During the offseason and past trade deadlines, I often talk about dominoes, in that GMs often have to evaluate the play of their current youth pipelines before going out and making moves to improve their rosters. two years ago, Rangers need to add more net front presence And physicality in between, as Mika Zibanejad, Ryan StromAnd Philip Chittel All were transition players. In that scene, Chytil’s development Domino was what pushed Strome out of town and Trocheck to MSG. This season, a similar scenario presents itself, as Vitaly Kravtsov solves many Rangers Wing depth problem.
kapo kakko Finally looks like a solid top six right wing, but then Kravtsov is the only other natural RW on the roster. All other wingers are lefties except for Panarin who mostly played LW throughout their careers. That likely means Kravtsov’s play is going to be the major domino that will affect Drury’s trade strategy as we approach the deadline and beyond.
Of course, evaluating Kravtsov’s plays is easier said than done. On the one hand you have a player who has only scored 10 points in 45 career games. On the other hand, he has the lowest xGA per 60 on the team. From the RAPM chart below Developed hockey Perfectly depicts all of this.
However, the sample size here is too small to draw any real conclusions. And I think it’s safe to say that when Vitali enters his prime, he won’t be the 4th line defensive winger that these charts are portraying.
I thought maybe those stats were influenced by who Kravtsov played with, as he’s been deployed all over the place this season, but the chart below doesn’t really give you a clear way.
There are a few under-the-radar things that stand out about Kravtsov’s game when the puck is on his stick. The first is puck protection. He carries the puck in his hip socket and will use his body to shield defenders.
This is a very important attribute for wingers, as most of their play comes from the wall. Obviously being a good stickhandler helps, but once you face the better defensemen in this league you’ll need additional tools.
Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about.
Notice how Kravtsov breaks off the coverage and immediately shifts the puck to his hip to avoid the steal. That’s a pro move.
Another thing that quietly stands out is his skating and especially his edge work. He excels at these change of tempo moves to get open or find a lane and that’s because he can use the edge of his skate without losing momentum or getting knocked off the puck.
Here’s a look at his left leg as he enters the slot against Columbus. That little C-cut helped him get Elvis’ position.
Same story as above against the islanders. His edge work helps him combine with Rooney for a beautiful set-up.
Where he needs work
For me, Kravtsov’s biggest areas of development are twofold and somewhat related. At this point he reminds me of Buknevich before his tenure here or even Chitil. Both had inherent skills, but needed to fill in to handle the NHL’s short ice plays.
As I’ve highlighted, once Kravtsov gets going, he’s hard to knock down. However, he seems a bit unbalanced when he’s not advancing. Part of that is because he’s so straightforward.
It was hard to find an example of this in the video, since most of the highlights are just targets, but what I’m talking about is something like this below
Note its position here along the board. Almost as if he was standing straight up. This is what coaches often call flat-footed. So whether you have the puck or not, if you’re too upright, it’s going to be hard to react to the play or be in position to make an explosive first move.
So suit, what’s the way forward for this kid?
At this point, I think the company is mostly handling Kravtsov’s development right. Apparently, he’d rather play in Russia than the AHL, so the Rangers have no choice but to keep him.
Due to Gallant’s lack of role, I think he’s fine to oscillate between the 2nd and 3rd lines depending on the matchup and the performance of his teammates. Either way, what he does with the minutes he’s given will be important as we look to build this roster toward a Cup.
Classified: the player