Rangers’ Kravtsov & Gauthier Deserve More Opportunities

The New York Rangers have failed to get the most out of their young forwards over the past few years with both David Quinn and Gerard Gallant behind the bench. Vitali Kravtsov and Julien Gauthier both have impressive skill sets but have struggled to get playing time. They have the potential to become difference-makers and they deserve more opportunities, especially with the team struggling.

Vitali Kravtsov

The Rangers drafted Kravtsov ninth overall in the 2018 NHL Draft and the winger played very well for Chelyabinsk Traktor of the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL). He finished with 16 goals and eight assists in 49 games during the 2020-21 season and made a few highlight-reel plays. He then made his NHL debut with the Rangers, finishing with two goals and two assists in 20 games.

Vitali Kravtsov, New York Rangers
Vitali Kravtsov made his debut with the New York Rangers during the 2020-21 season (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

Ahead of last season, Kravstov had an impressive training camp and scored a preseason goal. Despite his promising play, Gallant opted to send the winger to the Hartford Wolf Pack of the American Hockey League (AHL) to avoid losing Dryden Hunt to waivers.

After refusing to report to the Wolf Pack, Kravtsov requested a trade and eventually ended up playing in the KHL. Gallant surprisingly decided to play Hunt alongside Artemi Panarin for a large part of the regular season, but he finished with just six goals and 11 assists in 76 games. The Rangers ended up waiving him this season.

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Kravtsov missed time with a few different injuries this season and has one goal and one assist in 10 games. He has played well defensively, but Gallant frequently opted to scratch him to keep Ryan Carpenter (whom the team waived on Dec. 8) and Sammy Blais in the lineup. Both provide grit, but Blais has no goals and five assists in 25 games while Carpenter has one goal and two assists in 21 games.

Gallant preaches defense-first and Kravtsov has defended well but is not getting rewarded with playing time. However, veteran fourth-liners are given ample opportunities because of their grit despite making mistakes defensively. Given the struggles of some of the players in the lineup and the flashes of talent the young winger has already shown, he deserves to stay in the lineup.

Julien Gauthier

Like Kravtsov, Gauthier was a first-round pick (21st overall in 2016) and he has the potential to become a key player for the Rangers. His skill set is similar to Chris Kreider’s as he possesses a rare combination of size, strength, and speed. However, he had just five goals and 12 assists in 91 games over his first three seasons with the Blueshirts after they acquired him from the Carolina Hurricanes.

Julien Gauthier New York Rangers
Julien Gauthier has made the most of his opportunity with the New York Rangers this season (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Though Gauthier began this season with the Wolf Pack, he made it back into the Rangers’ lineup with a few players out injured and he made the most of his opportunity. He has four goals and two assists in 20 games even though he only averages 8:43 in ice time per game. He scored a beautiful goal against the Dallas Stars as he got around a defender, beat their goalie to the puck, and slid it into the vacated net from a bad angle.

The Rangers have a few fast players on their roster, but they are a fairly slow team overall, and Gauthier’s speed has certainly helped him create scoring chances. He is playing well consistently and creating scoring chances even though he often plays with struggling teammates.

Gauthier could also end up helping the second power-play unit. At 6-foot-4 and 227 pounds, he can create havoc in front of the net and look to score on deflections or rebounds. He should be an upgrade on Blais who currently plays that role and has yet to score a goal in 39 games with the Rangers over the last two seasons.

For the Rangers Moving Forward

The Rangers have gotten off to a mediocre start to the season and it certainly will not be easy for them to make the playoffs. They need to get more from their young forwards for that to happen, and they need to start trusting players like Kravtsov and Gauthier. Both deserve more ice time and both can provide the team with a much-needed spark in a bigger role.

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