Kravtsov looks like the elite offensive star the Rangers need


I was wrong! Everyday Vitali Kravtsov looks like the elite forward that has eluded the Rangers in every draft since it started in 1963.

When the Rangers chose to go off the board last summer by passing over American sniper, Oliver Wahlstrom and select Russian playmaker, Vitali Kravtsov I was livid.

I wrote a pretty scathing article after the draft that the Rangers opted to go with “a decent offensive piece” versus a “prolific goal scorer for years to come.” Now, we flash forward nearly 6 months later and Wahlstrom is struggling while Kravtsov is thriving.

Things are so bad for Wahlstrom at BC this year, that rumors have surfaced that he is trying to leave the program and play hockey elsewhere. On the flip side, Kravtsov is impressing in the KHL and showing his elite level talent at the WJC.

Kravtsov opened the tournament with a goal and an assist and led all forwards in ice time. He did this while playing center and continues to show his versatility at almost any forward position in his young career.

This is not unusual for this dynamic forward who was named the best forward at the Four Nations tournament this summer. He finished with a goal and 4 points in three games. Although it’s early on in his career, Kravtsov appears to elevate his game not wilt under pressure in the playoffs or tournament play.

In the KHL this season, Kravtsov has 6 goals and 17 points in 33 games. That may not sound impressive until you realize he’s 19 years old playing on a bad team in one of Europe’s premiere leagues. Oh, he just turned 19 two days before Christmas.

“On a struggling team, filled with injuries and coaching changes, Vitali has been a bright light,” Rangers Director of European Scouting Nickolai Bobrov said earlier this month. “His vision, playmaking ability, and dynamic skill and skating style are on display every game.”


Kravtsov’s early KHL career has been likened to such stars as Evegeny Kuznetsov and Artemi Panarin. Both of those players launched their KHL careers scoring at a similar clip to Kravtsov’s current rate. Seeing how they are thriving in the NHL today, it bodes well for Kravtsov’s future prospects here in North America.

As the fortunes of both his current team and future NHL team continues to drop in the standings, we may see Kravtsov in a Rangers sweater at the end of the season for a handful of games.

With the Rangers continuing to blow leads and losing points in the playoff race, the possibility of landing one of the top three picks in the draft lottery increases. A future where Vitali Kravtsov playing on the same team with the likes of a Jack Hughes or Kaapo Kakko should be the bright light at the end of the tunnel for all Rangers fans this season.

Finally, it is really too early to dismiss Oliver Wahlstrom and the possibility he should’ve been the pick over Kravtsov. But the truth be told hindsight is 20/20 and the way this kid is playing, it looks like I and many others needed glasses on the night he was selected.

Anthony Scultore has been covering the New York Rangers and the NHL since 2014. His work also appears at... More about Anthony Scultore

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