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Vitali Kravtsov Returning to KHL: A Closer Look at His Career Path

Vitali Kravtsov is reportedly returning to the KHL after failed stints with the New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks.

A recent report via Russian outlet Championat notes that 23-year-old winger Vitali Kravtsov was expected to sign a two-year deal to return to Traktor Chelyabinsk in the KHL for the 2023-24 season. In an update that followed on Tuesday, the news is that he has officially signed, per his now-former agent Dan Milstein. Kravtsov has switched representation as part of the deal.

Kravtsov’s journey in professional hockey has been marked by ups and downs, with stints in both the NHL and KHL. A player with a high potential ceiling, has size, good hands, and vision, and was pretty good along the wall, even showing promise defensively. But, he seems to think he’ll be better off outside the NHL.

The Canucks will potentially still hold his rights and can qualify him as a restricted free agent. But, if he doesn’t return, it’s hard to argue his run was anything more than a misstep by two organizations.

After winning Rookie of the Year honors in the KHL, Kravtsov caught the attention of the New York Rangers who drafted him in 2018. The franchise placed high expectations upon him having been considered a top Russian-born junior player but Kravtsov faced challenges in transitioning to the NHL.

Canucks’ Vitali Kravtsov returning to the KHL

He made his debut in the 2020-21 season but only managed four points in limited ice time. As a result, he was sent back to Traktor, where he struggled to find his scoring touch. He showed improvement with 13 points in 19 games and returned to the NHL, but couldn’t get into full-time duty with the Rangers. In a move to create cap space for the New York Rangers, Kravtsov was traded to the Vancouver Canucks before the NHL trade deadline in 2022-23. The hope in Vancouver was that he would prove himself alongside quality linemates. Still, his production remained modest, scoring just one goal and adding an assist for a total of two points in 16 games.

Kravtsov Going Back to the KHL

Following limited success in the NHL, Kravtsov has chosen to return to the KHL for the next two seasons. This decision allows him to continue developing his skills in a familiar environment and regain his confidence on the ice. Additionally, the Vancouver Canucks still hold his rights and can qualify him as a restricted free agent, potentially retaining him beyond his KHL stint.

Kravtsov’s hockey journey has been a rollercoaster ride, filled with expectations, setbacks, and failed opportunities. While he has yet to establish himself as a consistent NHL player, he could be back in the league down the line. Having said that, two failed attempts to cement a place on an NHL roster means there are no guarantees.

Next: Kyle Dubas Addresses Exit from Maple Leafs in Curious Statement

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