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Rangers first-round pick Vitali Kravtsov anxious to come to North America this fall

Vitali Kravtsov poses after being selected ninth overall

Vitali Kravtsov poses after being selected ninth overall by the Rangers during the first round of the 2018 NHL Draft at American Airlines Center on Friday in Dallas. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Bruce Bennett

GREENBURGH, N.Y. — Talking to reporters after his first on-ice session at the Rangers Prospect Camp Monday, forward Vitali Kravtsov left the distinct impression that if it is up to him, he would choose to come to North America this fall, rather than wait till his contract in the KHL expires after next season.

“I will do everything I can to play as soon as I can,’’ Kravtsov said through translator Nickolai Bobrov, the Rangers’ Director of European Scouting.

Kravtsov, 18, who was the first of the Rangers’ three first-round picks Friday in Dallas, has the option to buy out the last year of his KHL contract, and Rangers GM Jeff Gorton said he will speak with Kravtsov’s agent, Paul Theofanous, when he visits the Rangers’ practice facility later this week.

Kravtsov said whether he chooses to come to North America this fall “depends on how I go through this process of the development camp, what the coach is seeing, what the expectations are from me coming into this year,’’ and added, “I’ll listen to them and listen to their advice.’’

Gorton wouldn’t say he definitely wanted to have Kravtsov in North America, but he likened the 6-3, 184-pound right wing’s situation to that of Filip Chytil last year. Chytil, the second of two first round picks in 2017, came over from the Czech Republic and spent most of the season with the Rangers’ AHL affiliate in Hartford, where he got familiar with North American culture and NHL-size rinks, and improved his English.

Kravtsov, who is from Vladivostok, Russia, has a sister who is a first-year student at the University of Toronto.

GM Gorton talking to free agents

The period where teams to talk to free agents has begun (teams can talk to free agents, but no contracts can be signed before July 1) and Gorton said he has spoken to “a lot’’ of free agents already, including some who were Rangers last season but were traded away, such as forwards Rick Nash and Michael Grabner, and defenseman Nick Holden. However, Gorton reiterated that the organization is committed to rebuilding and to having a mostly young team this season.

“That is the expectation, that we’re going to provide opportunity for young kids,’’ he said. “But we’d like to add a few [veteran] guys, some character players that can come in and maybe teach these guys the ropes, and that have a pretty good pedigree, that have done some good things, and come here to help us in certain situations.’’

Andersson takes a bye

C Lias Andersson, last year’s other first round pick, did not skate because his luggage and equipment didn’t arrive with him. Andersson had to buy new clothes, but preferred not to skate in new or borrowed equipment. However, D K’Andre Miller, the second of this year’s three first round picks, opted to skate in equipment the team provided him when his gear also didn’t make it in from Minnesota.

Lindbom looked up to Henrik

Second-round pick Olof Lindbom, the first goalie taken in the draft, said of course he looked up to Henrik Lundqvist growing up, and he did meet him once, just to say hello. He said he hadn’t heard from Lundqvist since he was drafted 39th overall Saturday, but he did hear from forward Jesper Fast.

New York Sports