The Journey: KHL Breakout Candidates

Jokke Nevalainen

2018-09-29

 

Who might be the next young prospect who breaks out in the KHL the same way Eeli Tolvanen and Kirill Kaprizov have in the past two years? Let’s look at some candidates to find out.

 

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 ge