Welcome back to Top Shelf Prospects, the daily column that brings you the next crop of professional hockey players. Each day I will bring you a new player profile or topical article in the lead-up to the 2018 NHL Draft. Be sure to bookmark the site, follow me on Twitter, and spread the word for the site that will bring you analytical and critical profiles and scouting reports! Last Word On Hockey Prospects is your new headquarters for everything “NHL Draft”! We have a complete listing of our draft articles here.
A dominant performance in the KHL Playoffs has shot Traktor Chelyabinsk forward Vitali Kravtsov up our NHL Draft board. After putting up four goals and seven points in 35 regular season games for Traktor, Kravtsov exploded in the playoffs. He put up six goals and 11 points in 16 playoff games. For a teenager to be doing this while playing in arguably the second best league in the world is extremely impressive. He helped Traktor to the Eastern Conference Finals, where the club fell to eventual Gagarin Cup Champions, AK Bars.
Kravtsov also spent time last season on loan to Chelmet Chelyabinsk in the VHL. He put up strong stats, scoring four goals and seven points in nine games in the second highest rated league in the country. Kravtsov didn’t play much in the MHL, or Russian junior league this season. He has surpassed that league, with three points in his only regular-season game and four points in two playoff games. Kravtsov got in some exhibition games with the Russian World Junior squad but ultimately did not make the final roster.
Vitali Kravtsov Scouting Report
Right Wing — shoots Left
Born December 23rd, 1999 — Vladivostok, Russia
Height 6’2″ — Weight 183 [188 cm / 83 kg]
Kravtsov is an excellent skater. He has good speed and acceleration. He can take a defenceman wide off the rush and cut to the front of the net. His ability to change speeds is a weapon on the rush. It is also something that Kravtsov has taken better advantage of as the season has gone on. He can slow the play down to create space from defenders, and open up passing and shooting lanes, or get a step on a defender, drop his shoulder and cut into the front of the net. Kravtsov also has good agility and edge work. This makes him dangerous in one-on-one situations. He already shows good power in his lower body, as he is tough to knock off the puck, and can fight through checks.
Kravtsov is a skilled offensive player. He pairs his great skating ability with outstanding hands. He can stickhandle in a phone booth. This makes him absolutely deadly in one-on-one situations. The best part of his game is that he can make all these moves and handle the puck while moving at top speed. If defenders back off to respect his speed and stickhandling, he has a deadly arsenal of shots that he can put on net. Kravtsov has a very good wrist shot and snapshot. Both shots feature a quick release. With the hands to also score in tight, he’s a natural sniper.
Kravtsov also has the vision and passing skill to be a playmaker off the wing, though he is more of a shoot first player. If there is a criticism of Kravtsov’s offensive game, it is that he does not always make the best decisions with the puck. He can skate himself into trouble by trying to do it all himself or to dangle too many defenders at once. He could stand to smarter with the puck and keep it moving, utilizing linemates more effectively.
Kravtsov’s defensive game is good for his age. He works hard on the backcheck and tries hard to cover his man at the point and battle for loose pucks on the boards. Kravtsov brings back pressure and works to cut down passing and shooting lanes. When a turnover is created, he is quick to transition to offence and create chances.
Projection and Comparison
Kravtsov has the potential to be a top-six winger in the NHL but has some areas of his game that need refinement. The natural skill is definitely there and makes him a real boom-or-bust prospect. He’s shown his high-end offensive ability and has had one of the best KHL playoff runs by a teenager, ever. Kravtsov’s game is reminiscent of Alex Kovalev, but this is a style comparison only and not one based on talent or potential.
The following is a compilation of some of the many highlight packages of Kravtsov that are available on youtube.
Check back tomorrow for the next prospect on our draft board.
Main Photo via Twitter:
Dirty dangles from Vitali Kravtsov, one of the draft 2018 top prospects https://t.co/qF5hbqNesr
— Igor Eronko (@IgorEronko) November 17, 2017