New York Rangers: Expanded opportunities for young centers

Lias Andersson, New York Rangers. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Lias Andersson, New York Rangers. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The New York Rangers used their two 2017 first round picks on centers. A recent lineup shuffle will give them more time in the pivot.

The 2017 NHL Entry draft was “pivotal” for the New York Rangers organization. Due to their trade of Derek Stepan and Antti Raanta to the Arizona Coyotes, they had a pair of picks in the first round. With the Yotes pick, seventh overall, they selected Lias Andersson and with their own selection, they chose Filip Chytil, both centers.

Two seasons and a rebuild later both are in the NHL. Even though they are talented there are only four center slots in any given game. In the aftermath of Kevin Hayes trade to Winnipeg last month, the Blueshirts have been using Mika Zibanejad, Ryan Strome, Brett Howden, and Andersson in the middle. Chytil has been both ill and in head coach David Quinn’s dog house, but that’s a different story.

In an effort to spark a little more offense, Quinn is moving Strome to right wing on the top line. Howden will bump up to center the second line and Andersson will do the same on the third. Until Chytil gets situated, Boo Nieves will center the fourth line.

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This move gives players who are part of the New York Rangers long term plans more time in the positions they are most comfortable in. To improve, young players need ice time. Over the past two weeks, Andersson has been averaging just over eight minutes per night and Howden 15 minutes per night.

It’s unknown how much longer Strome will be a Rangers player. He has another season remaining on his contract which pays him $3.1M, before becoming a restricted free agent. The way things have been going, he would be an ideal trade candidate for general manager Jeff Gorton this coming offseason or near the next trade deadline.

In the meantime, why not give the younger guys some much-needed seasoning. Sure they will make more mistakes, but that’s part of the learning process. The young guys need to play and with the New York Rangers closer to the basement than a playoff spot, these last 10 games are an ideal time to do so.

There will come a day in the not too distant future when Howden (20-years-old), Andersson (20), and Chytil (19) will be the anchors of the team. It’s a great move to let them learn now so they can lead later.