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Andersson, Chytil focal points of Rangers rebuild

Center prospects set for first full NHL seasons amid growing expectations

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil are connected to the point that they're routinely talked about in the same sentence, usually one right after the other.

These days, with the New York Rangers in full-scale rebuilding mode, the top center prospects are mentioned quite often because in many respects, they are the faces of New York's youth movement, and the first two members of its revamped and deep prospect pool who can break through to become everyday NHL players.

"Everyone knows that there are free spaces on the team for a couple young guys," Chytil said. "I'll do everything to play in the NHL all season."

Andersson and Chytil were each first-round picks in the 2017 NHL Draft; Andersson at No. 7 and Chytil at No. 21. After a year of development, featuring minimal time spent in the NHL, expectations on them now are growing.

In fact, considering the Rangers' relative inactivity in the free agent and trade market this offseason, it seems Andersson and Chytil would have to fall flat in training camp to not make the opening night roster, the first coached by David Quinn.

"They're going to give it a go and be close," Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton said.

Video: Dan Rosen talks Rangers development camp

They're ahead of the game because they both got some NHL experience last season. 

Chytil played nine games and had three points (one goal, two assists). Andersson played in seven games and had two points (one goal, one assist). They were recalled from Hartford of the American Hockey League together on March 25.

"We want young kids to make it and do well, but we won't put them in a tough spot," Gorton said. "If they're not ready, we're not going to force them in there."

Although they're linked and the expectations are the same, Andersson and Chytil are not alike, which is one of the things that intrigues the Rangers about them. 

Chytil is the super-skilled, flashy, brash one.

For example, here's his answer to a question about what he learned about himself in his short stint in the NHL last season.

"I played just nine games, but I played against the best players in the League and played with the best players on the Rangers," he said. "I played big minutes. I can score goals. I can pass the puck."

Video: TBL@NYR: Chytil nets first NHL goal from the doorstep

Is he ready to make an impact in the NHL this season?

"I'm bigger and more experienced," Chytil said. "I feel more ready to play NHL."

Andersson is more in line with the grinding, forechecking, smart, two-way centers in the NHL today. He can score (he had six goals in seven games for Sweden at the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship), but he plays a much quieter game than Chytil.

He also talks a quieter, more reserved game.

Video: WSH@NYR: Andersson scores first goal in NHL debut

"I have to be stronger and faster to be ready," he said. "I think I've got the tools to be a good NHL player someday, but you have to learn the game and be ready physically."

How did Andersson think he did in his seven games last season, when he scored a goal in his NHL debut and had an assist in his second game before being shut out in the final five?

"OK," he said. "It was up and down."

Andersson and Chytil should get the chance to straighten out their games this season. It's important that they do too, because their progress in the next eight-plus months will help determine if the Rangers are getting any closer to being Stanley Cup contenders again.

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