What the numbers say about new Canuck Vitali Kravtsov
Photo credit:© POOL PHOTOS-USA TODAY Sports
By Michael Liu9 months ago
The Canucks’ acquisition of Vitali Kravtsov from the New York Rangers looks like a tidy bit of business from the outset. Will Lockwood seems destined to be an AHL-NHL tweener, and a 7th-round pick is a marginal toss-in at best. This in exchange for a former first-round pick is definitely not a steep price to pay, especially when it was rumoured that the Rangers wanted Nils Höglander in the first place.
As most Canuck fans know though, draft selection doesn’t mean a whole lot. Many NHL GMs get blinded by draft pedigree and dole out second chances to players that probably should already be out of the league. So, with yet another winger coming into the fold, what do the numbers say about what Vancouver has in Vitali Kravtsov?
Favourable deployment with not-so favourable results
Kravtsov has been in and out of the Rangers lineup and for good reason. In 28 games this season, he’s only been able to tally up three goals and three assists, continuing an underwhelming trend thus far into his North American hockey career. These numbers don’t look any better when you realize that the majority of his ice time came alongside Artemi Panarin and Vincent Trocheck. During these minutes, Kravtsov received 57.53% of his faceoff starts in the offensive zone, suggesting that he was given plenty of opportunities to rack up points. Plus, even with the additional offensive zone starts, Kravtsov and his line yielded a 42.50 HDCF%, meaning that they gave up more high-danger chances than they recorded.
The difference is especially noticeable when looking at Panarin and Trocheck’s numbers when playing away from Kravtsov too. The duo would see their CF% jump from 54.55 to 71.35, while their xGF% went from 48.84 to 69.65. Every rate metric from their scoring chances and high-danger scoring chance sees a massive uptick once Kravstov is removed from their line. It’s not as if Kravtsov wasn’t given the opportunities, he simply just wasn’t making enough of an impact. In fact, it appeared as if he was holding back Panarin and Trocheck from performing at their best.
But, it’s important to consider that Panarin and Trocheck are established top-6 forwards in the NHL, while Kravtsov is not. Placing him on the de facto top line might make him look good, or highlight where his game doesn’t quite click with his higher-end teammates. Not every elite player can elevate their linemates like Elias Pettersson.
Betting on the upside
Something interesting from the stats was how outside of the top 6, Kravtsov had a positive impact on the numbers of all the forwards that he played with. The 23-year-old held the 7th highest CF% (54.35) on the Rangers, while his 54.80 xGF% ranked him as the 9th best player in that category. With an xGF of 14.2, it suggests that Kravtsov has been getting relatively unlucky with his shooting, and could be due for an uptick in production in the near future.
His defensive numbers aren’t wholly awful either. Kravstov maintains an over 50% share in both SCF% and HDCF%, generally out-chancing his opponents when he is on ice. While there was definitely some benefit from playing in New York’s top 6, it still shows that Kravstov can provide good coverage in his own end and add offensive contributions as well. It will be interesting to see if his play in the defensive zone will translate in Vancouver, where the defensive structure isn’t yet fully in place.
What stands out the most though is Kravtsov’s improvement between his first year in the NHL and now. There is a gap between the 2020-21 and 2022-23 seasons due to him returning to the KHL, but between the two seasons, there’s been a marked upshift in all his numbers in a comparable sample size. The Russian went from a 44.44 CF% to 54.35, 39.55 xGF% to 54.80 xGF%, 42.33 SCF% to 52.38, and a 40.51 HDCF% to a 53.33. On top of all of this, New York’s save percentage went from 89.74% in 2020-21 when he was on ice to a 95.77 this season.
There are definitely factors to consider, such as the deployment and usage as mentioned before. But Kratsov is trending in the right direction with his underlying numbers even if the tangible results aren’t quite there yet for him.
It’s hard to gauge if Kravtsov will ever live up to his draft billing. His numbers across all levels in North American play have been underwhelming at best, not looking like a first-round pick much less a top-10 selection. In a 2018 top 10 riddled with these types of players, it wouldn’t be a surprise if this Russian also flamed out.
However, it still is hard to hate the trade if you’re the Canucks. There’s clearly talent underneath the less-than-shimmering surface, a tantalizing combination of size and speed that has shown development in these last couple of seasons. The trends are going in the right direction, even if the results haven’t yet followed. Whether Kravstov ever achieves his potential is still up in the air, but he’s a markedly better player than Will Lockwood.
These are the types of reclamation trades that should be taken. The Canucks gave up marginal value, absolutely no risk with plenty of upside coming back in return. Kravstov absolutely can become a top-6 contributor — the only question is if he will achieve that. If he doesn’t, you’ve lost a dime-a-dozen tweener and a nearly meaningless 7th round pick. If Kravtsov delivers on his underlying stats and potential, there’s a modern-day power forward that can shift up and down in the lineup. Perhaps with a change of scenery and some more friends on the team, the environment will set the newest Canuck up for success.
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