The KHL playoffs are underway, and all eyes are now on Vitali Kravtsov and Traktor, and when the Rangers will recall their top prospect. Currently the #5 seed, Traktor is unlikely to make a run in the playoffs. The NY Post noted that Kravtsov is likely to join the Rangers “soon” with a very misleading headline. Larry Brooks doesn’t write the headline, but the article is accurate. Kravtsov, if/when his team is eliminated, will be New York bound.
Always The Plan
While much criticized to start the season, this has always been the plan for Kravtsov. Kravtsov wasn’t going to get a spot on the roster to start the season. Looking at the roster, that still makes sense. Even with the injuries and weirdness with this season, the Rangers have too many wingers. Still do, quite frankly.
Kravtsov will need top-nine minutes for this to be worth while for the Rangers. He certainly rebounded in a big way this year in the KHL. The stat line “only” has 16 goals and 24 points. But looking deeper at that Traktor roster, you realize Kravtsov had no help at all. There’s a strong case that his assist number was halved because his teammates couldn’t finish.
Watching his play in the KHL, or at least the highlight reel, Kravtsov had much more confidence than last season. He was driving to the net and protecting the puck far better, and his feet were always moving. The skill is very clearly there. With this renewed confidence, it should translate to the NHL.
Where Does He Fit Today?
Kravtsov’s spot on the 2021 roster is certainly going to be an interesting conundrum. As a RW, he’s going to be behind Pavel Buchnevich and Kaapo Kakko. That’s fine, and a sheltered third line spot might be the best spot for Kravtsov.
Colin Blackwell has thrown a wrench into all this though. Blackwell is very deserving of a top-nine role. To say Blackwell has been one of the best Rangers forwards isn’t a stretch. However that shouldn’t stop a key piece of the Rangers future from top-nine minutes. After all, a fourth line with Blackwell, Kevin Rooney, and Brendan Lemieux is still pretty solid.
The Rangers would be foolish to assume a fully healthy roster too. Given the way this season has gone, I wouldn’t be surprised if a winger loses their baby toe in a freak curling accident.
But What If….
The kid is barely 21 years old. He’s going to need time to adjust. However given the way some have reacted to Kakko and Lafreniere, I wouldn’t be shocked to see calls to trade him if he doesn’t put up 50 goals immediately.
It’s important to have Kravtsov get time in the NHL for multiple reasons. First is getting time and getting used to the NHL speed of the game. It’s rare players can come in and contribute immediately.
Second is seeing what the Rangers have in him. After all, Kravtsov’s name does come up a lot in potential trades for Jack Eichel. While I don’t think the Rangers would showcase him or even trade him, Eichel is a whole different ballgame. Eichel aside, I’d lean that Kravtsov is untouchable for the time being.
Looping back to when he joins the Rangers, all that will be determined by Traktor’s playoff run. Kravtsov won’t leave his team during the playoffs. But you can guarantee he will be called up as soon as the playoffs are over.
Vitali Kravtsov will need to quarantine after his recall. He will still be at least a week away following his arrival in New York.