Following his first morning skate as Rangers coach, before the Blueshirts opened their preseason Sunday night with a 4-0 loss to the Islanders at Madison Square Garden, coach Gerard Gallant admitted there aren’t really a lot of jobs available on his team for young guys to win.
"There's not a lot,’’ he said. "Yeah, you know, every coach, or manager says there's jobs available. There's always jobs available when people come up and take the jobs -- and that's all part of the game. But there's not a lot. We hope that some good young players come up and battle for spots, and make the decisions real tough at the end of the day.’’
One young player who appears to have a spot reserved for him is forward Vitali Kravtsov, the No. 9 overall pick in 2018 and the first of three first-round picks the Rangers had that year. Kravtsov, who spent most of the 2020-21 season playing in the KHL, did come over to North America when that season was over and finished up with the Rangers, playing 20 games and scoring two goals, with two assists.
The Rangers decided not to bring the 21-year-old to rookie camp, figuring he’d be better off skating with the veterans in the informal, voluntary workouts before regular training camp opened, as opposed to coming in with the prospects and hopefuls. He started the preseason Sunday on right wing with center Filip Chytil and newcomer Barclay Goodrow, which has the look of a third line when the regular season opens. Goodrow didn’t make it out of the first period, though, after being assessed a major penalty for boarding and a game misconduct at 13:49.
But, Gallant said, Kravtsov is not guaranteed anything.
"He's got to earn it,’’ Gallant said of Kravtsov. "It's not about us giving him the opportunity, he's got to earn it. And, you know he's a talented guy. He's a guy that we count on being a very important player for this year. He's one of those guys that, you know, come and show us, and do the best you can do. Come to training camp in good shape, like he did, and work hard.’’
So far, Kravtsov is doing all those things. He worked hard on his shot in the summer, and he’s been picking the brains of the veterans on the team for any tips and advice that will help him get better. On Saturday, after practice, he worked with veteran enforcer Ryan Reaves on a few techniques as far as what to do if he finds himself in a fight.
"Sometimes things can happen, and you need to be ready,’’ Kravtsov said Sunday morning, when asked why he was taking instruction from Reaves. "He (Reaves) is not being always on the ice. Sometimes you need to do it by yourself, and you need to be ready.’’
Notes & quotes: Nils Lundkvist, the third of the Rangers’ three first-round draft picks in 2018, was also in the lineup, playing on defense, partnered with fellow newcomer Patrik Nemeth . . . Alexandar Georgiev started in net and allowed three goals on 15 shots. Adam Huska came on in relief midway through the second period and stopped seven of eight shots . . . In the morning, the Rangers sent Jayden Grubbe, Ryder Korczak, Evan Vierling, Dylan Garand and Talyn Boyko back to their respective junior teams and assigned Alex Whelan, Michael O’Leary, Jake Elmer, Patrick Khodorenko, James Sanchez, Zach Berzolla, Hunter Skinner and Zach Giuttari to AHL Hartford. That leaves 47 players in camp.