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Kravtsov could play for Rangers this season

Forward prospect has size, ability to make jump from Russia

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / Senior Writer

GREENBURGH, N.Y. -- For an idea of what the New York Rangers think forward Vitali Kravtsov will eventually do for them, watch Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom's circle-to-circle saucer pass to Alex Ovechkin in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Backstrom's pass from the right face-off circle went through the slot, below the hash marks, between two Vegas Golden Knights' sticks and onto Ovechkin's stick for a one-timer in the Capitals' championship-clinching game.

"He's got the ability to do that," Rangers director of player personnel Gordie Clark said of Kravtsov, 18, the No. 9 pick in the 2018 NHL Draft who currently plays for Traktor Chelyabinsk in the Kontinental Hockey League. "And he's got that mind to make that play."

Clark brought up a Backstrom pass, but he compares Kravtsov, the No. 3 ranked European skater by NHL Central Scouting, to Capitals forward Evgeny Kuznetsov.

Kravtsov is listed at 6-foot-3, 184 pounds; Kuznetsov is 6-2, 204. They have the same type of skill, playmaking ability, sneaky good shots and high hockey IQs.

"I like passing, shooting," Kravtsov said. "I'm a skills player."

However, Clark said the difference between Kravtsov and Kuznetsov is Kravtsov is more physically mature than Kuznetsov was at 18. He said Kuznetsov was "skin and bones" in his draft year; Kravtsov has muscle and a wider, stronger frame.

"Kuznetsov, you could see it right away he had more of a sniper mentality, but he could make great plays," Clark said. "Kravtsov's shot was coming last season and in the second half of the year it went to another level. But the hockey sense, think of that play Backstrom pass, and all that quick stuff they do now because the game is so fast. He's got that."

Video: Rangers draft F Vitali Kravtsov No. 9

He showed it in the KHL playoffs last season, when he set a record for most points by a junior-aged player in a single postseason with 11 (six goals, five assists) in 16 games. Kuznetsov and Dallas Stars forward Valeri Nichushkin previously held the record with nine apiece.

He was the KHL's Rookie of the Month in March and April and won the Alexei Cherepanov Award as the KHL's Rookie of the year. He played 35 regular-season games and had seven points (four goals, three assists), second most by a draft-eligible player in KHL history.

"He looked like he was just getting ready to break out [in the playoffs]," Clark said.

The Rangers will have to wait and see what he can become in North America. Kravtsov will start the season in Russia and is expected to play out the final year of his KHL contract.

He still can personally buy out his KHL contract, but after discussing that option with the Rangers, all parties involved agreed it would be beneficial for Kravtsov to play one more KHL season before coming to North America, according to a Rangers spokesperson.

Kravtsov's intention is to still play in North America this season, either with the Rangers or with Hartford of the American Hockey League, because of the timing of the KHL season.

He expects to be released from his KHL contract immediately after Traktor Chelyabinsk plays its final game, which could be as early as Feb. 22.

"He's ready to start playing here," Clark said. 

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