Vitali Kravtsov came into this season as a blue chip prospect who had a shot at making the New York Rangers. The season didn’t go as planned, but is he still a future star?
To call this season a disappointment for Vitali Kravtsov would be an understatement. It all started with an expectation of playing in the NHL for the New York Rangers, then he was sent to the AHL whereupon he bolted to Russia where he was demoted from the KHL and finally, he returned to Hartford.
Is Kravtsov a reclamation project, a failed first round draft pick or was he just a 19 year old kid who wasn’t ready to be promoted? Looking at his season, the truth is probably that he was a victim of unfair expectations.
His season in Hartford
How did he do with the Wolf Pack? Let’s take the first five games of the season out of the picture. He was disappointed to be demoted to the AHL, had some communications issues with the Hartford coaching staff and didn’t play his best.
Once he returned from Russia, Kravtsov played in 34 games, scoring six goals and adding eight assists for 14 points and a 0.38 points per game average. He finished with a plus/minus of -2. His shooting percentage was a less than stellar 8.9%. He finished with four minutes in penalties. One important note, let’s not forget he was all of 19 years when he started the season.
Some other Ranger prospects
How does Kravtsov’s season compare to some other Ranger prospects over the years? Filip Chytil was the only teenager who had a similar experience, coming over from Europe and playing in the AHL in 2017-18 as an 18 year old. He was more successful, scoring 11 goals and 31 points in 46 games. His shooting percentage of 10% was slightly better, but he also benefited from none of the drama that accompanied Kravtsov.
Remember, that was the 2017-18 campaign, three years ago. He spent the next season in New York , but made a return to Hartford this season before coming back to the Rangers to stay. If Kravtsov follows Chytil’s development path, he should be just fine.
Lias Andersson spent 36 games of the 2018-19 season in Hartford at the age of 20 and ironically, had better results than Kravtsov. His shooting percentage was much the same, but he had more assists and was a more physical player, with 25 penalty minutes.
Another European who came over and had to acclimate to the smaller rinks was Mats Zuccarello. In 2010-11, at age 23, he came over from the Swedish Elite League and scored 13 goals and totaled 29 points in 36 games. Zuccarello showed his scoring prowess, with a 12.2 shooting percentage as he took 107 shots, a tendency to shoot that he didn’t show in the NHL.
For what it’s worth, Chris Kreider also had a baptism in the AHL, sent down to the Connecticut Whale in 2012-13 after making his debut in the playoffs the prior season. He was 21 years old when he played 48 games in the AHL, scoring 12 goals and adding 11 assists. His offense was similar to Kravtsov’s, though his shooting percentage of 11.5% was better.
It’s worth nothing that after he was promoted to the NHL, he scored all of two goals in 23 games and was demoted again to Hartford the next season for six games before making it to the Rangers for good.
If there is anything to learn from these comparisons is that it takes time for players to become NHL pros and Kravtsov’s production was what should have been expected. Anyone who thought that he would be able to step into a regular top nine role on the Rangers was overly optimistic.