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Rangers No. 1 pick Vitali Kravtsov faces decision on staying or going

Vitali Kravtsov plays in a scrimmage during New

Vitali Kravtsov plays in a scrimmage during New York Rangers Prospect Camp held at Madison Square Garden Training Center in Greenburgh, NY on Thursday. Credit: James Escher

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Vitali Kravtsov’s mom was at the rink Friday on the last day of the Rangers’ prospect development camp and got treated to a show. Her son scored a goal in the final scrimmage of the week, and his line, with Filip Chytil and Lauri Pajuniemi, dominated as the Blue team beat the White team 5-1.

As the 36 prospects at the camp packed up their stuff, met with team management and then scattered for the rest of the summer, Kravtsov, the first of three Rangers picks in the first round of last weekend’s NHL draft, wasn’t going back home to Russia right away. Instead, the plan for him was to stick around for a little while, on something of a vacation.

The extended time in New York presumably would give Kravtsov time to truly consider whether he wants to go back to his team in Russia, Traktor Chelyabinsk, and play the final year of his KHL contract, or buy out that last year and stay in North America and come to training camp with the Rangers this September. All Russian players have the right to buy out their contracts at any time (the player has to pay for the buyout himself) and Kravtsov’s family apparently has the means to do that.

Chytil, 18, said he talked to Kravtsov, also 18, about his own experience last year, though he wouldn’t share what advice he may have given him.

“Yeah, we talked about that, but it’s between us,’’ Chytil said. “We talked about that and we’ll see.’’

The second of two first-round picks in 2017, Chytil chose last year to stay in North America rather than return home to the Czech Republic. He had a great training camp, made the roster for opening night and played two games with the Rangers before being sent down to AHL Hartford, where he spent most of the season. He returned to play the final seven games of the season with the Rangers and scored his first NHL goal.

“I wanted to play here,’’ Chytil said of his own choice. “It was my goal, and I came to the main camp and I wanted to make the team. I think he’ll want to do the same thing, and we’ll see how they deal with it.’’

Chytil said the year in North America benefited him in that he got physically bigger, improved his English, and got used to NHL-size rinks. He also thought moving away from home and living without his parents for a year helped him mature.

The difference with Kravtsov, though, is if he goes back to Russia, he would be playing in the KHL, which is widely considered the second-best league in the world. So he and the Rangers have to decide if the benefits of playing in Hartford — should he not make the Rangers — would outweigh playing in the KHL. Training camp for his Chelyabinsk team starts Aug. 23.

New York Sports