2017-18 Team: Traktor Chelyabinsk (#74)
Date of Birth: December 23, 1999
Place of Birth: Vladivostok, Russia
Ht: 6’4″ Wt: 183 lbs
Position: Right Wing
NHL Draft Eligibility: 2018 first-year eligible
- THW (Pike’s Picks): 36th (final)
- Future Considerations: 28th (final)
- ISS: not in top 31 (final)
- Bob McKenzie: 12th (final)
- Craig Button: 23rd (final)
Things go in cycles in the National Hockey League, and particularly in drafting and development. In the past, there’s been a lot of chatter about the “Russian Factor” – the nervousness that a Russian-born player might not cross the ocean to North America if they’re drafted. That nervousness has diminished somewhat by several Russian players coming over – before the NHL Draft and after it – and having success. Vitali Kravtsov of the Kontinental Hockey League’s Traktor Chelyabinsk is a Russian who’s stayed in his motherland thus far, but is generating a lot of buzz from NHL scouts.
Kravtsov came up through the Chalyabinsk system, playing his youth hockey with the organization and working all the way up to the junior Major Hockey League in 2016-17 and up to the Kontinental Hockey League in 2017-18. He debuted in the KHL as a 17-year-old during the 2016-17 campaign and spent the majority of the 2017-18 season there – he played basically a year in the second-best league in the world as an 18-year-old.
The forward had a solid rookie season, putting up 7 points in 35 regular season games. But he broke out in a big way during the playoffs, putting up 11 points in 16 games and pushing Traktor to the Eastern Conference Final. When the chips were down, Kravtsov stepped up in a big way; the only Traktor players with more playoff points were 27 and 31 years old.
There’s a lot to like about Kravtsov’s game. He’s a big, lanky player who uses his size well, but his success on the ice isn’t dependent on his size. He’s a very smart player in the offensive zone who anticipates plays well and is able to set up his teammates deftly. If there are a couple big holes in his game, they would be his game-to-game consistency and his attention to detail away from the puck. He’s not a defensive liability, but he could commit to the details of breaking down offensive attacks a bit more than he does.
Kravtsov is likely a few seasons away from coming over to North America, as he’s still under contract to Traktor Chelyabinsk for the 2018-19 season. But he’s a very smart, mobile, dangerous offensive player with a few rough patches in his game away from the puck. If he’s drafted by a team that’s patient and can work with him to round out his game, he could be a great addition to an NHL organization’s prospect group.
Vitali Kravtsov – NHL Draft Projection
Kravtsov projects as a late first rounder. His offensive ceiling is high enough that it’s unlikely that he’ll slip into the second round.
“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.” – Ben Kerr, Last Word on Sports
“A big, skilled winger that can play up and down the lineup and provide scoring in a number of roles. He brings grit and physical size, but could be more assertive in throwing his weight around more. Displays excellent speed on the rush and in zone entry, but could backcheck quicker. Plays well in his own end and takes away lanes. Very good hands and awareness. Kravtsov has the potential to develop into a staple top six forward that can produce at the next level.” – Elite Prospects
- Great offensive awareness
- Strong puck distributor
- Good finisher around the net
Under Construction (Improvements to Make)
- Needs more attention to detail in the defensive zone
- Needs to add muscle to his frame to fill himself out physically
- Needs to work on his consistency
Other 2018 NHL Draft Profiles
Kravtsov projects as a top six winger at the NHL level.
Risk – 1.5/5, Reward – 4/5
Fantasy Hockey Potential
Offense 9/10, Defense 8/10
Kravtsov won the Aleksei Cherepanov Award as the KHL’s top rookie in 2017-18.
Ryan Pike has covered the Calgary Flames and the NHL Draft extensively since 2010 as a Senior Writer for The Hockey Writers and Senior Contributing Editor of FlamesNation.ca. A member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association, he lives in Calgary.