July 10, 2020

Vitali Kravtsov will headline forwards for Rangers expanded playoff roster

Vitali Kravtsov at practice (Photo: Charles Wenzelberg)

On Monday, the NHL is expected to open up Phase 3. All 24 teams in the Return to Play format will begin training camp in preparation for the Qualifying Rounds which begin on August 1. The Rangers can invite 30 skaters and unlimited goalies, but will need to cut that to 28 skaters and three goalies before leaving for their hub city in Toronto.

Projecting the Rangers expanded roster at forward

When the action starts, you can expect almost the same lineup at forward as it was late in the regular season before the pause.

  • Chris Kreider – Mika Zibanejad – Pavel Buchnevich
  • Artemi Panarin – Ryan Strome – Jesper Fast
  • Filip Chytil – Brett Howden – Kaapo Kakko
  • Brendan Lemieux – Gregg McKegg – Phil Di Giuseppe

Extra Forwards: Steven Fogarty and Julien Gauthier.

Now the Rangers will take those 14 forwards and look to add four to five more depending on if they carry three to four defenseman.

Vitali Kravtsov will headline the forward group

Vitali Kravtsov is in NY (NY Post)

After a short stint in the KHL with Traktor this season, Vitali Kravtsov was sent to its VHL affiliate, which is basically infinitely worse than going from the Rangers to the Pack. After only playing a few games, Jeff Gorton got on the phone and made sure his prized prospect was back developing in Hartford.

In a recent Russian interview, before flying back to NY to take part in Phase 3 he said, “I am ready. I really missed hockey.”

John Davidson also revealed plans for the Blueshirts’ 2018 first round pick in a Zoom call with season ticket holders. The objective is to give him a shot in camp to make the roster.

Kravtsov will certainly have to earn it, but he’s still likely to make the roster. For him, just the experience of what the NHL playoffs are like will be beneficial. It will also help his maturity by simply practicing with the team during this time.

The bottom line, the Rangers didn’t bring Kravtsov back and have him miss his sister’s wedding only to send him back home in two more weeks.

Vinni Lettieri is a shoe-in

Vinni Lettieri, the Wolf Pack’s most consistent offensive threat is already here working out with the team during Phase 2. This could be his last hurrah with the Rangers since his contract is up this off-season.

At 25 years of age and having completed three or more pro seasons but less than 80 NHL games, Lettieri is allowed to become an Unrestricted Free Agent. That means he will be looking for an NHL team that needs scoring punch and can almost guarantee him a roster spot.

Vinni Lettieri will make the playoff roster (Getty Images)

There is still a possibility that Lettieri could re-up with the Rangers if he has a real chance at a roster spot next season. With the cap now flat at $81.5 million for at least the next two seasons, the Rangers could be in the market for low cost talent up front for their lineup.

Remember this, Jesper Fast and Greg McKegg are UFAs. Ryan Strome, Brendan Lemieux and Phil Di Guiseppe are all RFA’s. That means the Rangers only have eight forwards locked up for next season. So Lettieri may not only still be with the organization but in the starting lineup as well when hockey starts up again in December.

Tim Gettinger

At 6’6″ and 22 years-old, there is still a lot of promise for Tim Gettinger with the Rangers. He has played 6 games with the big club over the last two seasons and would provide solid 4th line depth in a pinch. He will be added to the post-season roster.

Boo Nieves

Boo Nieves is another no-brainer. He has plenty of NHL experience with 76 games over the last four seasons. Nieves is 26 years-old and has the maturity to help the team’s bottom six in an emergency.

Other Possibilites

The Rangers could also decide to give Matt Beleskey or Ty Ronning a chance at camp to make the club’s expanded playoff roster.

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