Vitali Kravtsov deserves to show his ability in qualifying round

The New York Rangers should give Vitali Kravtsov a chance to play this postseason

The New York Rangers are finishing up their preparations for the Stanley Cup qualifiers in Toronto and could carry 28 skaters on their roster. Vitali Kravtsov will be on the roster, the question is whether he will see any action.

Kravtsov, 20, was invited back to training camp after the NHL approved the Return to Play plan which will see the Rangers battle the Hurricanes in the best-of-five series to qualify the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

After Brendan Lemieux was suspended by the NHL for his headshot on Colorado Avalanche forward, Joonas Donskoi on March 11th, the last regular season game before the Coronavirus pandemic, his spot in the starting lineup roster will be up for a stand-out player during training camp.

The first two lines are a given. Mika Zibanejad will be centering Chris Kreider and Pavel Buchnevich on the first line. Meanwhile, Hart trophy finalist Artemi Panarin will be on a line with Ryan Strome and Jesper Fast.

If Kravtsov is going to play, it will be on the third or fourth lines and the right winger will have some tough competition. Right now it looks like, third line will consist of Filip Chytil centering Kaapo Kakko and Phillip Di Giuseppe. Kravtsov isn’t going to replace Kakko on the right wing on that line.

This leaves the fourth line up to question. Right now it could look like Brett Howden on the left, Greg McKegg in the middle and Julien Gauthier on the right.

That’s where there could be an opening for Kravtsov. He could replace Julien Gauthier on the right wing or even move to center allowing Greg McKegg to play left wing with Chytil and Kakko. In that case, the fourth line would be Kravtsov at center with Gauthier on his right and Howden on his left.

Right now, it seems Kravtsov is practicing with the split squad during Rangers’ practices, meaning a starting lineup spot is not up for grabs at the moment.

Kravtsov did not have the best year during his time with the Hartford Wolfpack. He record six goals and nine assists for a total of 15 points in 39 games. After a fallout in the AHL, the talented 20-year-old went back to the KHL to play for his former club, Chelyabinsk Traktor. While in Russia, Kravtsov scored two goals and one assist in 11 games before returning to North America.

Karvtsov does have some playoff experience during his time in the KHL. In the 2017-18 season, the young winger played in 16 games, recording six goals and five assists.

Now, that might not be the best argument to put Kravtsov in an NHL qualifying game. But, the former 9th overall pick has shown the skill and the ability to compete for a roster spot.

The pressure of a qualifying game could spark a player and bring out the best in them. Kravtsov could be that guy for the Rangers.

The young Russian winger does have plenty of upside to his game. He is considered an elite prospect with a big body who can play on any line on any given night. He has speed, skill and maybe a playoff qualifying game is what Kravtsov needs to bring out the best in him.

The Rangers have players like Steven Forgarty who played seven games with the Rangers this season, and Vinni Lettieri who shined in the AHL with 25 goals and 47 points in 61 games, competing for a place on the team.

There is no question the depth of the team will be important for a deep playoff run. We see that with every Stanley Cup winning team like the St.Louis Blues last season and the Washington Capitals the year before that.

Of course the Rangers want to chase the ultimate goal in winning the Stanley Cup and not lose even though they would get a 12.5 percent chance in landing the first overall pick in this years draft.

With Kravtsov, the Rangers could see a rejuvenated player who is out there to prove he belongs on the team. The Blueshirts do not want another fallout with a prospect like we see now with Lias Andersson. The former seventh overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft declined an invitation to camp which could mean his spell in a Rangers’ sweater is all but over.