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 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.
- Kravtsov is a very talented top-ten pick with top-six upside. His floor is likely top-nine.
- Kravtsov had an excellent season in the KHL.
- 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.