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New York Rangers Need Lafreniere-Type Breakouts From Chytil & Kakko Next Season – Hockey Writers – New York Rangers

The New York Rangers look to enter the 2024-25 season with most of their roster still on the team that was eliminated in the Eastern Conference finals against the Stanley-Cup-champion Florida Panthers. This means they will need to rely on their young players again to take another step in their development to help the team take the next step in getting the Stanley Cup back to New York. These young players are Alexis Lafreniere, Filip Chytil and Kaapo Kakko.

Lafreniere finished last season tied with Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck, scoring 28 goals and 57 points in 82 regular season games and followed that up with an impressive playoff performance, scoring eight goals and 14 points in 16 games. Now, going into next season, the hope is that Chytil and Kakko can follow what Lafreniere did and have their breakout seasons. If they don’t, their future with Rangers could be up in the air and a move away would be a very real possibility.

Kakko Needs To Step Up His Game

The 2019 second-round pick has failed to live up to his potential in his five seasons with the Rangers thus far. His best season was 2022-23, when he scored 18 goals and 40 points in 82 games. Many thought he would follow it up with another good season, but that’s not the case. He played only 61 games due to injury and scored only 13 goals and 19 points. He followed up with a disappointing playoff run, scoring one goal and two points in 15 games. He was given a healthy scratch in the Eastern Conference finals due to his poor performance. This offseason, he signed a one-year contract worth $2.4 million and is now entering the offseason. If he ends up playing poorly again, he could be traded at the 2025 Trade Deadline or this time except next season.

Kaapo Kakko, New York Rangers (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

There is still a chance he could be traded this summer, but as the season progresses and the days pass, it seems likely that he will start the season as a Ranger. He may have to start on the third line, as Lafreniere and newly acquired Reilly Smith look to be above him on the depth chart. While that may not bode well for his offensive game, he needs to make the most of what he’s been given to start the season. He needs to shoot the puck a lot first and while he’s very good on the boards and protecting the puck, it doesn’t matter if he’s not getting scoring opportunities for himself or his teammates. Kakko must realize that this is his last chance and like Lafreniere last season, he will have to prove the doubters wrong.

Chytil Returns Healthy and Motivated

You could argue that Chytil already had a breakout season with the Rangers. The 2022-23 season saw him finally become a serious threat as he scored 22 goals and 45 points in 74 games. This earned him a four-year contract and many hoped he would build on that success in the 2023-24 season. However, his regular season ended after just 10 games due to a severe concussion and complications during his recovery. He surprisingly returned to play in the playoffs, but went 0-0 in six games. Now, with the season to begin recovery and preparation, many hope that this season will be the one where Chytil will improve on what he has done in the past.

Related: Big Need for Rangers Left Third Line Center

Chytil is likely to fill in at third-line center following the departure of Alex Wennberg. He was the second line center to start last season, but after his injury, Trocheck took over that role and his line became one of the best in the NHL. If both of them and Kakko are on the same line to start the season, they can work together as an incentive to have good seasons. They played well together when they were part of “The Kid Line” and now, they can use that chemistry to help them become better players than last season. For Chytil specifically, he needs to show that he can overcome his injury and return to being an impact player.

This time last season, there was a lot of speculation about what Lafreniere’s future with the Rangers might look like. There were trade rumors and many thought that last season was game or break for him as a Ranger. He proved his doubts wrong and showed exactly why he was selected first in 2020 and that he will be an impact player in the league for years to come. Now, the Rangers need to see the same from Chytil and Kakko. With the team looking so similar, they will be relied upon to provide deep scoring and be effective middle six players who can jump up the roster if needed.

Filip Chytil New York Rangers
New York Rangers’ Filip Chytil reacts after scoring a goal (Photo by Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Rangers, by this time next season, will be on top. They have Lafreniere, K’Andre Miller and Igor Shesterkin all looking for new contracts and it will be a challenge to match them all even with the current $88 million salary cap. If neither Chytil nor Kakko show improvement this season, both could be out the door to free up space and make room for other players coming from the Rangers system. However, if they show that they are better players, they will find themselves part of the future in New York, which is a very good situation. These will be two of the most interesting Rangers to watch next season.

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