Reasonable expectations for Vitali Kravtsov

Vitali Kravtsov is set to make his Rangers debut sometime this week, and it is going to come with a set of expectations. There will be some who expect him to produce immediately, all logic out the window. There are others who expect nothing, thinking he is a bust. Any expectations regarding Vitali Kravtsov should be set in reality, and based on actual facts.

Kravtsov had a solid season in the KHL before coming over to the Rangers. His line of 16-8-24 in 46 games may seem pedestrian, but he was the most talented player on the team. He would have finished with far more points, notably assists, had he been surrounded with actual talent. Be that as it may, it doesn’t mean Kravtsov is some savior, set to ignite the Rangers struggling offense.

Best Case Scenario

The best case scenario is that Kravtsov is inserted into the top-nine and instantly clicks with his linemates. It is expected he will be on the third line with Alexis Lafreniere and Filip Chytil, probably the two most talented players he’s played with in two years.

The tertiary scoring provided by the first round pick line, or at least the scoring chance generation, would give the Rangers another added weapon in the lineup. Perhaps it draws attention away from the top-six, giving them a little more open ice to work with.

If this is the best case, then Kravtsov is scoring at a decent pace. In the 22 games the Rangers have left, he’d be close to 15 points in this best case scenario. As nice as that sounds, it’s highly unlikely.

Worse Case Scenario

On the flip side, the absolute worst case scenario –barring injury– is that Kravtsov looks absolutely lost in the top-nine. He’s bumped to the fourth line, where he’s relegated to playing with Brett Howden and Kevin Rooney. Or worse, on the taxi squad.

We saw how well that went last year, although this year would be under different circumstances. It wouldn’t be a defenseman playing forward getting ice time. It would be others who are playing better than him that are keeping him from his expected role.

That would be on Kravtsov, and perhaps that skill wouldn’t be translating to the NHL. After all, not all first round picks, even top ten picks, hit. However it’s assumed he will at least get a shot.

I know where the comments are going to go if I don’t mention it here. There is another worst case scenario where he outplays those players, but is still on the taxi squad. I’m focusing on the player, not the coaching and the lineup decisions.

Realistic Expectations

Realistic expectations for Vitali Kravtsov require some objective thinking. Less emotions, less “this is what others have done,” and less “well he *should* be doing this.” So let’s lay out the facts.

  1. Kravtsov is a very talented top-ten pick with top-six upside. His floor is likely top-nine.
  2. Kravtsov had an excellent season in the KHL.
  3. Kravtsov struggled last season, both on the ice and off the ice at 19 years old.

Given what happened with Lias Andersson, the Rangers are going to give Kravtsov a long leash. He’s going to get the chance to play through his issues. Kravtsov is going to have flashes of brilliance, and flashes of brain farts. That’s expected.

If Kravtsov puts up 10 points in his first 22 games, I will be mildly surprised. There is too much going on right now outside of his control. He will get bounced around the lineup, most likely. Even if he doesn’t, he will be playing with Chytil and his (likely) still healing thumb. He’s also joining a team that is having legitimate issues generating scoring chances. I think realistic point expectations for Kravtsov are in the 5-10 range.

Vitali Kravtsov is still a rookie. Not all rookies do what Adam Fox and K’Andre Miller have done. It will take time. There will be growing pains. Just stick with the kid. He’s not a bust just because he doesn’t put up 20 points in 22 games to start his career.

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  • Reasonable expectations for Kravtsov? He doesn’t score in 2 games, playing less than 12 minutes in each, and Quinn will scratch him in favor of Brett Howden.

    Under a real coach, Kravtsov would have the ability to go out and play his game. Too bad the NY Rangers do not have a real coach.

    • David Quinn is a real coach. He has his faults like anyone else but for a rookie head coach I think he’s done a good job.
      As far as Howden goes, for all we know it’s Gorton that is making DQ use the heck out of Howden. Maybe they don’t want to believe they got fleeced in that trade for McDonagh and Miller. Or maybe someone sees a part of his game and feels he can be turned into a solid NHL player. There have been so many players come through the NHL I’m sure there’s been a comparable player that made it.

      • I doubt Gorton is making DQ play Howden, if that were the case then I’m sure he would also demand that guys like Kakko and Lafreniere get 12-15 minutes a night on a consistent basis.

  • My Over/Under is 8 points (assuming he suits 22 games) with a +/- of 0 and TOI of 12 mins. I could live with that.

  • I’m concerned about how he is handled seeing how some other youngster were in the past and during this season.

  • It is just great that the kid is going to get some NHL time this season and so will have some under his belt for the next one.

  • “I don’t know what happened, I just lost Kravtsov and Lafrenière and Chytil on the bench.”

    I can already hear Quinn saying this.

  • Krav will start off on the third line strictly as window dressing to appease the FO and fan base. He will make his rookie mistakes & subsequently he’ll get zero PP time. He will become a product of Quinn’s delusional visions of a Stanley Cup championship (or job security worries) which will put Kravtsov in the 7-8 minute TOI range with cursory shifts on the 4th line. Then Kravtsov and his agent will be pissed again. UNLESS Quinn wakes the hell up and plays him expecting his rookie transgressions and gives him the NHL experience he needs.

  • its getting a little tiresome dont you think the Rangers cuddling these Euros. funny how you mention Fox and Miller two north americans. Coinscience ? this guys got pavel brendl writtem all over him. would of been better served drafting oliver walhlstrom who only was begging to be drafted by the Rangers and instead fell rite into the islanders lap. who running this teams draft gordie ( euro loving ) clark.

    • What’s a “coinscience”? Is that something you get when you love North American hockey players and denigrate European ones?

      That’s pretty cool. I bet Quinn has one of those as well.

        • Ubatz is “crazy” in slang I think; I never knew how to spell “ungatz”, thanks!! That means “nothing”, right? If I remember my Sopranos properly.

          • It’s an expression like, “You’ll get di**!” (unfortunately). But you’re right, it’s like saying (emphatically), “You’ll get NOTHING.”

  • By far, the biggest roadblock to success initially will be Quinn and the ice-time he gives him. It will be limited for sure, and I’m sure he will end up on the 4th for a bit and a healthy scratch at times. This is Quinn’s MO. He really handcuffs these young offensive players right out of the gate. Rightfully so in some cases, but it feels over the top with others.

    I don’t expect Kravstov to be treated any differently. 10 points is probably a bit much. I honestly expect more in the 5-7 range, really just because he won’t get the chance. We’re in the middle of a playoff run here, and it’s going to take some time for him to adjust and for Quinn to feel comfortable with him. If nothing else, it will give Kravstov some NHL experience to carry into next season.

    • I would be expecting 7 if he *does* get a chance, i.e. consistent 3rd line time. less as he spends more time in the quinn bin.

  • My hope is that he begins to feel like he is part of the team through some mentoring and friendship with Buch and Igor and finds on-ice chemistry with the other youngsters.

    My expectations are that if Krav’s is a wing on a Chytil-centered line his effectiveness will be limited. Quinn will then Eff it up by cutting his ice time and he becomes Lias 2.0.

    Man, I hope I am wrong.

    • So here is the conundrum; Krav is a RW. Move Buch? Move Kakko? Don’t play him on 4th line!
      Sit Gauthier? You can only develop a limited amount of players each year.

  • The kid is supposed to be sniper. So wherever and whomever he plays with he needs to find room/open space in scoring position and shoot. If he does this enough, he’ll score. Lose your check and head for the front of the net works too. If he just hangs out on the perimeters he’ll be banished to 4th line purgatory or benched. It’s not impossible to accomplish though. Just look at Oliver Walstrom is doing on the Isles. If Kratsov starts scoring, who cares about his defense for now? Kinda tired of DQ forcing ALL his players into the same defense first mentality. It’s perfectly fine to have a Mike Bossy type on your team. Give it a try DQ.

  • Reality check. Is he better than LaF? Is he better than Kakko? What have they done so far? Don’t expect anything from him and you won’t be disappointed. How long did it take Buch to “get it”? He will not play in all 22 games because there are too many top 9 forwards. I don’t think he will be put on the fourth line because that is not his game. If and when the Rangers are out as a playoff team his ice time will increase.

  • I think the best advise for him is to meet with Howden and ask him how does HE do it. You know. Suck, make mistakes and still play a lot? If Kravs can get to that understanding his upside might be realized.

  • Another soft European player to add to the list of soft European forwards Chytil, Kakko, Bush and defenseman Hajak. To many soft players don’t cut it in playoff hockey. The grittier bigger talented teams like Washington, the Islanders, and others win. I believe the Rangers in the long run will regret passing on Wahlstrom (now on the Islanders) a grittier talented potential power forward. I was really disappointed they didn’t draft him instead.

    • Have you watched Kakko play this year? He’s clearly less soft than he was last year and is on the same trajectory as Buch, only at a younger age. Speaking of which, are you going to tell me Buch is NOW soft? Many Euros need time to adjust to the more physical aspects of the NA game, for years they were able to focus on skill and finesse, to play on a 100′ wide rink where it’s easier to avoid physical contact and gives you that split second more to make a play — but that doesn’t necessarily make them SOFT.

      • When Konecny slewfooted Zibby over the weekend, it was Buchnevich and Fox who were blasting Konecny. Not Lemieux, our alleged avenger….

        • Aye … Buch has become a bit of a beast. I mean who on this team has given Marchand more shit than Buch in the last 2 years?

      • Some European players adjust, many don’t. Come playoff time, the talented plus physical, gritter teams prevail in the long run. They lack a certain toughness or attitude and they can be intimidated physically thus neutralized IN PLAYOFF HOCKEY. To many finesse players is unbalanced. That is why if we have those players, we need other gritter players to step up and help protect them and keep the other team honest. We will see how they preform if the Rangers make the playoffs.

  • Dave, I understand trying to separate out the performance expectations from the coaching-influenced ones, but that’s difficult to do here, since a big part of Kravtsov’s success will depend on how he’s used by Quinn. To me, the fact that he didn’t play Sunday, and may not play tonight, already speaks volumes regarding what we can expect.

      • 5-7 points if Krav gets normal third-line usage seems right, meaning 13-15 minutes per game. that’s in line with 0.2-0.3ppg using kakko and lafren as benchmarks, which are scoring rates none of us are thrilled with but no reason to believe krav should over- or under-perform given the same opportunities.

        much less if he ends up marginalized.

  • Reasonable expectation is management waiting to play him in less than 10games in order to save a years contract. And he will be on the 4th line and have an average of 7min ice time. Quinnbe will kill his confidence and he will opt out AGAIN. He is the next Anderson! They KILL their young players!!! Quinn needs to go!! Horrible coach and they do not play for him!! But he is Gortons butt buddy!

  • Kravtsov is a fairly tall guy at 6ft 3. He supposedly goes at around 185 pounds presently. I think that he will need to put on some more muscle to do what he likes to do, and that is operate in the contested spaces and get to the net. He is pretty skilled and if Buchevich is any comparison, should eventually blossom into a good top six forward for the team. I have pretty high hopes for him because he appears to have good hands and a sniper’s focus.

  • *if* he plays 22 games with real ice time, I think 5-10 points sounds right for a reasonable expectation. due to the other factors we all expect (getting bounced around the lineup, benched for howden, etc).

    Dave assumes that the kid will get a long leash; Dave may be an optimist 🙂

    at least it’s not Buffalo

  • Dave, I will have to completely disagree with the long leash. 3 reasons.

    1. Dq. will require him to play defense well on the 4th line before giving him offensive responsibilities.
    2. Russian player. We know how dq loves euros
    3. No Knoblauch Without a coach that can make game time changes we are screwed.

  • Let’s start with the obvious – the Rangers won’t make the playoffs this year. Boston still has 6 games with Buffalo. So the year needs to be about development.

    However, development is complicated. It is not simply letting the kids play. You want to support team morale, which means you care about winning and rewarding effort. And you need to give young players experienced players to play with so that they can properly learn the game. I suspect Kravtsov can learn more playing with Rooney and Blackwell than with Chityl and Laf.

    Dave, you focus way too much on talent. Talent does not win hockey games. What wins is a high playing level. Talent must be honed, not rewarded. Being talented is its own reward.

    I also try to think more highly of these kids than most here do. How would I react if I were Krav or Laf and got benched so that Howden could play? Gee, here’s this guy with half the talent I have but works his ass off playing ahead of me. That seems like a spur.

    Years ago, the Knicks drafted a hotshot guard named Walt Frazier and immediately inserted him in the starting lineup. He was not a good team player and Red Holtzman took him out of the starting lineup and made him the third guard. He didn’t sulk; he worked hard. The result was that he was the best Knick guard long before Komives was traded forcing him back into the starting lineup.

    • Basketball has so much to do with hockey. Team size, player roles, types of surfaces used to play: no differences there, right? What an apt comparison.

      How about this? A Ranger coach should play their high first round picks when they get them on the roster. Like Ottawa with Brady Tkachuk. Like Pittsburgh with Crosby/Malkin/Rust etc. Like the Canadiens with Nick Suzuki. Like the Devils with Jack Hughes. Like countless teams have with their future core players. If Quinn had Ovechkin in Washington in Ovi’s rookie year, Ovechkin would’ve scored 10 goals instead of the 52 he rang up.

      • JFTR, Rust’s rookie season was mostly AHL. In fact, he played more AHL games over his first 2 seasons than NHL games. And he turned out well – as have many others who have done time in the AHL.

        No one is suggesting that you don’t throw Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin, McDavid, Matthews into the deep water from day one. But that is not who we are talking about here.

        Would Kakko and Suzuki be better today if they had spent last season in the AHL? Who knows? Ottawa is hardly a good role model.

        As for the whole sentiment of your second paragraph, you have a point certainly. I don’t agree with you, but it hardly cut and dried. Actually I think for most players, it makes little difference. Those determined to learn to excel at the game will do so, whether it is trial by fire at the NHL level or as apprentice in Hartford. Whether it is fifteen minutes a game or eight. I am more concerned about the affect that bad talented players have on K’Andre Miller and Filip Chityl.

        The similarity between basketball and hockey by the way is that both are played by human athletes. It is about the determination of the young, which not only has the same affect in basketball and hockey, but in many things which are not even sports.

        • When’s the next in-play line change supposed to occur in the NBA? You know, JFTR?

          And you’re right—I meant to take Rust off my list, and forgot. My mistake. Still changes nothing about my post.

          • Why exactly is Alexis Lafreniere different from Walt Frazier? They were both drafted by teams with big plans for them. Frazier made too many mistakes and was demoted to third guard. He did not rail against the coach for demoting him. He dedicated himself to becoming a better player. He had character and made himself a HOF basketball player. Are you suggesting hockey players don’t have character? Sure, some don’t (Exhibit: Lias Andersson). But most do. Filip Chityl did a stint in Hartford and came back a better player.

            Most people here don’t want to hurt Lafreniere’s feelings or those of any of the other chosen kids. Lafreniere has a world of talent and three years from now (hopefully much sooner) will be a very good hockey player.

            Ignoring the absurdity of trading one player on a team for another, it would take an absolute moron to trade Lafreniere for Kevin Rooney or Colin Blackwell (or even both). But that doesn’t mean he is as good as either today and we should not pretend he is. He does not play with intensity and you don’t generate intensity by putting a guy in the lineup and leaving him there no matter what.


            And incidentally, ignoring his age, if the Rangers had to choose between Frazier and an average college hockey player, they should pick Frazier because great athletes can learn different sports and become very good whereas mediocrities cannot ever excel.

            [the same reason incidentally why Quinn should not spend so much time with Howden]

          • This post wins all the crazy awards. Should the Rangers try to draft basketball players?

  • Anywhere from 4-12 points, playing anywhere from 15-20 games, and any ice time from 8-14 minutes per night. Forget the points, focus on his play — compete level and opportunities created.

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