Vitali Kravtsov, the No. 9 pick in the 2018 NHL draft, came to North America last year and spent most of the season with the Hartford Wolf Pack, scoring six goals in 39 games for the Rangers’ AHL affiliate.
It was a rough year, because that “most of last season” does a yada-yada-yada to Kravtsov going back to Russia after five games to play for Traktor Chelyabinsk in the KHL, scoring two goals in 11 games there, getting demoted to Chelmet Chelyabinsk of the VHL, and ultimately returning to Hartford.
Back in Russia again, Kravtsov showed on Saturday why the Rangers were so high on him two years ago, with an incredible goal against Kunlun Red Star.
The goal, Kravtsov’s 11th in 33 games for Traktor this season, takes a couple of replays to really appreciate.
First, there’s the way that Kravtsov receives the long pass from Will Roman, finding open ice and staying onside while receiving the puck in stride.
Next, Kravtsov’s between-the-legs stickhandle frees him from the pressure of Jake Chelios — yes, that’s Chris’ son — although it winds up with him below the faceoff dot and at a tough shooting angle. Or what should be a tough shooting angle.
That, however, is no problem, because of this cheeky backhand finish, right over the back of goalie Jeremy Smith, formerly of the Colorado Avalanche and several AHL clubs, who was leaning forward as the play looked to be a pass back to the slot.
Put it all together, and that’s one hell of a goal, minor league-level opposition or otherwise.
Kravtsov turned 21 this week. It might feel like he’s been a Rangers prospect forever, but there’s still time for him to figure out how to be able to do this kind of thing at the NHL level.