The Journey: KHL Breakout Candidates
Vitali Kravtsov – New York Rangers
Kravtsov was drafted ninth overall this past summer. He scored four goals and seven points in 35 regular season games but already had somewhat of a breakout during the playoffs when he scored six goals and 11 points in 16 games. A lot of fantasy GMs are still hesitant to draft him high because of the great unknown but a true breakout season could be in the cards for him.
Before his draft year, Kravtsov played in the top junior league in Russia and scored 13 goals and 36 points in 41 games. Those are great numbers for a 17-year-old playing in the MHL but he didn’t get to play in any of the big international tournaments for whatever reason – the Russians don’t usually reveal their reasons which only adds to the mystery of it all, and adds fuel to all sorts of conspiracy theories.
But this season, things are looking different already. Kravtsov was the best player at a U20 Four Nations tournament a month ago, and he’s expected to be one of the best players at the upcoming World Juniors as well. Not just for Team Russia but one of the best players in the entire tournament. Because of his late 1999 birthday, this will be his final year of eligibility in the tournament, so Kravtsov will be certainly motivated to show his talents there.
If we look at Kravtsov’s KHL numbers for the current season, they don’t look all that impressive. Just two goals and three points in ten games. But his ice time has gone up to 15:16 from last season’s 9:19. He’s also fired 2.6 shots on goal per game which is way up from the 1.0 average he had last season. Kravtsov has also created a bunch of scoring chances for his linemates but they haven’t been able to bury the puck effectively.
His numbers don’t reflect it yet but Kravtsov looks much improved from last year. The entire Traktor Chelyabinsk team looks a bit dysfunctional this season – their team leader has just six points – but Kravtsov is one of the few bright spots on that team. If they start playing better together as a team, Kravtsov’s numbers could skyrocket.
Kravtsov has the talent to become a top-line winger in the NHL, and having a 6-foot-4 frame certainly doesn’t hurt his chances. He’s also very close to being an NHL-level player, and I think we’ll see him cross the pond after this season. He could be a middle-six forward for the Rangers as soon as next season.
Artur Kayumov – Chicago Blackhawks
Kayumov was drafted 50th overall in 2016. He spent that season in the MHL and scored 12 goals and 31 points in 39 games. The following season, his offensive production dropped but he got to play a dozen games in the VHL which is the second-tier pro league in Russia.
Last season was difficult for Kayumov. He spent most of the season in the KHL but barely played (8:25 per game). He ended up getting in to just 20 games in the KHL and four games in the MHL. But he had an impressive World Juniors tournament where he scored five points in five games.
This season is a whole new story for the 20-year-old winger. He’s a full-time KHL player now, and looking like he belongs. His ice time has gone up to 13:09 per game. He’s scored a goal and three assists along with 15 shots on goal in nine games so far.
Kayumov’s offensive breakout may still be a year away but I wouldn’t be shocked if it happened already this season. He could make the jump to North America in the summer of 2020 when his KHL contract expires, and he could crack the Blackhawks’ roster soon after.
Artyom Manukyan – Vancouver Canucks
While the previously mentioned prospects were high draft choices, Manukyan went undrafted twice before hearing his name called in the sixth round this past summer. Offensive talent was never an issue with him but many teams had concerns about his 5-foot-7 frame and his play without the puck.
When Manukyan was draft-eligible for the first time, he scored 11 goals and 28 points in 42 games in the MHL which is good production but not earth-shattering. But after that he broke out to the tune of 39 goals and 105 points in 60 games. He broke the all-time record in the MHL with those 105 points, and the next highest total is just 92.
But that was still not enough for NHL teams. Last season, Manukyan made the jump to the KHL, and even though he got just 24 games and minimal ice time in them (5:54 per game), he showed he can handle himself at the pro level, and that was enough for the Canucks. He also got to play in a major international tournament for the first time when he played at the World Juniors, and that may have helped his chances as well.
This season, Manukyan’s ice time has gone up to 12:46 which is more than twice as much as he got last season. He has two goals, four assists, and 19 shots on goal in 11 games so far. Manukyan has serious sleeper potential in deep dynasty leagues but be prepared to wait a few years before he’s ready to play in the NHL. He also has another year left on his KHL contract.
And that’s all for now, thanks for reading. Feel free to add comments below. Remember to follow me on Twitter @JokkeNevalainen.
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