Vitali Kravtsov officially made his NHL debut Saturday night in Buffalo.
The 21-year-old winger replaced Phillip Di Giuseppe in the Rangers’ lineup and appeared on the third line, alongside Alexis Lafreniere and Filip Chytil. Kravtsov has been with the Blueshirts for a little over a week since clearing the NHL’s COVID-19 protocols, following his KHL Traktor team’s exit from the playoffs at the beginning of March.
“He’s been practicing well, he’s got enough time with us here,” head coach David Quinn said of why Saturday was the right time for Kravtsov’s debut. “I just thought it was a good time to get him in.”
With the new-look kid line, which now has an average age of 20, the fourth line will consist of Colin Blackwell, Kevin Rooney and Julien Gauthier.
Kravtsov, the Rangers’ ninth-overall pick in 2018, is coming off an impressive 2020-21 KHL season, in which he had 16 goals and eight assists in 49 games. He also added two goals and two assists in five playoff matches.
His promotion from the Rangers’ taxi squad Saturday means he’ll carry a $925,000 cap hit.
“The number one thing you want them to do is enjoy it,” Quinn said of his message to Kravtsov. “There will be nerves. They’ll go away quickly once you get a couple shifts under your belt. … Just play your game, don’t try to do too much, do the things that got you here and enjoy the moment.”
Goaltender Igor Shesterkin made his fifth start in a six-game span for just the second time in his Rangers career.
The Rangers tallied at least 62 goals in one calendar month (March) for the first time since December 1995.
Additionally, Mika Zibanejad, Ryan Strome and Adam Fox each recorded at least 20 points during the month, just the sixth time in franchise history that three players tallied 20 or more points in the same calendar month. The last trio of players to do so were Mark Messier, Brian Leetch and Pat Verbeek in 1995.
There are four Rangers who have 30 or more points this season (Strome, Fox, Artemi Panarin and Pavel Buchnevich). The Rangers are one of just three teams in the NHL that have four players who have at least 30 points this season, along with the Lightning and Jets.
Among 107 NHL players who have logged at least 70 minutes of shorthanded ice time this season, Ryan Lindgren (1.96), Buchnevich (2.80) and Fox (3.44) rank first, second and fourth, respectively, in power-play goals against per 60 minutes of power-play time.
Lindgren has only been on the ice for one power-play goal against this season, while Fox has been on for two and Buchnevich on for three. In 31 of the last 32 games, Lindgren hasn’t been on the ice for a power-play goal against and has logged a team-high 80:39 of shorthanded ice time over that span.