When Vitali Kravtsov decided to leave Hartford and go home to play with Chelyabinsk Traktor of the KHL, it was hopeful that the Rangers 2018 first round pick could still develop while being in a more comfortable setting.
Instead, the 19-year old Russian the team took with the ninth pick finds himself assigned to the VHL by Traktor. That’s the minor league affiliate of the KHL.
It hasn’t gone well for Kravtsov, who got only one total shift in his last two games with Traktor. The same KHL team he excelled with last year when he produced eight goals and 13 assists totaling 21 points in 50 games. He added two assists in four playoff games.
After recording only one assist in only five games for the Wolf Pack, Kravtsov packed up and left. He also deleted all his Rangers photos on his Instagram account. Something that got a lot of attention. It definitely wasn’t mature and gave people a reason to be concerned.
They thought he was ready to come over and develop. But Kravtsov probably thought he’d be handed a spot on the big club. It didn’t happen due to a numbers crunch. Even Filip Chytil went down to Hartford following a disappointing training camp. However, he handled himself like a pro and produced to get the call back up. Having played for the Pack before during his first pro year, that experience helped.
For Kravtsov, he proved he wasn’t quite ready to play in North America. Or work. Even if I thought he showed some promise during preseason, it was only preseason. The organization had to do what they thought was right for his long-term development. They couldn’t have expected Kravtsov to get scratched and then have his ice time reduced due to not adjusting to the North American style. Or to tap out.
That’s what he did. While the Rangers drew criticism for how Kravtsov was handled, maybe it’s time to start looking at the player they drafted. He showed immaturity by deleting photos on his Instagram. He went home and probably thought it would go better. It hasn’t. He hasn’t played well. In 11 games for Traktor, he has two goals and an assist with a minus-four.
Now, Kravtsov has been sent down to play in the VHL. Something MSG analyst Steve Valiquette referred to as “playing hockey on the moon.” That’s about as critical as Valiquette will be. He should know. He spent two years playing in Russia. Yikes.
So, is it time to panic? I don’t know. Obviously, Kravtsov needs to get his bleep in gear. Right now, it’s looking like a wasted year of development. Before you criticize, look how poorly the Rangers handled Lias Andersson his first year. Now, it’s two years later and he’s been up and down with Hartford after hardly playing in the 17 games with the big club. Andersson had two goals and an assist last night in a win over Binghamton. But he also took two penalties including a bad one in the third. A friend went and reported back.
Was taking Kravtsov a mistake? That’s too early to tell. There’s still time for him to salvage the season. But the KHL ends much earlier and Traktor isn’t good. The Rangers do have the option to recall Kravtsov if they want. But that isn’t expected until the KHL season concludes.
For now, we’ll have to wait and see what happens.