Vitali Kravtsov once again hits a snag with New York Rangers

Things were looking up for Vitali Kravtsov with the New York Rangers after a series of early injuries and healthy scratches limited him to just 10 of the team’s first 27 games.

In that span, the 23 year-old skilled winger notched just two points. However, beginning on December 15, Kravtsov suited up for every game and played in 17 straight. This allowed the 2018 first-round pick to add another four points to his totals which now stands at six (3G -3A).

Yet here we are again with Kravtsov facing another crossroads in his young NHL career.

Vitali Kravtsov hits another Rangers snag

vitali kravtsov new york rangers
Dec 27, 2022; New York, New York, USA; New York Rangers right wing Vitali Kravtsov (74) battles with Washington Capitals left wing Alex Ovechkin (8) during the first period at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

After Gerard Gallant reconfigured his first three lines using his top-nine forwards for Monday’s 6-2 romp over the Florida Panthers, Vitali Kravtsov found himself in a fourth line checking role. Playing with forecheckers like Jake Leschyshyn and Julien Gauthier, he was very ineffective.

“[Kravtsov’s] been fine, but again he’s not a fourth-line player,” Gallant said. “He’s built to play in a top nine position… He’s been fine, I wish he’d score more, I wish he’d finish more checks and stuff like that…I always say to the guys, ‘Make me play you.'”

Unfortunately for Kravtsov, he’s not a top-nine player on this team. When the Rangers take on the Toronto Maple Leafs at Scotiabank Arena tonight, he’ll be a healthy scratch again.

“It’s the same as the other kids,” Gallant explained Wednesday. “There’s not a lot of room sometimes. He’s played and worked hard. He’s taken a step for us and I like the kid. But score 15 goals when you’re in there for 20 games.”

Listen, this was always going to be a hard road for Kravtsov after he requested a trade before the start of last season and went to go play in the KHL instead of reporting to the Hartford Wolf Pack. It cost him an entire year of development and adjusting to the speed and physicality of the NHL. It’s a fact not lost on him either.

“I’ve definitely made a lot of noise previously so there’s this necessity to redeem myself a little bit,” Kravtsov said in September. “I just want to do what everyone else is doing. Put in the work, get on the team, and do my part.”

To Kravtsov’s credit, he did just that by reporting to New York in August to prepare for training camp. He’s also been a model citizen despite the arduous journey. But the reality is Kravtsov is on the outside looking in.

Kravtsov has hit another snag with the New York Rangers. At some point, the Rangers will need to make a roster decision that might involve trading him. GM Chris Drury can’t send him down to Hartford because he’s no longer waivers exempt and will certainly be claimed.

So what does the future hold for the former first round pick, 9th overall in the 2018 draft? The question will only become more complex this summer as they may be forced to trade the rights of a restricted free agent who will unlikely want to re-sign. That is if he makes it past the NHL Trade Deadline on March 3.

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