Pavel Buchnevich, Neal Pionk, and Jesper Fast

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Hartnett: Positive Signs Abound Despite Rangers' Preseason Loss To Flyers

David Quinn's Squad Continues To Grow

Sean Hartnett
September 20, 2018 - 1:40 pm
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Although the Rangers fell 6-4 to the Philadelphia Flyers in their second preseason tune-up, the biggest takeaway was the impressive performance of 19-year-old center Filip Chytil.

Chytil showed that he can really take over a game with his acceleration and deft stickhandling. He possesses an extra gear that allows him to leave opponents in an instant.

On his third period goal he split two Flyers with some fancy stickwork and scored past netminder Carter Hart with a short-side wrister.

“Chytil obviously showed a lot of spurts, a lot of good moments for him,” head coach David Quinn said. “He’s an explosive player and he’s a threatening player every time he has the puck out there. Good to see him out there in an exhibition game and get a game under his belt. It’s nice to get a goal. Obviously, it’s been duly-noted how we feel about him and what a big part of our future he is.”

His quick stride, rapid release, playmaking vision, tenacious forechecking, and defensive IQ add up to one very promising teenage talent. Once he fills out his lean frame and learns the ins and outs of being a pro, the Rangers are going to have the genuine No. 1 center that has been missing from the equation for some time.

MORE: Hartnett: Takeaways From Rangers Preseason Opener

I think a lot of general managers around the league are going to be kicking themselves for letting Chytil slip to the Blueshirts at 21st overall in the 2017 NHL draft.

Other positive signs

  • Pavel Buchnevich continued his strong preseason with another two-point performance. He’s consistently getting to rich goal-scoring areas and making high IQ plays. I don’t think anyone would be surprised if the 23-year-old enjoys a breakout year with Quinn prepared to feed him consistent top-six minutes.
  • Defenseman Brendan Smith performed well on both ends of the ice and recorded one assist in 18:39 TOI. The 29-year-old blue liner’s subpar performances last season landed him in AHL Hartford, but Smith has now been given a clean slate under Quinn. The Rangers will be pleased if Smith rediscovers the level of execution he displayed during the 2017 playoffs. It was those performances that encouraged the front office to sign Smith to a four-year $17.4 million contract to avoid him slipping to free agency last summer.
  • Matt Beleskey scored a nifty snipe after Smith intercepted a Dale Weise pass and fed Beleskey with a drop pass. Beleskey only made one appearance for the Rangers last season after he was acquired in the trade that sent Rick Nash to the Boston Bruins. Beleskey is known to play a physical brand of hockey, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that he logged 15 goals in the 2015-16 season and 22 goals in 2014-15.
  • Ryan Spooner notched two points, with both coming on the power play. Spooner recorded 16 points (four goals, 12 assists) in 20 games after arriving from the Bruins last season in that same Nash trade.  

MORE: Rangers Acquire Defenseman Adam McQuaid From Bruins

Things to improve

  • Henrik Lundqvist endured a difficult return to action. The 36-year-old goalie surrendered five goals on 22 shots over 26:37 TOI. Dustin Tokarski replaced Lundqvist halfway through the second period to make his first appearance in a Rangers uniform. He managed to save 10 of the 11 shots he faced.
  • The Rangers and Lundqvist were not on the same page, but the Blueshirts finally settled down once Tokarski entered the game. It definitely wasn’t Lundqvist’s night, partially because the Rangers were outshot 30-22 in the first 40 minutes. David Quinn's squad flipped the switch in the final frame, outshooting the Flyers 18-3.
  • Mika Zibanejad largely did not look like himself. His timing appeared off and he was out of step with his teammates. (Hey, that’s why you play the preseason.) That being said, he still recorded a power play assist and won 17 of 21 face-offs.

The Rangers will travel to Bridgeport, C.T. to face the Islanders on Saturday night before welcoming the Devils to The Garden on Monday.

Follow Sean on Twitter -- @HartnettHockey