words, if a player’s been in the league for several years by age 22, it would seem he doesn’t have another 5-7 years to prove himself worthy of a continuing starting spot — and most especially in the top six for his team.

Rangers’ center Filip Chytil, drafted in 2017 and active with the Rangers’ organization since that time, has spent several seasons of split play time between the Rangers’ AHL affiliate the Hartford Wolf Pack and the Rangers, as well as suffering multiple stints on the injured reserve list over that period. In other words, he hasn’t had any one long, unbroken streak of play time with the NHL team since 2017, especially with the Covid-19 shortened seasons of both 2019-2020 and 2020-2021. Chytil has amassed a total of 71 NHL points in 186 games played in the four seasons since he was drafted. The goals and assists numbers are almost equivalent; and he certainly doesn’t get nailed for many penalties.

Source: hockeydb.com (hockey database.com)

But what you really want to look for is production based on ice time, not just based on games played. You also want to know, is this a player who wins face-offs? Is this a player whose speed and defensive acumen negatively impact the opponent sufficiently to qualify him as a two-way, all-around player? Is this a player who can lead an offensive line’s productivity so the entire line benefits from his presence? And, is this a player who’d benefit his team in either penalty kill or power play situations?

Some of these questions have mostly intangible, eye test answers. But some of these questions have statistical responses that provide clues as to whom Filip Chytil’s been on the ice to this point in time. Chytil’s spent most of his time with the Rangers as their third line center, with multiple different wingers flanking him over his four years in the league. Here are some further stats demonstrating whom he’s been on the Rangers (Source: foxsports.com):

Filip Chytil Annual NHL Face-Off Stats:

2017-2018: 76 FOs, 28 Won, W% 36.8

2018-2019: 175 FOs, 68 Won, W% 38.9

2019-2020: 515 FOs, 198 Won, W% 38.4

2020-2021: 304 FOs, 130 Won, W% 42.8

Filip Chytil Additional 2020-2021 (Most Recent Season) Stats:

Average Time on Ice: 13.13 minutes

Shots on Goal: 76

Takeaways: 23

Given the rather low number of opportunities the overall numbers reflect, it’s a little difficult to judge who Filip Chytil would be if he’d spent more time on the ice and in pressure situations. To date, Chytil has rarely been placed on a special team; so we don’t really know what his penalty kill and power play skills would look like if he were given a greater number of opportunities. He’s also had fluctuating wingers over his four seasons in the league — which may not be uncommon on a third line, but hasn’t exactly added consistency to his personal game environment since he was drafted.

The Rangers’ audience seems divided over what Filip Chytil’s potential future is in the league. Most seem to agree that the time spent on injured reserve combined with the two most recent shortened seasons have hurt Chytil’s chances to prove what he’s really capable of. We all certainly have seen sparks of necessary speed and flashes of hockey genius from him over the past few years, and he seems to have grown as a leader on his line no matter who’s flanking him.

Could his stats be a little bit better? No doubt. Does he have potential to grow? Most likely. Will he ever be a regular top six player, either at center or at wing? Hard to tell, at this juncture. Part of the response to that question will come down to health and desire to succeed; part will come down to what his future role will be, given a new head coach with a very different style of team management than the Rangers’ previous head coach. One thing’s for sure, though: the upcoming season will be a pivotal one for the young Ranger forward, as the team determines its route to contention and which players will prove key to future success in skating toward a Stanley Cup.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: