Vitali Kravtsov has been in the news a lot lately. After opting to return to the KHL this season, Kravtsov has had a rough go of it. He played 11 games with Chelyabinsk, putting up 2-1-3. That looks bad, but the team is downright atrocious (-30 goal differential, last place) and is run poorly. Think the KHL version’s of the Knicks. Kravtsov was then demoted to the VHL. There was a lot of overreacting on Sunday. I wanted to let this settle before addressing it.
1. People are using the VHL demotion and the return to the KHL to state that Kravtsov has attitude issues. I find that to be a load of crap, and if he were anything other than Russian no one would be concerned about attitude issues. The kid is 19, he’s struggling. Kids go through this, and using Chelyabinsk as your measuring stick for how an organization should be run is probably not the best idea.
2. Another piece is that folks are a little upset that Kravtsov “wants to be treated differently.” First things first, you have no proof of that. You’re using your Russian bias again. Second, absolutely the Rangers should be treating him differently, and I’m not alone in this thinking. Kravtsov shouldn’t expect it, but we should expect the Rangers to their top non-Kakko winger, their 9th overall pick, and their top non-NHL prospect differently. He’s a difference maker, a true top-six winger at a position where the Rangers are woefully thin.
3. Given how Chelyabinsk are handling Kravtsov, Jeff Gorton should 100% be looking to get Kravtsov back to the AHL. Hartford has been an overwhelmingly positive environment this season, a testament to both John Davidson’s and Chris Drury’s actions. Kravtsov will have fellow KHLers Yegor Rykov and Igor Shesterkin there as well to help him ease into the game. He would immediately get top line time to help him rebuild his confidence. Again, this worked for Filip Chytil. It’s working for Lias Andersson. Let him dominate the KHL and get that swagger back.
4. Just a quick note on #3 – the Rangers have Kravtsov’s rights and he’s being loaned to the KHL. They can, at any point, recall him. They won’t without his permission, obviously, but it’s worth noting.
5. The NY Post says that Gorton is in fact looking to bring him back. Gorton is on record saying they’ve spoken regularly with Kravtsov’s agent about his status and what he would like to do. Make no mistake, the Rangers want Kravtsov under their development plan and with their people. The Rangers get a lot of things wrong with lesser prospects, but they have yet to really screw up a true high-end prospect once he’s been established as legit (Dylan McIlrath notwithstanding). The jury is out with Kravtsov –and Lias Andersson, but there’s debate on how high-end he actually was, but I digress– but Jeff Gorton and company have earned some benefit of the doubt in this regard.
Edit: 6. Chelyabinsk doesn’t play for 10 days, which may have had a role in this.