Vitali Kravtsov odd man out of the New York Rangers lineup
Vitaly Kravtsov he hasn’t been able to return to the lineup for the New York Rangers, a team looking for a secondary goal. This is one of the main reasons why Gerard Gallant chose to assemble the Kids Line, thus eliminating Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko from the top six.
Bad injuries and a tooth infection aside, Kravtsov is a talented forward who was drafted ninth overall in 2018, but he can’t seem to gain any traction with the Blueshirts.
“Every time he gets on the ice it hurts,” Gerard Gallant said after Kravtsov was hurt in Dallas on Oct. 29. “It is a pity”.
He returned to the lineup for two games against the Islanders and Red Wings, where he earned his only point (an assist) in an 8-2 drubbing of Detroit. Then he got sick again with a tooth infection and has missed the last four straight.
Kravtsov, 22, was cleared to travel for this four-game road trip, making him a healthy scratch for the final two contests.
Vitali Kravtsov struggling to crack the Rangers lineup
This has really been a tough season for Kravtsov, who is desperate to show the Rangers and the NHL what he can do.
Rangers have played 19 games this season and he has only been able to dress in six. Also, he’s only been able to finish three of those contests after suffering injuries against the Lightning (opening night 10/11), Avalanche (10/25) and Stars (10/29).
“I feel great,” Kravtsov said before facing the Isles on 8/11. “I’m going to build confidence. Play well, help the team, help myself. Play hard and fast. I feel a lot better right now than I did a week or a month ago.”
Unfortunately, that good feeling lasted just two games before a tooth infection sidelined him once again.
Kravtsov is not versatile enough
The biggest problem for Kravtsov not being able to crack the lineup has been the play of two other right backs in Julien Gauthier and Jimmy Vesey.
Gauthier, 25, has 3 goals and 4 points in his 11 games since being called up from the Hartford Wolf Pack. Another former first-round pick, the big, speedy tight end is making the most of this opportunity. His latest goal was a huge one last night in a scoreless game against the San Jose Sharks.
“It was a small reward,” Gauthier said after the 2-1 win. “My teammates and I played a good game putting a lot of pucks in the net. That win was good for our group. We stayed there and got two points.”
Quebec currently plays on the fourth line and thrives. His physical and quick style allows him to be very effective in Gallant’s forecheck system. Ask Ryan Reaves how good Gauthier has been.
Jimmy Vesey also holds a spot in the lineup on the front line due to his ability to play a puck recovery style.
The 29-year-old came into camp on a PTO playing for his hockey life. Thanks to his hard work and his ability to kill penalties, Vesey got a one-year contract. This season, he has two goals (one from Taqui) and 6 points in 18 games.
Both Vesey and Gauthier play a north-south style that suits the Rangers’ needs on their respective lines. Kravtsov is a skilled winger who plays more of an east-west game that the team has more than enough of in the lineup.
Eventually Kravtsov will be back and will have to show that he can play a slightly more diverse game. That doesn’t mean he has to abandon the style that got him this far, but if he wants to get a foot in the lineup, he’s going to have to play harder.
You will also need to start scoring. This will really keep it in there.
Kravtsov signed a one-year, one-way deal this summer and will be an RFA in July. He remains a likely trade candidate for a trade term lease.
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