It looks like it’s finally time for Vitaly Kravtsov. The 21-year old Russian prospect could be in line to make his NHL debut for the Rangers in tonight’s rematch at Buffalo.
The superb New York Post reporter Mollie Walker all but confirmed it with this tweet below.
A Rangers first round selection taken ninth overall in the 2018 NHL Draft, Kravtsov has waited for this moment. Having been delayed due to coach David Quinn wanting to take a closer look at him in practices following recovering from COVID-19, it looks like the right wing could finally get into the lineup for tonight’s match versus the Sabres.
Coming off a good KHL season with Traktor Chelyabinsk where he scored 16 goals with eight assists for a total of 24 points in 49 games, Kravtsov has wanted to play in the NHL since last year. Following Traktor’s first round elimination where Kravtsov recorded two goals and two assists in five games, he took flight to New York.
That included a mandatory quarantine before he could get tested by the Rangers medical staff. Once he passed those tests, Kravtsov had been practicing with the team. When COVID hit the coaching staff suddenly, that delayed the inevitable. In Game number 37 of 56, the time is right to find out about Kravtsov. Given how established the top two lines are with the team playing its best hockey in hopes of chasing down fourth place Boston (7-5 winners earlier over Pittsburgh), Kravtsov could find himself debuting on the third line ‘if he plays later
The Kid Line has consisted of Filip Chytil centering 2020 top pick Alexis Lafreniere with 23-year old former Carolina first round pick Julien Gauthier. Although Gauthier was involved in helping set up a Chytil goal during the third period, he’s likely to play on the fourth line. That’s assuming the team does the logical thing and healthy scratches Phil Di Giuseppe. A hardworking player who has a goal with seven assists while playing with Kevin Rooney and Colin Blackwell on the checking line. Gauthier deserves to stay in the lineup. If that means Blackwell shifts over to the left wing, so be it.
Whatever happens tonight, it could be very exciting for Ranger fans who have patiently waited to see Kravtsov play. Even with the current logjam at right wing due to the very productive Pavel Buchnevich and improving second-year forward Kaapo Kakko, the time is right to find out about Kravtsov. He might not wind up with a lot of ice time in his first game.
It’ll largely depend on how things go. That includes the special teams with Quinn and assistant David Oliver leaning heavily on the five man top power play unit of Artemi Panarin, Mika Zibanejad, Ryan Strome, Chris Kreider and Adam Fox. How the game goes will dictate how many shifts Kravtsov sees.
It’ll be interesting to follow. Considering how little ice time the Kid Line received after working hard to create Chytil’s go-ahead tally during the third period of what turned into a more stressful 3-2 overtime win, you never know what to expect.
Whatever happens, it’s a game that is more about the future than the present. Playoff race and all. I’ll have more on the game much later tonight.