NEWARK — Everyone, including Filip Chytil himself, knows the 22-year-old Czech needs to bring his faceoff win percentage up. But regardless of that weakness in his game, Chytil, about to start his fourth year with the Rangers, remains adamant that his future with the Blueshirts is at center, not on the wing.
"I'm a center, and I want to play center,’’ Chytil said this week. "If coach puts me on the wing, I will play there. But for me, the center is my position and I want to stay there.’’
Chytil was at center Friday in the Rangers’ first road game of the preseason against the Devils at Prudential Center. He skated between newcomer Barclay Goodrow on the left and Julien Gauthier on the right. And according to coach Gerard Gallant, he’ll be at center when the regular season begins.
"He talks about he likes to play center, well that's where we want him,’’ Gallant said. "So, hopefully things go right, and keep going the way they're going, because he's a talented young hockey player.’’
Chytil, the second of two first round picks in the 2017 NHL draft, had gotten off to a fast start last year before a broken hand derailed his season. While he was out of action, he caught COVID-19. He ended up with eight goals, 14 assists and 22 points in 42 games.
But he did still show improvement over his first two seasons. His plus/minus rating was plus-9 in 2020-21, compared to minus-7 the season before, and minus-22 in his rookie year of 2018-19. Even his faceoff percentage — 42.8 last season — was better than the previous season’s number of 38.4. His career percentage is 39.6.
But he is working hard this training camp and preseason to get better at the dots, he said. The Rangers brought in former linesman Pierre Racicot for a week to work with their faceoff men and Chytil said that has helped him.
"It's about experience, it's about strength, it's about how smart you are,’’ Chytil said. "When you put all those things together, you can be the best on the faceoffs.
"I’m getting better every day and I think I can be a good faceoff guy.’’
Gallant is confident he can, too, and while Goodrow is a career 52% faceoff man, the coach insists Chytil will take most of the faceoffs when their line is on the ice.
"You’ve got to give these guys a chance to win faceoffs,’’ Gallant said. "Now, if there's some big faceoffs and we think Goodrow can do a better job, maybe he might go in and take a few. [And] not just for Chytil.’’
Notes & quotes: Island Park native Anthony Bitetto and Farmingville native Keith Kinkaid were among a group of six players who were reassigned to AHL Hartford Friday after clearing waivers. Queens native Anthony Greco, Jonny Brodzinski, Tim Gettinger and Ty Ronning, all forwards, were the other players who were sent down. The moves leaves the roster with 34 players … Following Saturday’s game in Boston against the Bruins, the Rangers will stay in New England and after taking Sunday off, will hold practice Monday and Tuesday in South Kingstown, Rhode Island, at the rink where the University of Rhode Island plays. The idea is to get a little team bonding in.