Filip Chytil isn’t sure if he considers himself an NHL veteran yet.
Even though he has played in 144 regular-season games and three playoff games across three seasons with the Rangers, the 21-year-old forward doesn’t see himself as a mentor despite all the reps he has taken next to rookie Alexis Lafreniere during training camp.
“I don’t know if I’m a veteran, I have a lot of games so far, but I’m trying to help him as much as I can,” Chytil said of Lafreniere, his frequent linemate throughout camp, on a Zoom call Thursday. “But he played a lot of games in Juniors, and he’s a great player, he has a great personality. I think he can do it by himself. If he wants, I can help him with everything.”
It’s understandable why Chytil wouldn’t see himself that way right now, considering how much he still wants to accomplish in his own game. Chytil has been a streaky producer since his first full NHL season in 2018-19, in which he recorded 11 goals and 12 assists in 75 games.
After not making the varsity roster out of training camp and starting off the 2019-20 season with the team’s AHL affiliate in Hartford, Chytil took significant developmental strides and seized his first call-up opportunity with points in seven of his first nine games. He remained with the Rangers until the coronavirus pandemic suspended the season in March.
He finished last season with the same 23-point total as the season before, with 14 goals and nine assists in 60 games. Chytil was then thrown into his first postseason, in which he struggled to adapt to the pace — on top of every other obstacle the abnormal bubble tournament posed — and went pointless as the Rangers were swept in three games by the Hurricanes in the qualifying round.
Now, heading into his fourth season, Chytil is tasked with further establishing himself while the Rangers’ depth at forward continues to grow with the arrivals of Lafreniere, their No. 1 pick, and Cornell star center Morgan Barron.
That’s why Chytil, the 21st-overall pick in the 2017 draft, is much more prepared to answer questions about his own game, rather than the advice he’s giving to other players.
“That was a long offseason, four months, I could work on a lot of things,” said Chytil, who scored off an assist from Lafreniere in Thursday’s intrasquad scrimmage. “The most I was focusing on was the shooting because, in the last two seasons when I played in the NHL, I had a lot of chances. I was better last year with 14 goals than the season before with 11.
“I want to score more goals to help the team so that was the thing I was focusing the most in the offseason.”
The Czech center has primarily played on the third line during his Rangers tenure, but was never quite able to find chemistry with his usual linemates like Kaapo Kakko or Brett Howden. In turn, the Rangers’ offensive production has had a significant drop off after the top six.
Chytil has shown flashes of his offensive prowess that could diminish the scoring gap, but he evidently knows he’s capable of more.
“I’m always ready to be better than before,” he said.