STAMFORD, Conn. — In the second period of the second scrimmage at the Rangers’ Prospect Development Camp Thursday at Chelsea Piers Connecticut, the fans watching got the moment they were waiting for, the one that took their breath away.
But it wasn’t this year’s first-round pick, Kaapo Kakko, who produced it. Instead, it was last year’s first pick, Vitali Kravtsov, who dazzled the crowd with a pretty setup of a three-on-three goal by Morgan Barron against Adam Huska.
In on a breakaway with a defender rushing back to challenge him, Kravtsov, who played the last two seasons in Russia’s KHL, came in on Huska, deked, and then turned his back to the goalie and wrapped a centering pass around to Barron, who finished it cleanly to give the blue team a 3-0 lead against the white team en route to a 5-2 win.
“It was awesome,’’ Barron said of Kravtsov’s play. “When I saw him skating up the ice, I figured I should probably get as close as possible, because you never know what he’s going to do, he’s so creative. And when he sold the deke, I thought he was going to tuck it under the bar. But he threw it back to me and it was a pretty easy tap-in for me. It caught me off guard, a little bit, but I was glad I was up there.’’
“I need to show my best to make the team,’’ a smiling Kravtsov said, when asked about his objective in this weeklong camp against other draftees, prospects and tryout players.
The 6-3, 181-pound native of Vladivostok, Russia, the first of three first-round picks (No. 9 overall) by the Rangers last year, made it very clear on Monday, the first day of camp, that he was all in on making the Rangers after two tough years with the KHL’s Traktor Chelyabinsk.
“I’m so excited. It’s a big step in my career,’’ he said of joining the Rangers. “My season with Chelyabinsk Traktor was not good, because we lost a lot of games.’’
Kravtsov, who had eight goals and 13 assists in 50 games for Traktor in 2018-19, knows he’s not going to lock up a roster spot for Opening Night at this camp. But he is working as hard as he can to make sure the Rangers’ braintrust has a positive impression of him. He’s been training in the U.S. for two months already, and plans to stay here after the prospect camp is over and continue to train to get ready for training camp in September. His mother and 9-year-old brother are with him now, but they’ll have to leave when it’s time for his brother to go back to school.
Kravtsov was asked Thursday what the Rangers management has told him they expect from him.
“Play like how you can, that’s it,’’ he said. “And show me something.’’
“They watch how I play on the ice, and how I talk with guys in the locker room,’’ he said. “Everybody here wants to help me, and I want to help the other [prospect] guys.’’
Notes & quotes: TSN reported that free-agent forward Artemi Panarin met with the Rangers on Wednesday . . . Barron returned to camp a day after missing Wednesday’s scrimmage to see a doctor about a sore throat . . . D Nils Lundkvist missed a second straight day.