New York Rangers first-round pick Vitali Kravtsov intends to come to North America once the KHL season ends.
When the New York Rangers selected Vitali Kravtsov ninth overall, they weren’t sure when he was going to join the team. He has one year remaining on his KHL contract, but he had an option to buy himself out of it.
After his representatives discussed the situation with Jeff Gorton and company, the decision was reached to have him play out his final season with Traktor Chelyabinsk. However, according to Dan Rosen of NHL.com, Kravtsov still intends to play in North America at some point during the season.
The regular season in the KHL ends early (February 22 this season), which would leave roughly a month and a half in the NHL season. While that isn’t a lot of time, it is enough for Kravtsov to get his feet wet in the smaller rinks of the AHL.
It’s likely that he would be sent to Hartford to join the Wolf Pack when he comes over—if there is any season left. The Rangers aren’t expecting to compete this season and it wouldn’t make sense to burn a year off of his entry-level contract for what would be a month and a half of relatively meaningless hockey.
Kravtsov had seven points in 35 regular season games in the KHL as a 17-year-old last season, the second most ever by a draft-eligible player. He really found his stride in the playoffs. He produced six goals and 11 points in 16 postseason games in the second-best hockey league in the world. He was named the KHL’s rookie of the year (Alexei Cherepanov Award).
The Rangers see similarities between Kravtsov and Washington Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov, although they noted one large difference between the two. According to Rosen, the team feels that Kravtsov is more physically developed than Kuznetsov was.
“However, [Gordie] Clark said the difference between Kravtsov and Kuznetsov is Kravtsov is more physically mature than Kuznetsov was at 18. He said Kuznetsov was ‘skin and bones’ in his draft year; Kravtsov has muscle and a wider, stronger frame.”
Kravtsov will have one more season to hone his skills in the KHL before joining fellow first-round picks Filip Chytil, Lias Andersson, and Brady Skjei as parts of a young core that will include fellow Russians, Pavel Buchnevich and (eventually) Igor Shestyorkin.