Roster Moves

The Rangers should move Vitali Kravtsov off the fourth line

On Thursday night, Vitali Kravtsov almost registered his first goal of the season. That was, of course, until Devils’ head coach, Lindy Ruff, challenged the entry into the zone for off sides and successfully had the goal overturned. While he’s first regular season NHL goal may have been taken from him, it does not change the fact that he has been performing very well so far. This is despite spending all seven of his NHL games on the Rangers’ fourth line, which isn’t the best use of Vitali Kravtsov’s skill set.

David Quinn’s choice to put Kravstov on the fourth line is by no means an outrageous decision. There is obviously something to be said for the jump from the KHL to the NHL. Time to adjust is important, after all. However, if Quinn is the coach all about a player “earning” a promotion to another line, it is time for him to consider changing Kravstov’s current situation.

Some Stats

Kravtsov has recorded just one assist in his seven games in the league thus far, but has looked to be one of the most dominant skaters on all lines.

There has only been one game he has played since coming to New York where he has not recorded a shot on goal (Hockey Reference). He is driving play and constantly putting himself in dangerous areas of the ice to generate chances on net.

His underlying numbers reflect what can be seen on a nightly basis. Despite playing with two skaters with Corsi percentages in all situations in the forties – Brett Howden at 44.35 and Kevin Rooney at 40.28 – Kravstov has managed a Corsi of over fifty percent (56.65).

In addition, Kravtsov’s Corsi differential is the only positive number recorded on his line – and it is pretty significant. Compared to his 56.65, his Corsi against is only 47.09 – a difference of 9.56.

Who are the other players in this differential range in all situations? He is in good company with Mika Zibanejad (9.87), Adam Fox (10.50), and Kaapo Kakko (12.54). For some perspective, Howden and Rooney’s negative differentials are significant. Howden’s Corsi against of 64.19 brings him to a -19.84 and Rooney’s 61.28 brings him to a -21.00.

Unlike his linemates, Kravtsov is also on the positive side in terms of goal differential in all situations. He is carrying a 2.16 expected goals for and 1.71 expected goals against (0.45).

While not necessarily a shockingly positive number, it is far superior to the to those recorded by Howden and Rooney (-1.15 and -1.05, respectively).

Obviously, these numbers need to be taken in context. Kravtsov’s production thus far comes in far more limited minutes than to his teammates. It’s seven games versus 43 games. However, there is also something to be said for what might happen if given an opportunity to make more of an impact.

Final Thoughts

The major takeaway should be that Vitali Kravtsov is significantly outplaying his current line mates. And the good news is, they have not started to drag down his performance… at least not yet.

Colin Blackwell had a solid night against the Devils playing with Ryan Strome and Artemi Panarin. However, the second line may be a really good spot to slot in Kravtsov for a trial run. This assumes that David Quinn doesn’t want to go ahead and overhaul his lineup.

As you may recall, putting Kakko on a line with these two players vastly improved his performance and helped build some confidence. While he has been quieter as of late, you can still see the impact as he skates with Filip Chytil and Alexis Lafreniere and continues to generate offense.

At the very least, Vitali Kravtsov has earned a chance to see the third line. But I would rather see Blackwell moved back down to the fourth line over Kakko. While the Rangers have been able to generate more offense as of late, moving a buzzing Kravstov up in the lineup could elicit even more.

Kravstov has proven that he deserves more of an opportunity than he is getting. Giving it to him is a good way to encourage further development in these early moments of his career.

All stats courtesy of Evolving Hockey’s Skater Chart Tool unless otherwise noted.

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  • Totally agree. Blackwell is doing fine so far up on the 2nd line. But in the interest of the future, I would put Kakko back up there, and move Kravvy to the “kid line.” I would probably swap Kreider and Laf too, but that’s a different story.

    Kravstov looks better than Laf and Kappo right now anyway. There’s no need to bury him on the 4th line. But I will say that Quinn has been pretty good so far in getting him reps with better players. He hasn’t seemed to “lose” him on the bench. That probably says a lot about the overall play of all 3 of them actually…

    • all fine thoughts but I don’t see Blackwell moving down from the second line soon. he’s got 6 goals 4 assists in the last ten games dating back to the caps, and coach likes him in that spot specifically. expect DQ to look for spots to promote kravtsov temporarily but the only winger really deserving of demotion right now is Kreider, and that ain’t gonna happen. Quinn was even saying the other day how much he likes the look of the 4th line with what Kravtsov adds there so, I think these may be your lines for the next dozen games until the dim hope of the playoffs becomes a mathematical certainty.

    • chrisqct Kreider issue imo is not a different story, its the same. Players move up, players move down. I know its a small sample size but Kravtsov looks like a “1st line wing”. If he were to move onto a Zib or Panarin line, lotsa stuff will happen and arguably not all good for player cohesiveness. If we, or any of us(NYR fans), believe in playing your best gives you an opportunity to win, then by all means let it happen. This, if the coach watches, creates a fluid state where he can mix and match his players….the great coaches do that and the players buy into it cause they want to win. There are some players on the bench that don’t belong there…..I will not call them out….its the coaches job and in some instances the GM’s job. There are players in the press box and taxi squad that could play a bigger role and contribute more than those currently dressing. Jacques LeMaire anyone? When CK finds his groove he can earn a “better” spot back. IMO he has bought into the stuff about him being a net front presence….he is so much more. I saw him in his 1st Bean Pot Tourney break down his wing slide the puck between the D’s legs go to the net and score. Where is that guy?….planted in front of a net! Lord help him cause the coaches have put a round piece in a square hole. Listen, I am a fan like everyone else on these blogs….so what do I know? I keep a sponge (not a suit brick) and throw it regularly at the TV…

      • I agree and have been back and forth about CK. I ragged him on here for the same reasons, and then he broke out. Now he’s back to making bad decisions. And quite frankly, I feel he’s just been soft on the puck for most of this year. Flaky passes, fade-away wrist shots from far out, and not really using his speed. We take one of our fastest guys and park him standing still in front of the net. He is a good net front presence. But he should also be a neutral zone threat… meaning once he has a full head of steam, no one should be able to touch him thru the neutral zone at his size.

        I kind of get why there is no captain right now. The two most likely candidates (CK and Zib) have disappeared for very long stretches this season. You simply cannot have that happen with the C on your jersey.

  • Fourth line should be (Blackwell/Krav) – Barron – Gauthier, the other two should be watching from the press box, or Hartford.

  • I was mightily skeptical about Kravstov but he has certainly not looked out of place. His smooth, fast skating and puck handling have been as advertised but his back-checking and defenseive effort has been surprising to me.
    If he can take a beating, and return the favor, thru a couple of Bruins and Capitols games ill be all on board.

  • Not sure if we’ve been watching the same games but vitali has had a decent amount of playing time with Mika and buch over his first couple of games. He has not been solely on the 4th line that’s for sure. Rangers are hot right now and pushing for playoffs even as the youngest team in the nhl. Leave it to you guys to somehow someway criticize DQ for something 😂😂

  • It’s time to admit that Howden shouldn’t be playing. In fact I would consider sitting Rooney for a spell and put Blackwell in his place (at Center) with Gauthier and PDG. That let’s you put Kravs up on the 2nd line.

    • Well anything is better than having Howden out there right now, he’s a statistical black hole. If you do Gauthier, Kravs and PDG, then Kravs has to be centering the 4th line — I think playing with him at Center is something best reserved for training camp next year, or in games where they have a cushion (would have been nice to see in the 3rd period of both the last 2 games). As far as PK is concerned, again it’s something I would reserve for TC or late in a blowout game. There’s enough pressure as is.

      • He could have played any role in the 3rd period of both games — even if the score wasn’t a BLOW out, as we’ve seen this team do with Philly for example.

        Do I believe he can handle any role we throw at him? Yes … do I feel a NEED to do it now in the midst of a playoff run? No, not really. Let’s start with getting him 15-17 minutes a night, on the 2nd PP and on one of the top 2 lines. Moving Blackwell from 2RW isn’t going to kill us, it’s not like he’s Panarin or anything. 😉

    • There is absolutely no reason to sit Rooney in favor of PDG, it makes no sense and its not going to happen.
      Now if you said Blackwell, Rooney and Gaut, I would agree, there is only one constant criticism on this blog that I’m fully on board with and that is Howden should not be in the lineup.

      • Honestly Rooney has been meh lately. I’m not suggesting he has to be out of the lineup, unlike Howden, but I don’t think we lose anything with the replacements.

  • DQ rarely changes things up after a win. Look for the same lineup.
    Until then, Vitali will be a 4th liner with special minutes on the Zibby line. Howden played more because of being on the ice for the 3 PKs.

    Kravtsov has many years in front of him. He will not be a 4th liner next year.

    • This team has 4 kids in the lineup on offense. It could actually have 6 if PDG and Gauthier play. The top 2 lines are set, unless you replace Blackwell, who is doing very well on the 2nd line. You cannot disrupt this team, which is in a playoff hunt, just to get Vitali more minutes. The thing that has to happen is that DQ needs to roll the lines more evenly and use the 2nd PP unit more. In a commanding win like the NYR had last night, the 1st and 2nd lines should have barely seen the ice in the 3rd period. That is on DQ.

  • Now that the trade deadline has past we should put Kappo back with the 2nd line move Kratsov back to the kid line Blackwell to the 4th line with Rooney and Gauthier I would love to see this alignment

      • When he came to the Rangers Strome took a position on the third and fourth lines and worked his way up. Blackwell did too. If Kratzov plays well then he too will force the coach’s hand to play him on line three.

  • Kravie has handled his introduction pretty damn well doesn’t look out of place at all what a shame his goal got called back he handled that great too

  • We need to showcase Kakko and Kravtsov and one or the other is going to Buffalo in the Eichel trade.

    Unless we move Chytil, Zac Jones and a first round pick. I say Chytil and Kakko should be enough for a $10M center with a bad back.

    • Screw Eichel …. if the assets needed to trade for him weren’t enough, add $10M per and his herniated disc. If we were talking 1 first rounder for the guy, sure you take that risk … but moving the equivalent of 2, 3 or 4 first rounders is a bad risk (unless we’re talking Hajek, Howden and our 1st round pick this year) … nobody is going to miss that even if he turns out to be damaged goods. I also worry about his mental makeup tbh, although getting away from the Sabres might be all that’s needed.

      • I agree, I’m not infatuated with him at all — but he is a big bodied point per game+ guy and I can see where he would be an upgrade on Strome. Eichel can drive a line … but at $10M, herniated disc and at the cost of all this depth we’ve been able to nurture, I won’t make that trade.

    • Truth you’re joking, right? I’m not trading for a $10M center with a bad back, unless you actually want to see Ranger fans jumping off bridges.

      Regards- orange

    • Dude! lemme buy you a beer an tell you why that is such a bad idea. You’re underselling our guys! And who really wants a 24yr old with a bad back? Leave Eichel where he is, let the Buffalo franchise love him and his perceived attitude.

  • I’m curious what a line of Panarin, Buchnevich, and Kravtsov could do. Would have to be on the fly with no center to take faceoffs but trying out that Russian factor could be interesting

  • Yeah, I’d like to see Kravtsov on one of the top lines too. I believe that he will get there pretty darn soon if he keeps playing as well as he has been playing. I’ve also noticed that he gets mixed into the top lines at times during the game. I think you will see him there soon. I am not to worried.

  • Kratsov 2nd line no brained bigger, stronger, more nimble, and better checker than blackwell. Should do ASAP

  • Oh my god, Ms. Redpath he’s been here a hot minute! Relax!
    “ Kravtsov has recorded just one assist in his seven games in the league thus far, but has looked to be one of the most dominant skaters on all lines.”
    Please read what you write, DQ knows what he does, you apparently… a little silly

  • Reality check: Last year, according to BSB, Kakko got his rightful place in the lineup and the Rangers wronged Kravtsov, sending him to Hartford, then back to Russia. Well, guess what, it appears that Kravtsov has developed much more successfully than Kakko.

    Yet no one has learned anything. Everyone is always most excited about the latest shiny new toy. The Rangers should have won the Cup this year. Instead they are playing around with Alexis Lafreniere, who should have been in Hartford.

    Colin Blackwell, Kevin Rooney, and Brendan Lemieux are useful hockey players. A winning team needs such players. Julien Gauthier has a higher ceiling, but is not likely to ever reach their level. However, BSB and DQ treat these guys like second class citizens. Lemieux insists on being traded while Rooney’s peformance suffers – what a surprise.

    The way Kravtsov is being used is making him a respected Ranger, not a resented Ranger. DQ is doing something right at last.

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