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Andersson, Chytil optimistic about Rangers rebuild

Teenage centers key players in New York's new direction

by Aaron Vickers / Correspondent

COPENHAGEN, Denmark -- Lias Andersson and Filip Chytil are hoping to help make the New York Rangers' rebuild a quick one.

The centers, each selected by the Rangers in the first round of the 2017 NHL Draft, are at the forefront of New York's new direction.

"We talked a lot about the situation," said Andersson, 19, selected with the No. 7 pick. "We were roommates on the road. We're hanging out a lot, eating dinners, talking. We talk a lot about the future and the team and stuff like that. We're both excited.

"I'm excited for the future."

Chytil, 18, chosen at No. 21, suggested the pair doesn't feel pressured despite the expectations they'll face next season.

"It's great to be with Lias," he said. "We want to be the best team in the NHL. We want to prepare the best for next season, and we will see."

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

The Rangers will have plenty of work ahead. They went 34-39-9 and finished 20 points behind the New Jersey Devils for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference.

At a crossroads in a tough season, the Rangers announced in a letter to their fans Feb. 8 that they would be trading many of their popular veteran players to turn their focus on next season and beyond.

They did, moving defenseman Ryan McDonagh and forward J.T. Miller to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a first-round pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, a conditional first-round pick in the 2019 NHL Draft, center Vladislav Namestnikov, and prospects Brett Howden (center) and Libor Hajek (defenseman).

The Rangers also traded forward Rick Nash, their leading goal-scorer since the 2012-13 season with 145, to the Boston Bruins for forwards Ryan Spooner and Matt Beleskey, defenseman prospect Ryan Lindgren, a first-round pick in 2018 and a seventh-round pick in 2019.

Defenseman Nick Holden was traded to Boston for a third-round pick in 2018 and defenseman Rob O'Gara, and forward Michael Grabner to the Devils for a second-round pick in 2018 and defenseman prospect Yegor Rykov.

The influx of young talent, both immediate with prospects and longer term with draft picks, will help push that younger direction.

So too will Andersson and Chytil.

"The whole rebuild thing, whatever you want to call the last three months of the season, those guys are a big part of the future," said Rangers center Mika Zibanejad, Andersson's teammate for Sweden, and Chytil's opponent (Czech Republic) at the 2018 IIHF World Championship. "As a player seeing that, and I'm still a young player myself, you want to be a part of that and part of the solution and lead the way for those young guys.

"I remember how important the guys were ahead of me and a little bit older coming into the League. They mattered a lot for me. I'm hoping I can do the same for them."

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

Zibanejad, 25, understands the task Andersson and Chytil face. He played nine NHL games as an 18-year-old, months after the Ottawa Senators selected him with the No. 6 pick of the 2011 NHL Draft, and was a full-time contributor by the time he was 20.

Chytil and Andersson will see similar expectations.

"Obviously it's pressure," Zibanejad said. "But I think you can turn it into something good where you feel like people believe in you. If you don't believe in yourself, I don't think you're going to be able to get to the next step. You want to prove people wrong and you want to prove people right with the opportunities you get and the opportunities you don't get. I think it's something they've handled good so far. I'm trying to help as much as I can."

The process has started. Andersson and Chytil spent most of the season with Hartford of the American Hockey League, each in their first year playing hockey in North America.

"I've learned a lot both on and off the ice," Andersson said. "I think I've done a great job off the ice taking care of myself. Living over in North America has been huge for me. I'm far away from home for the first time in my life. It's been a good season both on and off the ice."

A seven-game stint with the Rangers to end the season has given them optimism that New York can be the destination in their second season.

"Yeah, hopefully," Chytil said. "I will work really hard in the summer. I want to play in the NHL all year."

From Zibanejad's view, they're on their way.

"What I've seen, I've liked," Zibanejad said.

"It's hard to refer back to those seven games, but you see their potential, obviously, and you see what they could be. Now you're just hoping that the work is there and the timing is there, and they get the opportunity to grow and not be rushed into something. I think the Rangers are doing a good job of that and are continuing to do a good job with that.

"That's what I'm hoping for both of them."

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