Vitali Kravtsov was selected by the New York Rangers in the first round of the 2018 NHL draft. And after years of development, he earned himself a spot on the team’s opening-day roster. However, the season hasn’t gone according to plan for Kravtsov. He has already missed time due to three separate injuries in just four games played. The last of which appeared to be a potentially serious head injury after going into the wall head first. After the game, it was announced that he would miss at least a week with a concussion. What makes it even scarier, is that this is now his second concussion in 18 days.
What Is Best For Vitali Kravtsov And The Rangers?
Clearly, the long-term health of the 22-year-old should be the first priority of both Kravtsov as well as the team. The way that Kravtsov went so recklessly for the loose puck is certainly something to be concerned about. He seemed to have a blatant disregard for his own safety and paid the price for it. Head coach, Gerard Gallant, commented that “he put himself in a bad spot the other night and he got hit real hard.” Of course, the coach loves his aggressiveness in getting to loose pucks, but added that he needs to “be a little safer than that.” When asked if Gallant believes that Kravtsov will learn to protect himself better as he gains experience, he replied that he hopes so.
But it is hard to believe that he will change so quickly. After all, this is a much faster and more physical league than Kravtsov has ever been in. He simply doesn’t appear to be ready. However, there is a way to ease Kravtsov back into the game at a slightly slower speed. But he would have to agree to it.
A Conditioning Loan for Vitali Kravtsov to AHL Affiliate Wolf Pack
After Kravtsov is cleared to return, he could be sent down to the AHL affiliate Hartford Wolf Pack on a 14-day conditioning loan. This would allow Kravtsov to regain his footing and his confidence at a slightly lower level before returning to the NHL. That is, only if he gives his consent. And by agreeing to this, he is essentially giving other players two more weeks to prove that they deserve his spot on the roster.
Julien Gauthier has filled in in the top-nine forwards during Kravtsov’s absence. And nobody can argue that he isn’t physically ready for the NHL. Gauthier is the biggest player on the Rangers right now at 6’4″, 227-pounds. He is blazing fast and has picked up a goal and an assist in his four games with the Rangers. On top of that, he has physically beaten down teams with his tenacious style of play and has drawn a couple of penalties as well.
Brennan Othmann was one of the players who was up against Kravtsov in training camp for that final spot in the top nine forwards. The bummer about sending Othmann down is that at 19 years old, he is too young for the American Hockey League. Therefore he had to go back down to the Ontario Hockey League, which he dominated last year to the tune of 97 points in 66 games. And he started this year with 10 goals and 13 assists in his first 13 games. Othmann is ready for the next level; keeping him down only limits his progression. But without the ability to go to the AHL, the next level for him right now is the NHL.
What it Means
Head injuries are terrifying. And for young Vitali Kravtsov as well as the team, the most important thing is his long-term health. A conditioning loan to the AHL appears to be the safest route in returning him to the Rangers but unfortunately for him, will open the door for other players to show the coaches what they can offer to the team.
— New York Post (@nypost) November 2, 2022