Canucks 2022-23 Report Cards: Vitali Kravtsov

Welcome to the Vancouver Canucks 2022-23 report card series. In this series, we at The Hockey Writers look back at each Canucks player from the past season, break down how their campaign went and assign a letter grade reflective of their overall performance. This edition will focus on Vitali Kravstov.

Rangers Trade Kravstov to Canucks

The Canucks acquired Kravstov from the New York Rangers in exchange for William Lockwood and a 2026 seventh-round pick on Feb. 25, 2023. Lockwood, 24, was a 2016 third-round pick who did not project to be a significant part of the Canucks’ future. Initially, the low-risk, high-reward trade seemed impossible to lose. Getting the ninth overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft for essentially nothing was a perfect move to make during a retool. Coming in, Kravstov was a reclamation project. He needed a change of scenery from the bright lights of New York – hopefully finding his footing in the NHL following years of inconsistency. 

The Rangers traded Kravstov, one of their faltering young pieces, to clear cap space, as minuscule a number as it was, to make room for Patrick Kane. The Canucks took advantage of their situation, plucking a struggling forward from a contending team for pennies on the dollar. Due to the low acquisition cost, expectations for Kravstov to enter as a game-breaker were low. Despite giving up practically nothing for Kravstov, he still underperformed.

Kravstov’s Performance With Canucks

Kravstov only played 16 games in a Canucks uniform. In those games, he scored just two points, a goal and an assist. He averaged 10:50 in time on ice, with a plus/minus of minus-3. He struggled to earn ice time with the Rangers, and that trend followed him to the Canucks. One can argue that coaches, especially on teams outside of the playoff picture in March, should allow young players to show what they got – a trial run of sorts. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your outlook, NHL ice time is earned. Kravstov did not earn more than what he received. His inability to string consecutive games together where he looked above replacement level is why he stayed in the bottom six, not due to a lack of trust from the Canucks organization. 

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Kravstov’s inconsistent play goes deeper than his disheartening point totals. Game-by-game, his Corsi For percentage (CF%) would fluctuate from stunning to shambolic, with sustainability nowhere in the equation. In his 16 games with the Canucks, his CF% was 48.2 – slightly below average. The issue lies in fans, media, and coaches not knowing which Kravstov the team was getting nightly. In a six-game span, his CF% per game fluctuated between 25, 22.5, 40, 87.5, 60, and back down to 40. For reference, Connor McDavid’s highest single-game CF% during the 2022-23 season was 86.4. His streaky performances and low offensive totals kept his ice time low, showing why he is not a full-time NHL player. 

Kravstov’s Future In Canucks Organization

Kravstov’s future with the Canucks became murky on May 22, as Rick Dhaliwal tweeted a story reporting that the forward signed a two-year deal in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). The team he signed with was Traktor Chelyabinsk, where he has spent most of his professional career. Playing for Traktor helped impress scouts to make him a first-round commodity in the 2018 NHL Draft, so there is a chance he continues to progress as a player, developing into the top-six forward he possesses the skill to be.

The bright side to this discouraging development is the Canucks’ ability to retain Kravstov’s NHL rights. He is entering restricted free agency, meaning that if the Canucks choose to tender him a qualifying offer, once he comes back from the KHL (if he does), they will have first dibs on him. There is a 90-spot reserve list, making this option a no-brainer, risk-free option for the team. Kravstov will likely play in the NHL again; whether that is a part of the Canucks organization is the big question.

Final Grade for Vitali Kravstov: D+

Kravstov’s low acquisition cost saves this grade from steeping into failure territory. The 23-year-old can take the next two years to continue to develop his game, and maybe, it will mutually benefit him and the Canucks. His poor point totals, inconsistent play, and overall incompatibility with playing in the NHL make him a curious case of lousy development on the Rangers’ part and a failed chance at reclamation by the Canucks. Who knows, maybe in a couple of seasons, Kravstov will return to the Canucks and help lead them to the playoffs, but until then, many view him as just another first-round bust. 

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