Filip Chytil 3

No Kidding

Despite being largely dismissed over the Summer months, it appears that Gerard Gallant could indeed give the Kid Line a bit more time together to start Training Camp.  While far from an endorsement for what things might look like to start the year – anyone remember trying Tony DeAngelo on the left side a couple of seasons ago – it’s an interesting move considering how they performed as a unit in the playoffs last year.

Most pundits – myself included – expected Alexis Lafreniere to end up on the top line, Kaapo Kakko to unite with Artemi Panarin and offseason acquisition Vincent Trocheck, leaving Filip Chytil to center a third line of Vitali Kravtsov and Sammy Blais.

Instead, it appears the starting point will be a little different.

Shifting Blais up to the top line will likely be in hope of unlocking some of the offense that the Rangers believe is laying under the covers of last season’s trade acquisition.  At the time, Chris Drury said they expect that Blais has more to offer offensively, and he did show at times some good ice vision and passing to go with the physical aspect that he’s more well known for. 

Whether Blais will be able to seize the chance remains to be seen, his career has been dogged by injuries and inconsistency, and on a one-year contract, his time with the Rangers could come to an end next year if he can’t figure it out.

Putting Kravtsov on the second line is perhaps an even more intriguing move.  The second line didn’t live up to expectations on many nights last year, and certainly wasn’t helped by the amount of time that Kakko missed due to injury.  Kravtsov has shown an ability to score in the KHL, and perhaps might provide a better target for Panarin’s impressive passing ability.   With just one goal in 20 NHL games as a rookie two seasons ago, Kravtsov still has plenty to prove in the NHL, but if he can find some chemistry with his fellow Russian, it could lead to a better contract next season, and a more consistent second line threat.

Which brings us to the the third line.  Last year’s Rangers really struggled to generate offense from their bottom six forwards right up until the trade deadline, when he additions of Andrew Copp and Frank Vatrano helped provide more offensive depth to the team.  Those acquisitions pushed guys like Barclay Goodrow and Dryden Hunt down the line-up, as well as returning Lafreniere to Chytil’s side.  When Kakko returned shortly before the playoffs, it set up a third line that was much more offensively talented, if still relatively unproven.

Chytil was probably the first to benefit, with the young Czech very prominent in the first round win over the Penguins.  When Lafreniere and Kakko also began to build some success, the line quickly became one of the best offensive threats on the team, carrying their play into the second round against Carolina where Gallant began to experiement with breaking them up.

As Gallant looked to get the top two lines going against Carolina, he also perhaps undermined the effectiveness of the Kids, and perhaps was one of the reasons that Kakko ended up being a healthy scratch in the decisive Game 6 loss in the Eastern Conference Finals.

Being able to recapture that play of that line from the first two rounds, would certainly benefit the team this year, even if it might cause Drury a few more headaches next Summer when no fewer than Lafreniere, Chytil, Kravtsov and Blais are all due new deals.

For the moment though, the focus is on this year, and at least going into the first day of camp, it looks like Gallant wants a longer look at what the Kid Line might bring.  Whether than proves to be the case by the time October 12th rolls around remains to be seen, but for now it’s an interesting twist on what seemed to be a fairly predictable start to camp.

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