2018 NHL draft prospect profile #15: Vitali Kravtsov

BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 2: Vitali Kravtsov performs the Wingate cycle test during the NHL Scouting Combine on June 2, 2018 at HarborCenter in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 2: Vitali Kravtsov performs the Wingate cycle test during the NHL Scouting Combine on June 2, 2018 at HarborCenter in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images) /

Vitali Kravtsov is a silky smooth skater with a huge injection of skill. He is another underappreciated prospect in the draft that you shouldn’t miss.

This is a prospect I’ve been waiting to talk about for a while. Picture a big forward, with soft hands and light-speed release. That, in a nutshell, is Vitali Kravtsov. Playing on his opposite wing this season, the young forward made history in the KHL.

It’s pretty amazing when 18-year-olds get a cup of coffee in the KHL, but to stay around for 35 games is incredible. In his draft-1 season, he was the youngest player in KHL history to score in a playoff game, breaking Evgeny Kuznetsov‘s record.

Despite it being 2018, some teams are still weary about Russian players. The Vancouver Canucks are a little skittish about Russians since losing Nikita Tryamkin last year. Other teams have successfully cultivated talent from the Russian Federation and I would expect them to have a close eye on the young Kravtsov.

Like all European prospects, Kravtsov doesn’t get as much exposure to the North American audience. Throw in the few number of tournaments he was in and you don’t see him very often. We talk about sleeper picks in the draft, and I would keep a close eye on Kravtsov. The teams doing their homework will know about the lethal combination of his speed, skill and shot.

The stats rundown

*Counting stats provided by EliteProspects

Height: 189 cm/6’2″

Weight: 83 kg/183 lbs

Birthdate: December 23, 1999

Position: Right Wing

Handedness: Left

Team (league): Traktor Chelyabinsk (KHL), Chelmet Chelyabinsk (VHL)





#15 by Bob McKenzie (April Rankings)

#20 by Craig Robinson (Dobber Prospects)


The regular season was not what got everyone’s attention about Kravtsov. Although, in the second-tier VHL, he did very well during his short stint over there. Keep in mind, he played on the third line in the KHL with little power play time. The postseason was where he caught fire.

Kravtsov finished the postseason with 11 points in 16 games. That was good for 12th in the league (he was tied with several others) and he led his age group. There was a good reason I mentioned Kuznetsov earlier.

While Kravtsov was doing very well in his 18-year-old season, it’s worth noting that Kuznetsov did not ramp up his playoff production until his 20-year-old season. Furthermore, Kravtsov was more productive than Valeri Nichushkin in his draft year (Nichushkin also played nine more games that year).

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Additionally, he was more productive than Eeli Tolvanen, who seemed unstoppable during the regular season. Despite being far superior before the postseason, Tolvanen lost the rookie of the year award to Kravtsov. Perhaps the playoffs had more influence, or each player’s respective nationalities had an effect, but I will let you decide that for yourself.

Scouting reports

Tim McKinnon, The Hockey Writers:

"Vitali Kravtsov has earned his spot in the first round and could be drafted in the top-20. After his remarkable KHL playoff run, he has proven to be a player many fans want to watch. I believe Kravtsov is still a couple of years away from making the NHL, and could use more development with Traktor in the KHL. He needs to play more minutes, including more time on the power play and penalty kill to develop his complete game."

David St-Louis, Eyes on the Prize:

"While not being a top skater, Kravtsov has no problem getting around. He has deceptively good speed and acceleration, and can perform effective turns to gain separation when he is looking for an opening in the defence in the offensive zone.That being said, there is still room for improvement in that aspect of the game for him if he wants to perform in the NHL. (…)But given time, the Russian forward should learn to better use his size to shield possession, wait for teammates, and utilize them to create more effective scoring chances."

David Castillo, Defending Big D:

"The difference between Kravtsov and most north-south forwards is that he’s gifted enough with the puck that he can be creative off the rush. His overall vision helps him do more than just put pucks on the net (which probably explains why he’s played left wing and center in addition to his natural position), but setup his teammates in dynamic ways."

What we think

Taking everything into consideration, I like Kravtsov a lot. He has the potential to be a game-breaker and his game is pretty well-rounded. Defensively, he’s not an ace, but is very responsible and can play a checking role, even if that’s not his primary strength.

I’m not scared off by the “Russian Factor,” and I am patient enough to wait for him to develop. Kravtsov won’t be available immediately to the NHL and I think that’s a good thing. Kuznetsov spent two more years in Europe and he is excelling in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Sometimes stepping into the big league right away can come with shell shock. I wouldn’t try to force anything early and since he’s estimated to go in the mid-to-late first, there won’t be high expectations to rush him to the show.

Next: 2018 NHL draft profile #17: Ryan Merkley

Vitali Kravtsov is a very intriguing player. He is so good already and has even more room to grow. Sure, there are small warts in his game, but I am confident his development will iron those wrinkles out. He could be the next great player out of Russia and may very well be one of those picks that are just steals down the road. I am curious to see which team is ready to take a risk on the highly skilled forward.