New York Rangers agree to terms with Vitali Kravtsov and Igor Shesterkin

Vitali Kravtsov posesafter being selected ninth overall by the New York Rangers (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Vitali Kravtsov posesafter being selected ninth overall by the New York Rangers (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The New York Rangers agree to entry level contracts with top Russian prospects Vitali Kravtsov and Igor Shesterkin

The New York Rangers have taken another major step in their rebuild process by signing top prospects forward Vitali Kravtsov and goaltender Igor Shesterkin to three-year entry level contracts.

As the two players are still under contract in the KHL, there was no official announcement and no terms of the contracts are  available.

The signing was first reported by Rick Carpiniello of “The Athletic.”

Kravtsov, the ninth overall pick in last June’s NHL draft, completed a productive season with Traktor of the KHL in Russia this past month.  Kravtsov had eight goals and 13 assists during the KHL season.  His production rivals the past scoring marks of comparable Russian players Nikita Kucherov and Artemi Panarin.

Kravtsov had an outstanding performance with Team Russia at the World Juniors notching two goals and four assists despite playing with an injury and the flu and played center out of need.

Shesterkin, the 23-year-old goaltender considered to be the heir apparent to Henrik Lundqvist comes off a stellar KHL season with SKA Petersburg.  Shesterkin, who was a 2014 fourth round draft choice had a regular season record of 24-3-1 while posting 10 shutouts for a 1.11 goals-against average.  His goals-against average and .953 save percentage are among the all-time best in KHL history.

Both players are expected to arrive later next month.  Preliminary schedule has Kravtsov and Shesterkin participating in Rangers’ prospect camp after the upcoming NHL draft June 21-22.   They are expected to be at Rangers training camp in September and to take part in the Traverse City Prospects Tournament that month.

Kravtsov, 19, is expected to make the NHL roster this fall.  The 6’4” one hundred eighty five pound right winger is a crafty playmaker who has shown high end skill and ability that the Rangers desperately need as they continue through the second year of their rebuild.  Kravtsov is a left handed shot who can also play center as he did this last winter in Vancouver at the World Juniors.

A big, skilled winger,  Kravtsov can play up and down the lineup and is expected to provide scoring in a number of roles with the Rangers.  He has great speed on the rush as well as in zone entry and should fit in well as a top six forward within Coach David Quinn’s high tempo puck possession style. He utilizes is size and grit well on the forecheck and plays well in his own end effectively taking away passing lanes. He has shown very good hands, awareness and presence.

Shesterkin, who possesses cat-like reflexes and quick feet has become a goaltending highlight reel.  Many scouts have compared his goaltending style to a mix of Lundqvist and Los Angeles Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick.  His arrival will create a crowded house in goal for the Rangers who along with Lundqvist have the second year goaltender Alexandar Georgiev coming off an outstanding rookie campaign.  Many officials within the Rangers system have indicated that Shesterkin could benefit from some seasoning at Hartford of the AHL to get used to the North American ice surface and game.

Lundqvist, 37, has two years remaining on his existing agreement with the Rangers which has a no-movement clause.  Although the Rangers have asked Lundqvist if he would prefer to be traded to a Stanley Cup contending team than enduring the rebuild process, he has maintained his desire to finish his career in New York.  With the upcoming expansion draft for the new Seattle franchise set for 2021, the timing of Lundqvist’s retirement should not create a player protection issue and Shesterkin will be exempt from the draft as a second year pro.

The addition of Kravtsov will be another step toward adding scoring and skill the Rangers desperately need to make the team more competitive during their rebuild. The Rangers possess the second overall pick in this year’s amateur draft and are expected to take either of the draft’s top prizes in American center Jack Hughes or Finnish winger Kaapo Kaako.  The New Jersey Devils with the first pick will determine which player the Rangers select.  Both players would make a significant impact on the Rangers roster both down the road if not to open the season in October.