GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Artemi Panarin was not happy with the way last season ended for the Rangers or for himself. The Russian forward, who led the team in scoring with 96 points in 75 games, is aiming to be more himself — and by extension, a better player — than he was last spring.
“I need to bring back the game I used to play, that I played for two years in Columbus and the first year on the Rangers,’’ Panarin said through an interpreter Saturday as the Rangers wrapped up their third day of training camp. “Recently, I’ve been more focusing on [playing up and down on the] wing, and it’s easier for everybody else to play with me in that sense. But I really need to start being everywhere and doing everything.’’
Coach Gerard Gallant has no problem with that.
“Last year he had a good year,’’ Gallant said. “We were really happy with him. He wasn’t as happy in the playoffs with some of his games, but he still played well. I still liked the way he played. He’s a talented player. He makes great plays, great passes. So I’m not going to tell him he has to play up and down [the wing]. I want him to play his game. That’s why they got him here in New York.’’
In the first few days of camp, Panarin has been trying to create chemistry with his new centerman, Vincent Trocheck, while also trying to mentor fellow Russian Vitali Kravtsov. Kravtsov, who infamously walked out on the team last season when he was assigned to AHL Hartford at the end of training camp, is back, signed to a new contract. Thus far, he’s been given the plum assignment of playing right wing on the Panarin-Trocheck line.
“He’s getting an opportunity. He knows that,’’ Gallant said. “He’s still got to make the hockey team. You’ve got to come in and play well to make the hockey team.’’
So far, so good, according to Gallant. Kravtsov came to New York early in the summer and has been working hard to make a positive impression on the coaches.
“I’ve always felt great here,’’ Kravtsov said through an interpreter. “I mean, the guys respect me. I’m accepted. And I know that everything really depends on what I do, on my work.’’
He didn’t want to talk much about all that happened to him last season, and he made a point that “85% of what was being said on the internet wasn’t true.’’ He said he and his agent were in contact with general manager Chris Drury all along and understood where each other was coming from.
He did add that “I definitely made a lot of noise previously, so there’s kind of this necessity to redeem myself a little bit.’’
The Rangers made their first cuts of camp, sending forwards Sam Alfano, Maxim Barbashev, Jayden Grubbe and Bryce McConnell-Barker to their respective junior teams.