With the first of three first round selections in the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, the New York Rangers selected forward Vitali Kravtsov with the ninth overall pick.
Kravtsov, 18, received the Alexei Cherepanov Award as the Kontinental Hockey League's Rookie of the Year in 2017-18. In 16 games with Traktor Chelyabinsk during the 2018 Gagarin Cup Playoffs, Kravtsov registered six goals and five assists for 11 points. Kravtsov's 11 points were the most a KHL junior player (younger than 20 years old) has registered in one playoff year in the league's history, eclipsing the previous record of nine held by Evgeny Kuznetsov and Valeri Nichushkin. In addition, Kravtsov's six goals in the 2018 Gagarin Cup Playoffs were tied for the second-most a KHL junior player has recorded in one playoff year in the league's history. Other than Kravtsov, the only three KHL players younger than 20 years old who have tallied six or more goals in one playoff year are Kuznetsov (seven), Nichushkin (six), and Eeli Tolvanen (six). In addition, the 18-year-old Kravtsov became one of only three players younger than 22 years old in KHL history to register at least 11 points in one playoff year (Vladimir Tarasenko - 16 points as a 21-year-old; Kuznetsov - 11 points as a 20-year-old). Including the Russian Superleague (RSL), which was in existence from 1992-93 - 2007-08, Kravtsov's 11 points in the 2018 Gagarin Cup Playoffs were tied for the third-most by a teenager in one playoff year since 1992-93. Since 1992-93, the only teenagers who recorded more points than Kravtsov in one playoff year in Russia's highest league of professional hockey are Maxim Afinogenov (16 in 1998-99) and Evgeni Malkin (15 in 2005-06), and he is tied for first among 18-year-olds in points in one playoff year over the span.
The 6-3, 184-pounder was selected as the KHL's Rookie of the Month in both March and April of 2018, and he was also named the KHL's Best Rookie in each of the first three rounds of the 2018 Gagarin Cup Playoffs. Kravtsov led all KHL players younger than 19 years old in assists and points, and he was also tied for first among KHL players younger than 19 years old in goals during the playoffs this past year. In addition, Kravtsov tied for seventh among all players in the KHL in goals in the 2018 Gagarin Cup Playoffs, and he was also tied for second among all players in the league in game-winning goals (three) in the playoffs. He registered at least one point in seven of his first nine playoff games in 2018, posting four multi-point games over the span, and he registered the game-winning goal in overtime in his first playoff game of the year on Mar. 4 against Neftekhimik.
Kravtsov skated in 35 regular season games with Traktor Chelyabinsk this past season, registering four goals and three assists for seven points, along with a plus-three rating and six penalty minutes. Kravtsov's four goals and seven points in 2017-18 were the second-most by a draft eligible player in one season in KHL history. Among players younger than 19 years old, Kravtsov ranked second in the league in goals, assists, and points, and ranked third in the league in games played and plus/minus rating in 2017-18. He tallied his first career KHL regular season assist/point on Sept. 13, 2017 against HC Dynamo Moscow and recorded his first career KHL regular season goal on Oct. 18, 2017 against Kunlun Red Star.
During the 2017 Gagarin Cup Playoffs, Kravtsov registered one goal in six games with Traktor, and he became the youngest player to ever score a goal in the Gagarin Cup Playoffs (17 years, 61 days old). Kravtsov is one of two players younger than 18 years old who have scored a goal in the Gagarin Cup Playoffs in KHL history (Kuznetsov; 17 years, 299 days old). In addition, Kravtsov was one of only seven players younger than 18 years old who skated in at least one KHL game during the 2016-17 season. He skated in 41 games with Belye Medvedi Chelyabinsk in the Junior Hockey League (MHL) in 2016-17, registering 13 goals and 23 assists for 36 points, and he was selected to play in the MHL All-Star Game. Kravtsov tied for second on Belye Medvedi in plus/minus rating, tied for third on the team in assists, tied for fifth on the team in points, and led the team in power play goals (six) in 2016-17. In addition, Kravtsov registered six points (two goals, four assists) and a plus-four rating in five MHL playoff contests during the season, and he led the team in assists and points in the playoffs.
Entering the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, the Vladivostok, Russia native was ranked No. 3 on NHL Central Scouting's final ranking of International skaters eligible for this year's Draft.