Vitali Kravtsov looks like a lock to make the Rangers

Vitali Kravtsov (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

David Quinn is giving Vitali Kravtsov a real long look. Tonight, the Rangers 2018 first round draft pick will be playing his 5th preseason game out of 6. In his 4 previous contests to date, the 19 year old has 2 points (1G, 1A) and is averaging 16:06 of ice time per game. Almost 90% of it at even strength, and he looks ready to play in the NHL.

There has been a lot of talk that it may be best for Kravtsov to start in the AHL. Some will reason that because he has played so much, Quinn has not made a decision yet. While that may be true, I find it more interesting not how often he is playing but where. Vitali is listed as a RW, but according to yesterday’s practice lines he will be playing LW on the top line with Howden and Chytil against the Islanders. That is yet to be confirmed.

The fact that Quinn keeps playing him at both wings is a very good sign that he’s made the team. For me, this is more like the coach wants to see which is a better fit come opening night. Regardless of which wing he looks like he is slotted for the 3rd line at this time with Lias Andersson as his center. If he stays at RW, it makes it difficult for Quinn to slot Filip Chytil as a 4th line RW. The shift to LW for Kravtsov would mean a young but talented 3rd line with Andersson in the middle of Kravtsov and Chytil.

In truth, if there is any youngster in jeopardy of not making the team, it would be Chytil who has had a pedestrian preseason. Thus far he has been unable to find his game and has 0 points in 3 contests. He needs to make an impression tonight or it is very possible he will start in Hartford, not Vitali Kravtsov. It makes no sense for Chytil’s development to be a 4th liner.

As far as Kravtsov and the coach are concerned, whenever Quinn is asked about Kravtsov he’s had very positive things to say. And more importantly it isn’t just about his offense. Quinn loves that Kravtsov is hard on himself when he doesn’t do the little things like get the puck in deep. It’s comments like those that tell me Kravtsov is a lock to make it to the opening night roster.