Vitali Kravtsov failed to return to the New York Rangers lineup, a team looking for secondary points. That’s one of the main reasons why Gerard Gallant decided to reunite the Kids Line, ousting Alexis Lafreniere and Kaapo Kakko from the top 6.
Barring unfortunate injuries and a dental infection, Kravtsov is a talented forward who was picked ninth overall in 2018 but can’t seem to find any appeal with the blueshirts.
“Every time he gets on the ice, he hurts himself,” Gerard Gallant said after Kravtsov was injured in Dallas on Oct. 29. “It’s a shame.”
He returned to the lineup for two games against the Islanders and Red Wings, where he got his only point (an assist) in an 8-2 blowout against Detroit. He then fell ill with tooth infection again and has missed the last four in a row.
The 22-year-old Kravtsov has been cleared for this four-game road trip, making him a healthy scratch for the final two competitions.
Vitali Kravtsov is struggling to crack Rangers’ lineup
This has been a tough season for Kravtsov, who is keen to show Rangers and the NHL what he can do.
Rangers have played 19 games this season and he has only managed to get dressed for six of them. Additionally, he was only able to finish three of those contests after injuring himself against Lightning (premiering on 10/11), Avalanche (10/25), and Stars (10/29).
“I’m feeling great,” Kravtsov said ahead of his November 8 encounter with the Isles. “I will build the confidence. Play well, help the team, help myself. Play hard and fast. I feel a lot better now than I did a week or a month ago.”
Unfortunately, that good feeling only lasted two games before a dental infection knocked him out again.
Kravtsov not versatile enough
The biggest problem for Kravtsov, who couldn’t crack the lineup, was play from two other right wings in Julien Gauthier and Jimmy Vesey.
Gauthier, 25, has 3 goals and 4 points in his 11 games since being called up by the Hartford Wolf Pack. The tall and fast winger, another former first-rounder, is making the most of this opportunity. His latest goal was a huge one, scored in a scoreless game against the San Jose Sharks last night.
“It was a nice little reward,” Gauthier said after the 2-1 win. “We had a good game, my linemates and I, we netted a lot of pucks. This win felt good for our group. We stuck with it and got two points.”
Currently, the Quebec native is playing in the fourth row and is thriving. His physical and quick style allows him to be very effective in Gallant’s forechecking system. Just ask Ryan Reaves how good Gauthier was.
Jimmy Vesey also occupies a spot in the front row lineup because of his ability to play a gritty and puck-returning style.
The 29-year-old came to the camp on a PTO shaft and played for his hockey life. Thanks to his hard work and ability to kill penalties, Vesey landed a one-year contract. This season he has two goals (one shorthanded) and 6 points in 18 games.
Both Vesey and Gauthier play a north-south style that suits the needs of the Rangers on their respective lines. Kravtsov is an experienced winger who plays more of an east-west game, which the team has more than enough of in the line-up.
Eventually Kravtsov will come back in and have to show that he can play a slightly more varied game. That doesn’t mean he should give up the style that got him here, but if he wants to gain a foothold in the line-up he needs to play bolder.
He also needs to start scoring. That’s really going to keep him in there.
Kravtsov signed a one-year deal this summer and will be an RFA in July. He remains a likely trade candidate for a trade deadline lease.
NHL News and Rumors
NHL recaps. All current scores here.
NHL Rumors: Erik Karlsson on Trade Talks? Continue reading.
NHL rumours: Jonathan Toews trade talk Continue reading.