Andersson, Chytil Ready For Their Time to Shine

By Matthew Blittner
Special Contributor to

The future is now.

Ever since June 23, 2017, there have been two names on the radar of every Rangers’ fan; Lias Andersson (19) and Filip Chytil (18).

On the morning of the NHL’s annual Entry Draft, the Blueshirts made a swap with Arizona that shook its fanbase to the core.

The Seventh Avenue Skaters sent fan-favorite Derek Stepan and reliable backup netminder Antti Raanta to the Coyotes in exchange for Anthony DeAngelo and the seventh overall pick in the draft.

Armed with two first-round draft picks for the first time in recent memory, there was a palpable excitement as to what the Rangers’ brass was planning.

With the pick they acquired from the Coyotes, the Blueshirts selected the 6-0, 204 lbs. Swedish center, Lias Andersson.

Courtesy of the Blueshirts’ PR staff, “Andersson ranked eighth in the SHL — and led all junior players (younger than 20 years old) in the league — in plus/minus rating in 2016-17. In addition, he ranked second among all junior players in the SHL in goals and assists, and tied for second among all junior players in the league in points last season.”

Andersson opened some eyes during training camp. However, he was then sent back to the Frolunda Indians of the SHL in order to further his development.

Eventually, Lias made his way States-side and suited up in 24 games for the Hartford Wolf Pack before being called up on Sunday, March 25, 2018.

But first, let’s get back to the draft.

Later in the first-round — with their original pick — the New Yorkers drafted the 6-2, 202 lbs. Czech center, Filip Chytil.

Filip instantly showed why he deserved the honor of being drafted 21st overall.

Even though he missed the first few weeks of training camp, Chytil returned in time to earn both an opening night roster spot and the prestigious Lars-Erik Sjoberg Award. The award is given to the top Rangers’ rookie in training camp — as voted by the media.

In doing so, Filip became the fourth Blueshirts’ rookie to win the award in the same calendar year he was drafted. The others were: Dan Blackburn (2001), Filip Novak (2000) and Manny Malhotra (1998).

“Due to an injury I played my first preseason game after just two practices,” said Chytil. “So it was a little surprising that I made the team out of camp.”

Filip then appeared in the Rangers’ first two games of the season, before being sent to the AHL for more seasoning.

With that demotion, both Andersson and Chytil were no longer a part of the team’s immediate plans.

But that was only temporary.

Andersson and Chytil were recalled Sunday and they addressed the media following the team’s practice Monday morning.

“It was a long season,” said Chytil. “I worked hard every day to improve. I’m very excited to be back at Madison Square Garden!”

Added Andersson, “I’m excited. I’ve been dreaming of this for a long time!”

For those wondering why the team brought up both players together, here’s what head coach Alain Vigneault had to say: “Both Chris (Drury) and Gorts (Jeff Gorton) said they progressed nicely in Hartford. And after talking to Gorts he said he wanted to bring up both at the same time.”

[Watch Rangers-Lightning Friday on MSG & MSG GO. Download the app for free.]

After watching Lias and Filip skate, there’s one thing that stands out. They’re both going to be really fun to watch. That sentiment was echoed by two of their teammates.

“I’m sure both will have some nerves tonight,” said Jimmy Vesey. “Both are ready. They’ve played professionally before.”

“I’m never going to be hard on young guys,” continued Vesey. “I’m easy going. With all the roster turnover it feels like I became one of the older guys overnight. But I’m looking forward to starting tonight’s game with Lias and (Ryan) Spooner. Lias is a really polished player.”

“They’re both really skilled,” added Kevin Hayes. “Going to the AHL helped them. And I’m looking forward to playing with Filip tonight. He loves the game so much.”

And what do Lias and Filip think of their recall?

“I just go out there and play my game,” said Andersson. “It starts with my defense and winning faceoffs.”

“The North American game is different,” continued Lias. “You have to be stronger on the boards and the coaches here and in Hartford have been working with me to make that transition easier. This team has a really bright future and I’m glad to be here.”

“I’m very blessed to be here,” added Chytil. “To be 18 and playing in the NHL is something special. I’m more prepared now than I was before. I want to be here and I’m looking forward to tonight’s game.”

To make their transition to the NHL easier, Vigneault stated that both will start tonight’s game at their natural position; center.

“Skill adapts,” said MSG Networks Analyst Steve Valiquette. “Centers are the hottest commodity in the NHL and having depth at that position is a huge advantage for the team.”

There you have it Rangers’ fans. You should all be excited about these two supremely talented players.

But if you don’t want to take my word for it, then take the word of Rangers great, Mike Richter: “These games matter. It’s a chance for these young kids to adjust to the NHL and help make the team better.”

[Watch Rangers-Lightning Friday on MSG & MSG GO. Download the app for free.]