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Rangers' No. 1 pick Vitali Kravtsov may return to Hartford

Rangers right wing Vitali Kravtsov skates against the

Rangers right wing Vitali Kravtsov skates against the Devils in a preseason hockey game at Madison Square Garden on Sept. 18, 2019. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

SAN JOSE, Calif. — According to his Instagram page, Vitali Kravtsov, the 2018 first round pick who left AHL Hartford in October to return to Russia, is coming back to North America and will be assigned to the Wolf Pack.

The Rangers would not confirm that he is definitely returning, but on Monday, GM Jeff Gorton had said he was working with Kravtsov’s agent and that the Rangers would be able to bring the 19-year-old (he turns 20 on Dec. 23) back.

Kravtsov last week was sent to Russia’s minor leagues by his KHL club, Traktor Chelyabinsk, and Gorton said the AHL is a better league and a better environment for Kravtsov and the Rangers would prefer to have more control over the winger’s ice time.

“There’s a lot of talent there, and I think a lot of guys go through that adjustment period, when they come from Europe, to adapt to North American-style hockey,’’ coach David Quinn said of Kravtsov. “He’s a 19-, 20-year-old kid that’s learning what it’s going to take to have success over here.’’

Props for DeBoer

Quinn was asked his thoughts on Pete DeBoer, who was fired as Sharks coach on Wednesday.

“You wonder, you know?’’ Quinn said. “Here’s a guy that made the playoffs every year, Stanley Cup final, Conference finals last year, and this is a very difficult profession. And no one’s feeling sorry for anybody, but when you get at this level, things can change quickly. And you’re talking about a guy that’s had a lot of success in this league, represents his organization very well, he’s a heckuva hockey coach, and he won’t be unemployed long, that’s for sure.’’

Lemieux questionable

LW Brendan Lemieux sustained a minor injury in Tuesday’s loss to the Kings in L.A. and did not take part in the morning skate. It was a game-time decision as to whether he would play, Quinn said. The Rangers are only carrying one extra player, so if Lemieux couldn’t play, ex-Shark Micheal Haley would step into the lineup.

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