Scouting Chytil, Kravtsov and Shesterkin in Hartford
Expectations were high for the Hartford Wolf Pack before the 2019-2020 season began with the return of John Davidson to the parent New York Rangers. J.D.’s return meant a change in culture that resonated from Broadway all the way through to Trumbull St.
Under the new culture instilled by J.D., the 2019-20 Hartford Wolf Pack led by head coach Kris Knoblauch and assistants, Gord Murphy and David Cunniff are off to an impressive start and leading the Atlantic Division as we reach the end of October. This season’s Wolf Pack roster has a good mix of young and veteran players with skill, a solid defense and a young goaltending core that is getting it done.
Let’s focus on 3 prospects that Rangers fans have extreme interest in as they will impact the team’s future.
Likely the most familiar name to Ranger fans to have started the season in Hartford as he’s spent significant time in New York already is Chytil. This season however, Chytil underperformed in training camp and was among the last players cut from the Rangers prior to the start of this season which meant a stint in Hartford.
Having gotten off to a slow start on opening night on October 5th against Charlotte where he was invisible much of the game, Chytil has since been on fire with at least a point in 6 of 8 games since. His 9 points (3 goals and 6 assists) were tied with Vinni Lettieri and Danny O’Regan for the team lead as October came to a close which earned him a recall to the Rangers on October 28th. Making his season debut with the Rangers the very next night at The Garden against Tampa Bay, he picked up right where he left off here in scoring what turned out to be the game winning goal in a 4-1 win over the Lightning. Needless to say Chytil has earned his chance to come back to New York. Question is can he keep it up? I think he does and doesn’t look back.
Drafted 9th overall in the 2018 Entry Draft and spending last season with Traktor Chelyabinsk of the KHL where he netted 12 goals and 16 assists (28 points) in 85 career games, there were high hopes for Kravtsov after signing his entry level contract with the Rangers on April 15, 2019. Certainly impressive in the Traverse City Tournament along with Kaapo Kakko and having a good training camp, people thought Kravtsov would be a shoe in to crack the Rangers opening night roster. Instead he was among the last players sent to Hartford along with Igor Shesterkin, Filip Chytil, Boo Nieves and Ryan Lindgren.
Seeing he and Shesterkin at the Wolf Pack’s Meet the Team party back on October 1st, both players looked sad to be there but Kravtsov especially. Nearly every hockey player in the world dreams of playing in the NHL but the road to The Show is a difficult one sometimes and players have to make the best of it. Since the first puck drop this season, Kravtsov had been nowhere near expectations. Through 5 games he’d only managed a single point and was a -2 with 2 shots on goal. Ranger blogs and social media were turned upside down when news broke that Kravtsov was absent from the Pack’s 2nd game of the season against rival Bridgeport.
His play started to slowly improv since the scratch and he started seeing more ice time on a line with veteran Matt Beleskey and Boo Nieves while also finding himself on the first PP unit. Smaller ice and a faster game can be intimidating and could be one of the reasons for the slow start, but his attitude did not appear where it needed to be.
Then on October 25th, 2019 the rumor became true that he would exercise his European Assignment Clause to go back to Traktor in the KHL where he will likely remain until their season concludes though the Rangers can call him back here anytime. While it won’t hinder his development by any means and could be better for him mentally, the KHL isn’t the NHL and there were hopes that he would keep trending upward. I wish the best for him and think he will be a big part of the Rangers’ future but it would’ve a plus had he been able to contribute more to the Pack’s quick start to 2019-2020
The heir to the throne of The King, Henrik Lundqvist, has finally made the move to North America after playing with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL where he won 24 of 28 starts last season with an insane 1.11 GAA and 10 shutouts. He had also won 20 of 28 starts in 2017-18 and 27 of 39 in 2016-17. The 118th overall pick in 2014 was highly touted as being the next great Rangers goalie even with Alex Georgiev locked in as the number 2 goalie out of this past training camp. With that, Shesterkin was on his way here to the Wolf Pack and has picked up essentially where he left off.
Igor is 5-1 on the season picking up his first North Ameican shutout in his last start this past Friday October 18th against rival Springfield. His 1.49 GAA is 4th best in the AHL through the end of October while his .942 save percentage 6th best. Numbers aside, Shesterkin has been as good as advertised despite not having to do as much standing on his head like he did in the KHL. An improved defense corps that can block shots and move the puck out of the defensive zone in key spots has also been key to Shesterkin’s good start.
Not since Al Montoya and Henrik Lundqvist has a Rangers goalie prospect had this much hype and while it’s not right to rush judgement, Igor Shesterkin is legit and has what it takes to be the next great goaltender for the New York Rangers. How soon before he gets the call? That all depends on when the Rangers move Alex Georgiev and we know Henrik won’t be going anywhere anytime soon but for Igor, his time might be coming sooner than later.
Editor’s Note: Greg is a Wolf Pack season ticket holder and will be joining fellow season ticket holder, Ricky Milliner in covering the Pack. No other site will be covering the prospects in Hartford better. – Anthony